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.
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
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:
|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
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