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Posted at: Sep 13, 2017, 1:08 AM; last updated: Sep 13, 2017, 2:34 AM (IST)CAREER COMPASS: OCEANOGRAPHY

Rule the SEA

Gauri Chhabra

As a growing global population stresses the ability of our society to produce food, water and shelter, we will have to look to the oceans to help sustain our basic needs. Advances in technology, combined with demand, will improve our ability to derive food, drinking water, energy sources, waste disposal and transportation from the ocean. It will be up to this and future generations to build upon our existing knowledge of the ocean and Oceanography are the field to help meet the needs of the world and its inhabitants. Today, Modern oceanographers have a variety of tools that help them discover, examine, and describe marine environments. A career in this area provides opportunity to those with intrinsic curiosity and a desire to venture into the vast realm of the unknown, which exists within our oceans. 

Skill set

You should be excellent in scientific and mathematical skills and have the knowledge of different oceans of different areas. 

Good practical and problem solving skills are also important. Research, observation and communication skills are must and so is the knowledge of computer applications like digital mapping, remote sending and computer modeling. Writing skills are very necessary when it comes to publishing specific findings. 

What is Oceanography?

Oceanography, also known as oceanology is the field of earth science that includes the study of ocean currents, waves, geology of the sea floor, physical properties within the ocean and across its boundaries. It is the study of all things that is related to ocean." In simple words, oceanography is the "study of oceans". Oceanographers are the scientists who study the ocean. Oceanographers are involved in mineral exploitation, shipping, fisheries, coastal construction, weather prediction and climate change. There are many branches of oceanography. These include:

  • Physical oceanographers are more concerned with studying the movements of the oceans, in the waves and currents and tides that move the water itself.
  • Chemical oceanographers monitor the chemical composition of the ocean water to better understand how they shape the planet. They may study pollution or help find naturally-occurring resources on the seafloor.
  • Geological oceanographers focus on studying the ocean's floor. They may study undersea volcanic activity and its relation to the movement of tectonic plates or the deep oceanic trenches that plunge thousands of feet. 
  • Marine biologists study marine ecosystems and their inhabitants. This can involve working with research animals or taking trips into the ocean to perform rent experiments, collect data, or track the animals.

Career scape

Depending upon the ability and knowledge, professionals of this field can join as scientist, engineer and technician. Some of the career opportunities are mentioned below. 

Marine biologists: Marine biologists may examine the cycling of nutrients through the marine food chain, from algae to tuna. They may investigate the physiological adaptations of marine organisms. They may determine how sharks behave, how fish communicate, and how marine ecosystems are changing due to human influence.

Chemical oceanography: It deals with the composition and quality of water. Chemical oceanographers are interested in the distribution of chemical compounds and the many chemical interactions that occur in the ocean and the sea floor. The aim is to research and develop such technology that will be able to recover valuable elements from the sea. Their work is of special relevance today in view of the growing level of pollution. 

Marine and ocean engineers: These engineers apply scientific and technical knowledge to practical uses like designing instruments for measuring processes in the ocean, and building structures that can withstand currents, waves, tides and severe storms. 

Marine geologists: Marine Geologists explore the ocean floor - its mountains, canyons, and valleys. Study of sea floor sediment cores can reveal the history of oceanic circulation and climates over the past 150 million years. The study of the rocky crust beneath the sediments sheds light on the origin of volcanoes, as well as the processes of seafloor spreading and continental drift.

Biological oceanographers: They are concerned with the complex interactions of groups of marine organisms with one another and their environment. They seek to understand how factors such as warm and cold currents affect the availability of food fishes.

Marine chemists: They study how the oceans were formed eons ago, and what determines their composition today. They identify ocean resources that may be beneficial, such as natural products with medicinal properties, and investigate means to protect the oceans from the effects of pollution.

Marine policy experts: They combine their knowledge of oceanography and social sciences such as law, economics, political science or business to develop guidelines and policies for the wise use of the ocean and coastal resources. Marine policy studies require a background in at least one of the social sciences.

Geophysicists: Geophysicists ask such questions as why the earth's magnetic field has reversed itself at least three times in the last million years. These scientists are beginning to understand what causes earthquakes and can now measure them with great accuracy. 

Physical oceanographers: Study the circulation of seawater and the exchange of energy and matter across the surface of the ocean. They examine the transport of sand on and off beaches and the processes of coastal erosion. Physical oceanographers also measure deep currents such as those flowing from Antarctic waters into the Pacific Ocean.

Marine physicists: They develop the means to interact with the oceans. They design and build many specialised research tools, including remotely operated vehicles, sophisticated seafloor instruments, and innovative remote-sensing systems such as acoustic-imaging devices for exploring the oceans. They also develop mechanisms for controlling sand on beaches.

By choosing a career in oceanography, you may just do your bit of it in the field of waters and seas.

Getting in

In India, most of the institutes/universities offer postgraduate course in Oceanography or Marine Biology but very few institutes offer graduate courses in it.  The minimum educational qualification for graduation is Plus II in science stream (physics, chemistry, mathematics), for post graduation level a bachelor's degree in science i.e. BSc is required. 

MPhil and PhD are also offered by a few universities. For pursuing PhD you will have to qualify either NET or GATE. 

Job responsibilities

  • To investigate, organise, plan about oceanic activities
  • To collect data for future records.
  • Test theory and further develop it.
  • Prepare papers and reports on the basis of findings.
  • Make policies on coastal and marine resources and environments.

Institute watch

  • Mumbai Institute of Technology, Mumbai, offering B.Sc in Oceanography
  • Goa University, Panaji, Goa, offering B.Sc. Mariner Science, M.Sc. Oceanography, M.Sc. Marine Biology and Ph.D in Oceanography
  • Alagappa University, Tamil Nadu, offering M.Sc. Oceanography and Coastal Area Studies
  • Andhra University, Visakhapatnam, offering M.Sc. Oceanography-Physical and Chemical
  • Indian Institute of Madras, Tamil Nadu, offering M.Tech in Ocean Engineering
  • Berhampur University, Orissa, offering M.Sc. Marine Science, M.Sc. Oceanography and Ph.D Marine Science. 

Course Cursor

Graduation courses

  • BSc. in Oceanography
  • BSc. in Marine Science
PG courses

  • Master of science in Oceanography
  • Master of Science in Marine Biology
  • M.Tech in Ocean Engineering
  • M.Tech in Ocean Technology
Doctoral courses

  • M.Phil in Marine Biology
  • M.Phil in Chemical Oceanography
  • PhD in Oceanography


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