• Oceanography Degree

TSR Wiki > University > Choosing a Subject > University Courses > Oceanography Degree



Oceanography (also known as ocean or marine science) is the study of the world's oceans and seas. It is a very broad and diverse degree covering areas including physics, chemistry, biology, and geology. It covers a wide variety of areas usually combining different science disciplines such as sediment dynamics, ocean currents and waves, biogeochemical cycles in the marine environment, climate change and global warming, and marine community structure.

Course Structure

As oceanography is such a diverse subject your first year will be a broad introduction to the basic concepts of oceanography. Typical first year units include:

  • Introduction to Physical Oceanography
  • Ocean and Earth Systems
  • Introduction to Chemical Oceanography
  • Introduction to Biological Oceanography (or Marine Ecology)

Most universities require that you have a basic level of maths, as a large proportion of the degree is quantitative, and you may find that a maths module is compulsory.

In the second year you will build on the concepts that you learnt in the first year, however there is more scope to chose some areas that interest you. At the University of Southampton there is even an option to take Underwater Archaeology!

In the third (or fourth year should you decide to do an undergraduate masters) the majority of your modules will be optional allowing you to specialise in the areas of oceanography that interest you. By this time most people have decided to specialise in a particular area of oceanography from the four main specialisms.

Some other areas that may be covered in your degree, to name a few, include:

  • Coastal Oceanography
  • Estuarine Processes
  • Remote Sensing
  • Marine Law and Conservation
  • Paleoclimatology

In terms of assessment, you will find that your degree is largely fieldwork based and guides you in training in scientific research (especially undergraduate masters degrees). There will be field courses, literature reviews, and your final year research project and dissertation. The latter is usually of a topic of your choice and you get the feeling of being a "real scientist".


As oceanography is a very specialised degree that requires access to a marine environment relatively few universities offer this degree. At present these universities offer an ocean science based degree and typical offers:

University Course
Bangor University Ocean Science (BSc) - 220 points

Master of Oceanography (MOcean) - 220 points

Geological Oceanography (BSc) - 220 points

Oceanography and Computing (BSc) - 220 points Also offered with Marine Biology.

University of East Anglia Meteorology and Oceanography (BSc) - BBC

Also offered with a year in Australasia, Europe, North America, or Industry.

University of Liverpool Chemistry with Oceanography (BSc) - BBB

Ocean & Earth Sciences (BSc) - BBC

Oceans and Climate (BSc) - BBB

Ocean Sciences (BSc) - BBB The University of Liverpool also offer these degrees combined with Maths, Physics, or Physical Geography.

University of Plymouth Ocean Science (BSc) - 200 points

Also offered combined with Geography or Geology.

University of Southampton Oceanography (MOcean) - BBB

Masters degree also offered with a year in North America or combined with French (which offers a semester in France).

Oceanography (BSc) - BBC Also offered with Geology, Geography, Physical Geography, and Marine Biology.

Ocean and Earth System Science (BSc) - BBC

Of these universities Southampton University is generally seen as the best as it is the top for education and research in Europe and one of the best oceanographic institutions worldwide. Most schools will have governmental research institutions either linked to or based on the premises:

  • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) at the National Oceanography Centre where the School of Ocean and Earth Sciences is based at Southampton University
  • Plymouth Marine Laboratory which works closely with the Marine Institute based at Plymouth University
  • Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory (also run by NERC) in Liverpool
  • Centre for Applie Marine Science which works closely with Bangor University

Academic Requirements

All universities require that you have one or more science subject at A-level, however this leads to quite a variety of applicant. The A-levels that you enter with will determine what pathways are available to you to take. For example, if you enter without biology it is quite difficult to do a marine biology course as they will have some expectations of what you already know

UCAS Form & Personal Statement

Life as an Oceanography Student

Graduate Destinations and Career Prospects

See Also

School of Ocean Sciences, University of Bangor

School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia

School of Earth & Ocean Sciences, University of Liverpool

School of Earth, Ocean, and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth

School of Ocean and Earth Science, University of Southampton


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