So you want to be an oceanographer? Before you begin this ride of a lifetime, you need to know what to expect and how to choose the best institutions for education and experience. Oceanographers need a degree in a science-based subject such as math, physics, or chemistry. If you really want to impress future employers, find a college that offers oceanography and do a double major in oceanography and a science of your choice. To prepare for a great job, pursue a postgraduate degree in oceanography. You will have a lot of choices at this point, varying from master's degrees, research degrees, or PhD programs. Check out the Society for Underwater Technology to find the program of your dreams and funding options to help you afford it.
Once your education is complete, your options are endless. Oceanographers are employed by government research laboratories, colleges, military organizations, charities, and pressure groups. A lot of the potential work is short-term and will require frequent moves, so oceanographers usually need to adapt well to change and be flexible.
The future is bright for oceanographers with many new jobs springing open everyday. It is speculated that a new Global Ocean Observation System will be formed in the next five to ten years, offering many more jobs for oceanographers to pursue their passions. There is also a lot of work to do for marine biologists as technological advancements are preparing the way for autonomous underwater vehicles to do full ocean surveys.
So as you begin your adventure into the world of oceanography, you have four choices of career paths. As an oceanographer, you can specialize in one of four areas. Marine biology focuses on the study of marine plants and animals. Marine chemistry analyzes the chemical composition of sea water and the behavior of various ocean pollutants. Marine geology is the study of the structure and composition of the ocean floor. Lastly, marine physics is the study of water temperature, density, wave motion, tides, and currents.
Oceanographers of each specialty use a variety of techniques to collect data for further research. As an oceanographer, you will need to learn to use remote sensors on satellites, instruments on self-powered submersibles, tools on drifting buoys, probes lowered into the ocean, and drills to explore the ocean floor and acoustics.
Apart from technical training, a few basic skills you will need include research and report writing and effectively presenting and publishing your findings. Working with computers to produce graphical simulations of your research will also be a very important skill. You will also need strong leadership skills as you will often have to lead teams of researchers and technical staff in managing projects.
No matter what reasons you have for becoming an oceanographer, this is a wide open career field with endless opportunities. Oceanography affords to freedom to travel and the passion to spend time researching and furthering what is already known about the world under the sea. This is a fantastic profession, filled with adventure and opportunities for hands-on experiences that can be once in a lifetime moments.