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Oceanographer

Study the seas and oceans to help us learn more about the marine environment, plants and animals.

Also known as: marine physicist, marine geologist, marine chemist, marine biologist

About skillsGetting in

About the job

Salary

Source: National Careers Service

Weekly

£442

Entry level

£865

Experienced

Monthly

£1,917

Entry level

£3,750

Experienced

Yearly

£23,000

Entry level

£45,000

Experienced

3,700

people are currently employed

High growth

200 more jobs in 5 years

These figures refer to this job and similar ones with comparable skills and qualifications. They only apply to Scotland. Source: Oxford Economics

What it's like

You would study the seas and oceans to help us learn more about the marine environment, plants and animals.

You’d do research, for example, on the effects of climate change or the impact of pollution and offshore engineering on marine life.

There are four branches of oceanography in which you could specialise:

  • Biological – studying marine plants and animals

  • Physical – exploring water temperature, density, wave motion, tides and currents

  • Geological – examining the structure and make-up of the ocean floor

  • Chemical – analysing the chemicals in sea water and the impact of pollutants

You’d collect data to observe and track changes in the marine environment.

You would:

  • Plan and carry out research expeditions

  • Manage a research project and lead a team of researchers and technical staff

  • Prepare scientific equipment at sea or in a laboratory

  • Spend time at sea collecting data and samples

  • Create experiments to test your ideas in the laboratory

  • Use computers to produce models like maps of the ocean floor or populations of marine animals

You’d write reports about your research for publication. You would present your findings to the public and other scientists.

You’d use a variety of scientific equipment to collect samples and data, including:

  • Remote sensors on satellites

  • Instruments on towed or self-powered underwater vehicles

  • Scientific apparatus like sensors on moored or drifting buoys

  • Probes lowered into the sea

  • Drills to collect sediment cores from the seabed

  • Microphones to measure acoustics

  • Marine robots to explore the seabed

  • Diving equipment or submersible vehicles

Hours

Your hours of work can vary depending on the project you're working on. You could spend time in a lab or office as well as several days, or even months, at sea

Environment

Conditions may be hazardous and physically demanding. This work often includes using diving equipment or submersible vehicles. You could work in a lab or office and on a ship or an offshore platform in a remote location.

Travel

When carrying out research, you may work away from your lab or office on a ship or an offshore platform in a remote location.

Explore more information about this job

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Related industries

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  • Life sciences
  • Energy
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Top skills

Skills are things you're good at. Whether you know what yours are or not, everyone has them!

It's useful to learn which ones are important in a job so you know the areas you need to brush up on. It can also help you work out if you're suited to a career.

Here are some of the skills you'll need to do this job:

  • understanding
  • analysing
  • taking initiative
  • sorting
  • attention to detail
  • researching
  • observation
  • problem solving
  • innovative
  • working with technology

Your skills are important

Our unique skillsets are what make us stand out from the crowd. Learn about each skill in depth and discover what employers look for in your applications and interviews.

Discover skills

Getting in

Explore the sections shown for more information about getting into this career.

You might have qualifications which are not shown here but will allow you access to a course. You can compare your qualifications by looking at their SCQF Level. For more information about this, check out the SCQF website.

Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.

Colleges and universities will list subjects you'll need for entry to a course. Some useful subjects include:

  • Biology

  • Engineering Science

  • Environmental Science

  • Geography

  • Mathematics

  • Physics

  • Skills for Work: Maritime Skills

  • Applications of Mathematics

You would need a degree (SCQF level 9/10) in a relevant subject such as:

  • Oceanography

  • Ocean science 

  • Environmental science

A postgraduate degree (SCQF level 11) in oceanography or marine science is required by some employers.

Entry to an oceanography or marine science degree course (SCQF level 9/10) requires National 5 qualifications and four to five Highers (SCQF level 6).

To enter a postgraduate qualifications usually requires an honours degree in a relevant subject; some courses also ask for relevant work/voluntary experience.

Qualifications and experience that show a strong interest in science and the environment such as Skills for Work Laboratory Science (SCQF level 5) or Energy (SCQF level 5).

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