Last Updated on August 28, 2023
The top universities in physical oceanography are found in the USA and UK. The majority offer specialization in meteorology, marine biology and other fields of geography. Some of the programs train future researchers to conduct innovative research. These are the top destinations for careers in physical oceanography.
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top universities in physical oceanography
10 Best Oceanography Schools In The World | 2021 Rankings
Though the oceans and seas are natural, there are physical, chemical, and biological properties that make up the sea.
To study the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of the ocean, marine life, and the interaction of marine life with its aquatic environment, you have to undergo formal education.
Therefore, to find out about the best oceanography schools in the world, carefully read through.
Approximately 70% of Earth’s surface is covered by water. About 97 percent of the water is the saltwater that is flowing in the seas of the planet.
Considering the scale of the ocean and the rapid advancements in technology, there seems to be no limit to what can and will be discovered in the science of oceanography.
In this article put together by the World Scholarship Forum team, you’ll find the best Oceanography schools in the world.
What is Oceanography?
According to National Geographic, Oceanography is the study of the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of the ocean, including the ocean’s ancient history, its current condition, and its future.
Furthermore, it is a scientific course that deals with all aspects of the world’s oceans and seas.
Oceanography has four distinct but related branches: Physical Oceanography, Chemical Oceanography, Marine Geology, and Marine Ecology.
Physical Oceanography focuses on the properties of seawater (temperature, density, pressure, and so on).
Chemical Oceanography has to do with the structure of seawater and the biogeochemical cycles that affect it.
Marine Geology focuses on the structure, features, and progression of the ocean basins.
Marine Ecology is the study of the plants and animals of the sea, including life cycles and food production.
Why Should I Study Oceanography?
A degree in Oceanography gives you a sturdy foundation in biology, chemistry, geology, and physics. There’s lots of hands-on training, too. With such broad skills, Oceanographers understand and help manage the world’s oceans.
Furthermore, a degree in Oceanography is vital as it aids in understanding the effect of pollutants on ocean waters. It will also teach you how to preserve the quality of the oceans’ waters in the face of increasing human demands made on them.
To cap it all, as an Oceanographer, you’ll understand and predict how the world’s oceans and seas work, and how to make the most efficient and sustainable use of their resources.
What Skills Do I need To Become An Oceanographer?
To succeed in the field as an Oceanographer, you need the following skills:
- Communication skills – Oceanographers write reports and research papers. Therefore, they must be able to present their findings clearly to other scientists and team members as well as clients or professionals who do not have a background in the field.
- Critical-thinking skills – Oceanographers base their findings on sound observation and careful analysis of data. That is to say, for you to be a success in the field, you have to possess smart critical thinking skills.
- Physical strength – Oceanographers are normally strong physically and mentally. Because in the cause of the job they’ll need to hike to remote locations while carrying testing and sampling equipment when they conduct fieldwork.
- Problem-solving skills – Oceanographers work on complex projects filled with challenges. Therefore, to properly evaluate statistical data and other forms of information in order to make judgments and inform the actions of other workers, an Oceanographer has to engage his problem-solving skills.
What Does An Oceanographer Do?
An Oceanographer is a unique kind of scientist who studies the ocean. The oceans are a large environment, and so the science of oceanography is no different. Oceanographers study every different aspect of the ocean, physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of the ocean or even the life that dwells in the ocean.
Healthy oceans are crucial to maintaining a healthy planet. Oceanographers are some of the most important climate researchers in the fight to mitigate the effects of climate change, overpopulation, and overfishing.
Regardless of which field an oceanographer selects as their primary studies, they will still need to understand the other aspects of oceanography. Nevertheless, Oceanographers performs the following functions;
- They study marine ecosystems and their inhabitants. This can involve researching animals or taking trips into the ocean to perform different experiments, collect data, or track the animals.
- An Oceanographer studies the movements of the oceans, tides, waves, and currents that move the water itself.
- Chemical Oceanographers observe the chemical composition of the ocean water and its impact on the planet. They may study pollution or help find naturally-occurring resources on the seafloor.
- Geological Oceanographers focus on studying the floor level of the ocean. They study undersea volcanic activity and its connection to the movement of tectonic plates or the deep oceanic trenches that plunge thousands of feet.
- They collect samples and data from the seafloor using specialized equipment and techniques.
- Analyze samples for natural and contaminant composition.
- Oceanographers perform simulations of ocean phenomena using a computer or mathematical models.
- They use statistical models of laboratory and field data to study hypotheses and make predictions.
