Oceanographers use science and mathematics to study and explain the complex interactions between seawater, fresh water, polar ice caps, the atmosphere and the biosphere. They are involved in areas such as mineral exploitation, shipping, fisheries, coastal construction, pollution, weather prediction, climate change and renewable energy.
The research oriented nature of oceanography means that education is a key requirement for any job. A number of universities offer programs related directly to one of the four major oceanographic specialties. Though a bachelor's degree is sufficient for an entry-level position, higher positions will require a master's or doctorate. Computer expertise is highly valued in this field since many studies rely on sophisticated computer modeling and data analysis. Employers look for oceanographers with proven critical-thinking and problem solving skills to carefully analyze data and make sound conclusions. Highly effective speaking and writing skills are important for oceanographers who write reports and present their findings at conferences. Brain power is not all that is required to become a successful oceanographer. Since a great deal of time is spent in the field, working in remote locations, physical stamina is a great asset.
Earnings and Outlook
Oceanographers earn a comfortable living with the majority earning between $59,510 and $118,510 annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2011 data. The median annual wage for the same period is $84,470, which is slightly higher than the year prior. The job outlook for geoscientists is surprisingly positive, the BLS expects jobs to grow by 21 percent between 2010 and 2020. However, competition for academic and research jobs will be stiff. State and federal government, traditionally large employers in this field, face significant budget constraints and will likely limit the number of new hires.