Oceanographer

marine biologist marine chemist marine physicist marine geologist

Career outlook for

Figures and forecasts for roles at the same level, which require similar skills and qualifications.

Average UK salary

Currently employed in Scotland

Jobs forecast

This information is supplied by LMI For All, where data is currently available for Scotland.

What's it 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

Working conditions

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.

UK employment status

Full-time

Part-time

Self employed

Here are some of the skills that people in this job would be most likely to have:

  • Communicating with people
  • Working as part of a team
  • Communicating ideas through writing
  • Working on your own
  • Accuracy
  • Working with your hands
  • Being physically fit
  • Finding solutions to problems
  • Solving mathematical problems
  • Researching and investigating
  • Paying attention to detail

Build your skills

Your skills can help you choose the career that’s right for you. You can build your skills through work, study or activities you do in your spare time.

To understand more, have a look at what are my skills?

Keep track of your skills in your account and find the jobs, opportunities and courses that suit you.

Click here to view / add your skills

Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you’ll need.

Qualifications

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.

Useful subjects

  • Maths (required by most courses)
  • Science subjects, in particular biology / chemistry (required by most courses)
  • Environmental sciences
  • English
  • Geography

Helpful to have

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).