Best Oceanography Schools
Here’s a list of the best Oceanography schools…
1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Through the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, MIT offers 2 Oceanography, Chemical, And Physical Degree programs. It’s a large private university in a mid-sized city. In 2015, 6 students graduated in the study area of Oceanography, Chemical And Physical with students earning 6 Doctoral degrees.
With 3:1 student to faculty ratio, MIT ranks No.1 in QS top school rankings. Furthermore, MIT is dedicated to equipping its students with an education that blends accurate academic study and the excitement of learning with the support and intellectual stimulation of a diverse campus community. Visit School
2. University of California, Berkeley (UCB)
UCB offers a bachelor’s and a graduate degree in marine biology. This field of marine biology thus requires an understanding of the interactions between the biosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and atmosphere.
This major is intended to provide students with a broad background in the earth sciences with an emphasis on marine life. Interrelationships between physical, biological, and chemical processes at Earth’s surface will be emphasized.
Faculty, students, and researchers in the department engage across disciplinary lines to understand atmospheres, oceans, terrestrial surfaces, deep interiors, the biosphere, and the coupling between them. Visit School
3. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers 2 Oceanography, Chemical, And Physical Degree programs. In 2015, 11 students graduated in the study area of Oceanography, Chemical And Physical with students receiving 9 Master’s degrees, and 2 Doctoral degrees.
The Department of Marine Sciences administers the University’s strong commitment to research, teaching, and public service. In practical terms, they strive to understand the proponents that regulate marine systems and connect these to the other components of the Earth System.
Furthermore, the Department of Marine Sciences grants instruction and research activities in biological, chemical, geological, and physical oceanography.
The Department highlights graduate training and offers an academic minor to undergraduates with occasions for supervised practical experience.
Basic courses are also administered to all undergraduates, regardless of major, who are interested in marine sciences. Visit School
4. University of California-San Diego
The University of California – San Diego is on our list of best oceanography schools in the world.
Founded as San Diego Marine Biological Station, Scripps institution of oceanography seeks to, teach, and communicate scientific understanding of the oceans, atmosphere, Earth, and other planets for the benefit of society and the environment. T
he university awards 3 programs in Oceanography.
Scripps Institution of Oceanography is a global leader in marine biology.
With over 75 years of graduate and undergraduate education, Scripps offers marine and earth sciences programs internationally recognized for their excellence.
The institution houses world-class researchers and professors that use their distinct backgrounds and talents to improve our understanding of the earth system and train the next generation of scientific and environmental leaders. Visit School
5. University of Washington-Seattle Campus
The University of Washington-Seattle Campus offers 6 Oceanography, Chemical, and Physical Degree programs. In 2015, 41 students graduated in the study area of Oceanography, with students earning 24 Bachelor’s degrees, 13 Doctoral degrees, and 4 Master’s degrees.
The School of Oceanography fosters the advancement of the ocean sciences, solutions to problems of societal relevance, and public awareness of the marine environment. The School centers on learning and discovery, equipping students with knowledge and insights, scholarly methods, scientific tools, and communication skills.
They offer the degrees of Bachelor of Science (BS), Master of Science (MS), and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). Visit School
6. University of Miami
Founded in the 1940s, the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science has grown into one of the top academic oceanographic schools in the world. The School’s basic and applied research interests encompass virtually all marine-related sciences. RSMAS offers undergraduate and graduate programs Oceanography.
The RSMAS in Oceanography is intended to give students a broad overview of the ocean sciences (physical, chemical, biological and geological oceanography, and ocean-atmosphere interactions as they relate to weather and climate) and specialized knowledge in one or more subdisciplines.
Students are encouraged to complete a second major in Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Geological Sciences, Meteorology, Mathematics, Computer Science, or Engineering. Visit School
7. United States Naval Academy
United States Naval Academy offers 1 Oceanography degree program. It’s a medium-sized public university in a large suburb. In 2015, 87 students graduated in the study area of Oceanography, Chemical And Physical with students earning 87 Bachelor’s degrees.
The oceanography major is intended for the “hands-on” student with a strong interest in the physical and dynamic properties of the ocean and atmosphere.
Oceanography majors strengthen knowledge gained in the classroom with underway and computer laboratories and conduct current and scientifically relevant research.
The faculty houses six tenure-track civilian professors, five rotational military instructors with recent fleet experience, four permanent military professors, and two civilian instructors of practical applications.
Oceanography majors take 13 courses in oceanography, meteorology, and applied mathematics; students in the honors program take 14 courses. Visit School
8. California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
Caltech is a renowned science and engineering institute that marshals some of the world’s brightest minds and most innovative tools to address fundamental scientific questions and pressing societal challenges.
