Oceanographer Careers

How to become an Oceanographer

What does a Oceanographer do?

Oceanographers study the seas and oceans, conducting research into the effects of climate change, or the impact of pollution and offshore engineering on marine ecosystems. Oceanographers use a variety of techniques to collect data, including the use of: remote sensors on satellites; instruments on towed or self- powered submersibles; apparatus on moored or drifting buoys; probes lowered into the sea; drilling into the seabed and acoustics.

There are four main specialist disciplines:

  • marine biology - the study of marine plants and animals
  • marine chemistry - the study of the chemical composition of seawater
  • marine geology - the study of the structure and composition of the ocean floor
  • marine physics - the study of properties such as water temperature and density, wave motion, tides and currents.
An oceanographer will often employ a multi-disciplinary approach to their work, applying elements from some or all of the specialisms in order to conclude their research.

What's the working environment like working as a Oceanographer?

Hours worked will depend on the project being undertaken. Much of an oceanographer’s work is based in laboratories or offices, but fieldwork can involve several days to some months at sea, either on a research ship or on offshore platforms, often in remote locations and in potentially hazardous or physically demanding conditions.

Oceanographers may have to go into the sea using diving equipment or submersible vehicles.

What does it take to become a Oceanographer?

To be an oceanographer, you should:

  • have strong mathematical and scientific skills including observational, practical, research, and problem solving
  • have the flexibility to go beyond subject specialism
  • be accurate and meticulous
  • have good physical health and fitness for fieldwork
  • be able to work alone and with others
  • have excellent oral and written communication skills
  • be prepared to travel.

Oceanographer Career Opportunities

Employment is mainly research based, with most UK posts offered by centres that are wholly or partly funded by the Natural Environment Research Council. These include:

  • Southampton Oceanography Centre
  • Centre for Coastal Marine Sciences
  • Sea Mammal Research Unit
  • British Antarctic Survey
  • British Geological Survey.
Other national organisations that employ oceanographers include environmental protection agencies, the Royal Navy, the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the Environment Agency and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Opportunities also arise in industries or consultancies concerned with the extraction of offshore oil and gas, offshore and coastal constructions and marine instrumentation.

There may also be opportunities to work in universities, and abroad.

In smaller organisations, internal promotion prospects are usually limited and short contracts from one to five years are common.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Oceanographer that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
Polaris House
North Star Avenue
Tel: 01793 411500

Society for Underwater Technology (SUT)
80 Coleman Street
Tel: 020 7382 2601