What Does An Oceanographer Do (including Their Typical Day at Work)

Alyssa OmandacCareer, Overview

Salary, Job Description, How To Become One, and Quiz


Oceanographers often plan, organize, and lead research trips to study aspects of the ocean. They collect samples and data that they study, and they do a great deal of research to understand more about all aspects of the ocean.


Oceanography includes many different specialties where people study the ocean and the organisms that live there. Biological oceanographers study plants and animals in the ocean. Another field is Chemical Oceanography, where you study the composition of seawater and how it interacts with the seafloor and the atmosphere.

You can also become a geological oceanographer, and you will study the ocean floor. Finally, physical oceanographers study the physical conditions and processes, including waves, currents, eddies, erosion, and more. Oceanographers can work in laboratories and offices, or they might work on offshore platforms and research ships out at sea. They are experts in the ocean and its biology, geology, physics, and chemistry.

What they do

Oceanographers often plan, organize, and lead research trips to study aspects of the ocean. They collect samples and data that they study, and they do a great deal of research to understand more about all aspects of the ocean.

Plan, Organize, and Lead Field Research Trips

Oceanographers spend their careers studying the details of the ocean. No matter what field of Oceanography they work in, they are constantly leading these research expeditions to run experiments, collect specimens, and learn more about the ocean. They use all kinds of equipment to collect samples, including marine robots, remote sensors, and underwater vehicles. 

They might spend time on offshore platforms or research ships that are out at sea. They often conduct experiments on these trips, study various aspects of the ocean, and write papers to explain their findings.

Give Lectures and Make Presentations

Oceanographers will give lectures and make presentations to the scientific community concerning their research and studies. They might make presentations to government agencies, universities, and other organizations. They present their findings to raise awareness and generate support for funding for further research. 

Oceanographers need to take their findings and produce graphs, charts, and other visual aids to help explain their findings to the community.

Write Research Proposals and Funding Bids

Another responsibility of oceanographers is that they write proposals for their research and funding bids. There are many different grants available to oceanographers, and much of their time is spent securing the funding from these grants to continue their work. They may need to write up what they want to study, how they intend to study it, and why it is important.

Keep up to Date with Scientific Research

Oceanographers also need to stay on top of the current scientific research so that they know what is happening in the field. New information can change the course of their work, and new findings might need to be included in their own experiments and research.

What is the job like


You get to do hands-on work in a field you love

You wouldn’t become an oceanographer if you didn’t love the ocean, and you will get to conduct experiments and learn all about your field.

You will collaborate with other scientists who share your interests

Often scientists team up together to study a topic within a field, and you get to collaborate and work with others who have the same passion for oceanography as you.

You have the potential to discover something that benefits the ocean

As you research and study the ocean, your research may lead to new ways to improve the ocean and society.

You get good pay and benefits

This is a skilled job, and you have the opportunity to receive good pay and benefits. This might include a salary, medical insurance, and other benefits.


You need to apply for funding

Scientists, including oceanographers, often need to apply for funding to get their research projects funded. Funding can be competitive, and you need to present a compelling argument as you compete to have your research projects chosen.

You can be in high-risk situations

Working out in the ocean can be risky, especially if you are going in underwater vehicles or studying marine life out in the deep sea.

Where they work

Government agencies
Offshore platforms
Ships out at sea

Oceanographers can work in a variety of environments, depending on their focus in this field. Many oceanographers spend a lot of time on offshore platforms where they gather specimens and conduct research. Some work in universities, and others work for the government. In addition, they work on large ships out at sea.

How to become one

Step 1: Earn a College Degree

If you want to be an oceanographer, you need to start by earning your bachelor’s degree. You will need to take a lot of science classes, including chemistry, biology, math, and more. You will likely decide which branch of oceanography you plan to study in graduate school, whether it is marine life, chemical oceanography, or geological formations.

Step 2: Earn a Graduate Degree

Although you can get a master’s degree, most jobs will require that you earn a doctorate. This is another five years of school, and it will include your dissertation in your specialty. You can receive a scholarship for your graduate work, and this will set you up for a job.

Step 3: Apply for a Job

Once you have the proper education, you can apply for jobs. People often start off working for a university to gain further experience, and then you can get a job with the government or an organization once you gain some experience.

Should you become one

Best personality type for this career

The Thinker

People with this personality likes to work with ideas that require an extensive amount of thinking. They prefer work that requires them to solve problems mentally.

You can read more about these career personality types here.

An oceanographer will have a great deal of intellectual curiosity. They come up with questions and want to know the answers. In addition, oceanographers have a great imagination and can imagine what possibilities exist. This is critical in coming up with hypotheses. They have patience and are very precise and methodical in their actions. They pay attention to the littlest details, and they are meticulous.

Take this quiz to see if this is the right career for you.


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