With a 3:1 student to faculty ratio, Caltech is on our list of best Oceanography schools in the world. The Oceanography program focuses on the physics of the ocean’s circulation and its impact on the global climate.
This course will provide a basic introduction to the physical, chemical, and biological properties of Earth’s ocean. Topics to be covered include oceanographic observational and numerical methods as well as the phenomenology and distribution of temperature, salinity, and tracers. Visit School
9. University of Wisconsin-Madison
Their Oceanography program investigates a wide range of fundamental physical and geochemical processes in global ocean circulation and the impacts these processes have on the global climate.
Students get to learn about the variability of the ocean from interannual to inter-decadal time scales using state-of-art ocean models and observational data sets.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison offers nationally approved graduate and undergraduate programs. Visit School
10. University of California-Santa Cruz
The Ocean Sciences Department includes faculty, students and staff involved in oceanography and other marine sciences and offers undergraduate and graduate courses in these disciplines
The graduate programs in ocean sciences are meant to prepare students for careers in research and teaching. The fundamental requirement for admission to the program is substantial evidence of superior scholarship and aptitude for original research.
Preparation for admission to the graduate program in Ocean Sciences should comprise an undergraduate degree in the discipline of one of the program specialty areas (e.g., biology or marine biology, geology or earth sciences, chemistry, or physical science) or equivalent background.
best universities for oceanography uk
If your interest is piqued, here are four UK universities worth considering if you’re eager to pursue an ocean science degree:
SCHOOL OF OCEAN SCIENCES, BANGOR UNIVERSITY
Climate change is a global issue that’s causing undue damage to the environment, including marine life. As a problem that affects the health and food security of every living being, this makes it an issue that transcends geographical borders.
Climate activists such as Greta Thunberg have galvanised the youth voice across the globe, urging people to strike for more action over global warming; simultaneously, her efforts have contributed to a growing interest in preserving the environment, drawing attention to problems such as the rising water temperatures which are causing coral bleaching (when corals lose the highly productive algae from their tissues), to plastic pollution in the ocean that’s not only threatening marine wildlife, but also the food chain.
This makes it an opportune time for students to pursue ocean or marine science study. Bangor’s School of Ocean Sciences in Wales is one of the largest university Marine Science departments in Europe. Ocean science covers a vast area of study, and the university has well-resourced groups in the principal disciplines of biology, chemistry, geology and physics. Emphasis on multidisciplinary research effectively ensures ready access to expertise in all aspects of marine science, as there is often a great deal of overlap between the disciplines.
Bangor offers a wide range of undergraduate programmes related to the field, including BSc (Hons) Ocean Science, BSc (Hons) Applied Marine Biology and BSc (Hons) Geological Oceanography. Students of the ocean science programme will gain the knowledge and skills needed to embark on a scientific career applied to the sea. Bangor also grants students the opportunity to pursue both a Master’s and PhD degree.
SCHOOL OF BIOLOGICAL AND MARINE SCIENCES, UNIVERSITY OF PLYMOUTH
Plymouth is a public university in England. Its School of Biological and Marine Science, which aims to equip students with the skills needed to make a positive impact on the environments’ sustainability and society, offers three teaching areas, namely biological sciences, marine biology and marine science.
The school boasts of over 70 academics, 40 technical staff and over 1,200 students. It has six world class research studies from internationally renowned researchers, as well as a £4.65 million Marine Station – an exceptional teaching and research facility that serves as the base for marine expeditionary work. Classrooms extend into the natural environment, ensuring students get a taste of theory and practical experience.
Undergraduate programmes include BSc (Hons) Marine Biology, BSc (Hons) Marine Biology and Coastal Ecology, BSc (Hons) Marine Biology and Oceanography and BSc (Hons) Ocean Science and Marine Conservation. It also promotes a range of field work activities – both locally and internationally – for students, depending on their area of study.
For instance, marine biology students can enjoy trips abroad to Portugal, South Africa, Sweden and France. Marine science students stand to go to South Africa, the Isles of Scilly and the Bahamas. This ensures students enjoy extensive local field practice and hands-on experience. Upon successful completion, students can also continue to progress onto Master’s and PhD programmes at the same institution in their area of interest.
SCHOOL OF NATURAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES, NEWCASTLE UNIVERSITY
Outstanding facilities. Global partnerships. Exceptional staff. These are some of the hallmarks of Newcastle, a public university in England.
Newcastle’s undergraduate marine sciences programme serves as a vital subject in protecting the planet. Prospective students can expect to learn about marine biology and ecology, sustainable use of the seas, coastal management, the conservation of marine animals, oceanography and marine zoology as well as marine management. The university conducts cutting-edge research of global importance, addressing pressing issues such as climate change, biodiversity and habitat loss, ocean acidification and marine species invasion.
Becoming a student of the school entails learning from a stellar faculty, come of which include research active and internationally recognised scientists. Among them is Dr Alan Jamieson, who has discovered many of the deepest-living ocean species and identified threats to them.
Degrees here are accredited by the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST), which means the programmes meet the knowledge, understanding and skills required for professional registration.
The university also boasts of strong employability; 96 percent of its 2016 UK-domiciled graduates progressed to employment or further study within six months of graduating. Meanwhile, more than three quarters (85.5 percent) of graduates who entered employment achieved a professional or managerial position.
COLLEGE OF LIFE AND ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES, UNIVERSITY OF EXETER
This English university is a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive universities. Becoming a student at Exeter means studying in a diverse student community, with 22,085 students from more than 130 countries.
The College of Life and Environmental Sciences’ areas of expertise includes biosciences. Students in this field will be taught by world-leading experts in subjects at the frontiers of systems biology, conservation and ecology, whole organism biology and microbiology, molecular and cellular biology, computational biology and biological chemistry.
Prospective students can study BSc Marine Biology, which focuses on understanding the biology of marine organisms and their ecosystems. Special emphasis is placed on whole animal biology, biodiversity, ecology and behaviour. The programme is delivered by internationally recognised, research active staff who work at the cutting-edge of applied and pure research on whole-organism biology, with particular focus on large marine vertebrates, including fish (bony fish and sharks), marine turtles, seabirds and cetaceans.
Students enrolled in the programme will be armed with the skills, concepts and experience to understand all aspects of marine ecosystems and the pressures they face, ranging from overexploitation to climate change. An interdisciplinary approach to the study of marine ecosystems allows students to learn about a wide range of theoretical and practical techniques. This interface between research and learning provides critical skills for career opportunities across a wide range of scientific disciplines.
best colleges for oceanography and marine biology
- Alaska Pacific UniversityAnchorage, AK
- #84inRegional Universities West (tie)Founded in 1959, Alaska Pacific University is a private institution. Alaska Pacific University follows a semester-based academic calendar and its admissions are considered least selective.READ MORE »TUITION AND FEES$20,760UNDERGRADUATE ENROLLMENT312(fall 2020)SAT, GPA AND MOREUnlock with CompassAdd To CompareSave to My Schools
- California State University–FresnoFresno, CA
- #213inNational Universities (tie)4 reviewsAt California State University—Fresno, students can explore the natural beauty of the Sierra Nevada range and the San Joaquin Valley. On campus, Fresno State students can join more than 200 organizations and play Division I sports.READ MORE »TUITION AND FEES$12,789(out-of-state)$6,651(in-state)UNDERGRADUATE ENROLLMENT22,611(fall 2020)SAT, GPA AND MOREUnlock with CompassAdd To CompareSave to My Schools
- College of the AtlanticBar Harbor, ME
- #92inNational Liberal Arts Colleges (tie)2 reviewsFounded in 1969, College of the Atlantic is a private institution.READ MORE »TUITION AND FEES$43,542UNDERGRADUATE ENROLLMENT366(fall 2020)SAT, GPA AND MOREUnlock with CompassAdd To CompareSave to My Schools
- Maine Maritime AcademyCastine, ME
- #4inRegional Colleges NorthLocated in the village of Castine, Maine, the Maine Maritime Academy overlooks the Castine Harbor. Students admitted to the academy can choose to enroll in either independent or regimental programs. Students who enroll in a regimental program are considered midshipmen and train on the ship State of Maine. Students who enroll in other programs follow a schedule and lifestyle similar to students at other colleges. After graduation, students are not obligated to go to sea or into the military, and only about 5 percent of graduating students take a commission in the military. Student activities and athletics are very popular at Maine Maritime Academy, and more than 80 percent of the student body participates in an activity. Known as the Mariners, the academy’s sports teams compete in the Eastern College Athletic Conference, North Atlantic Conference and New England Football Conference in the NCAA Division III.More than 50 percent of the student body at Maine Maritime Academy participates in the Regiment of Midshipmen. Some students, based on their majors, are required to complete academy training cruises, which involve spending 60 days working on the academy’s training ship. The training cruises visit a minimum of four ports per cruise, with three days spent at each port. Each student who enters the academy is required to own a laptop and printer.READ MORE »TUITION AND FEES$29,258(out-of-state)$14,338(in-state)UNDERGRADUATE ENROLLMENT928(fall 2020)SAT, GPA AND MOREUnlock with CompassAdd To CompareSave to My Schools
- St. Mary’s College of MarylandSt. Marys City, MD
- #89inNational Liberal Arts Colleges (tie)4 reviewsFounded in 1840, St. Mary’s College of Maryland is a public institution. The school has 67.4% of its classes with fewer than 20 students, and the student-faculty ratio at St. Mary’s College of Maryland is 9:1.READ MORE »TUITION AND FEES$31,200(out-of-state)$15,124(in-state)UNDERGRADUATE ENROLLMENT1,488(fall 2020)SAT, GPA AND MOREUnlock with CompassAdd To CompareSave to My Schools
- Texas A&M UniversityCollege Station, TX
- #68inNational Universities (tie)16 reviewsReady to be an Aggie? All students assume the nickname at Texas A&M, an academic and athletic powerhouse in central Texas. Once an all men’s school called the Agricultural and Mechanical College – now shortened to A&M – the university today is coed and offers a wide variety of majors and activities. Students can choose from more than 1,000 clubs and organizations, including nearly 60 fraternities and sororities. About 10% of students go Greek. More students, about 25%, play in Texas A&M intramural sports leagues, one of the largest programs in the country. The school’s varsity sports compete in the NCAA Division I Southeastern Conference, cheered on by mascot Reveille IX, a collie. Miss Rev, as the collie is known, is also the highest-ranking member in the school’s Cadet Corps, the largest ROTC program in the nation (not including programs at service academies). First-year students interested in community service can get involved right away through the Freshmen in Service and Hosting program (FISH). All students can give back during The Big Event, the largest single-day, student-run volunteer effort in the country in which more than 22,000 Aggies work to improve the nearby cities of College Station and Bryan. For many students, these communities are also home; freshmen are not required to live on campus and many choose to live in College Station or Bryan.The university has highly ranked graduate offerings through its Dwight Look College of Engineering, Mays Business School and College of Education and Human Development. The school, which is known as a research institution, offers unique programs including the only veterinary medicine school in Texas. The school also has a campus in Qatar, where about 500 students enroll. Notable alumni of Texas A&M include dozens of politicians such as U.S. Reps. Joe Barton and Louie Gohmert, and a handful of beauty pageant winners, including Miss USA, Kandace Krueger, and Miss Louisiana USA, Melissa McConnell.READ MORE »TUITION AND FEES$40,087(out-of-state)$13,178(in-state)UNDERGRADUATE ENROLLMENT55,568(fall 2020)SAT, GPA AND MOREUnlock with CompassAdd To CompareSave to My Schools
- University of GeorgiaAthens, GA
- #48inNational Universities20 reviewsAt its founding, The University of Georgia made history as the first public, state-supported college in America. These days, the school is known for its vibrant student community. UGA’s college town of Athens was rated among the best college towns in the country by U.S. News, and the competitive Bulldogs sports teams compete in the NCAA Division I Southeastern Conference. There are more than 700 student clubs and organizations, including more than 60 Greek chapters that involve around 25% of UGA students. Community service is a particularly big focus, with student-run philanthropies such as UGA Miracle, a yearlong fundraiser and 24-hour Dance Marathon for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. First-year students must live on campus, but Atlanta is 60 miles away for those itching for a road trip.The University of Georgia has renowned graduate programs in its College of Education and Law School. As both a land and sea grant university, UGA is active in research and promotion of agricultural and sea-based programs. One unique offering at UGA is the Eugene P. Odum School of Ecology, the first school of its kind when it was launched in 2007. Notable alumni of UGA include U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, Food Network personality Alton Brown and AFLAC CEO Dan Amos.READ MORE »TUITION AND FEES$31,120(out-of-state)$12,080(in-state)UNDERGRADUATE ENROLLMENT29,765(fall 2020)SAT, GPA AND MOREUnlock with CompassAdd To CompareSave to My Schools
- University of MaineOrono, ME
- #213inNational Universities (tie)3 reviewsAt the University of Maine, students participate in annual events such as Maine Day, when the school hosts a parade, and then together, everyone helps clean the campus. Notable UMaine alumni include bestselling horror author Stephen King, who wrote “Carrie” and “The Green Mile.”READ MORE »