Search | Directories | Reference Tools
UW Home > Discover UW > Student Guide > Degree Programs 

Oceanography

School Overview

108 Oceanography Teaching Building

Oceanography - study of the marine environment and its interactions with the earth, the biosphere, and the atmosphere - is prompted both by the intellectual desire to understand how the oceans move and how life develops in a salty, cold environment, and the need to use wisely the ocean's resources for the benefit of humanity. As an interdisciplinary science, oceanography integrates the basic principles of biology, chemistry, geology, physics, geophysics, mathematics, botany, zoology, meteorology, and geography. Applications of high technology to oceanographic instrumentation and vessels, increasingly sophisticated computers, satellite remote sensing, and innovative methodologies are rapidly opening new possibilities for exploration and study. Oceanography is divided into four areas of emphasis:

Biological Oceanography examines the processes governing the distribution, abundances, and production of plants, animals, and nutrients in the oceanic ecosystem. Emphasis is on investigations of bacteria, phytoplankton, zooplankton, and benthic organisms.

Chemical Oceanography investigates the complex chemistry, distribution, and cycling of dissolved substances, nutrients, and gases in seawater, the mechanisms controlling them, and their origins and fates.

Marine Geology and Geophysics studies marine sediments (their formation, transport, and deposition); ocean basin formation (plate tectonics); processes governing shoreline formation; and the origin, structure, and history of the oceanic crust and upper mantle.

Physical Oceanography endeavors to understand and predict motions in the sea from millimeters through tidal and current scales to the great ocean gyres, the distribution of physical properties (temperature, salinity, sea ice), and air-sea interaction and its implications for climate.

Undergraduate Program

Adviser
108 Oceanography Teaching Building, Box 357940
(206) 543-5039
student@ocean.washington.edu

The School of Oceanography offers the following programs of study:

Bachelor of Arts

Suggested Pre-College Courses: Interest in natural sciences and a good record in high school science courses, particularly mathematics. One year each of biology, chemistry, physics, and earth sciences recommended.

Suggested First- and Second-Year College Courses: MATH 124; CHEM 142; BIOL 180, BIOL 200; ESS 210 or ESS 211; PHYS 121; either OCEAN 215 or CSE 160; OCEAN 200, OCEAN 201, OCEAN 210, OCEAN 220, OCEAN 285, and OCEAN 295; and English composition.

Department Admission Requirements

Students in good academic standing may declare this major at any time.

General Education Requirements

All majors must satisfy the College of the Environment general education requirements. University-required additional writing credits may include OCEAN 220, OCEAN 443, and OCEAN 445.

Major Requirements

Minimum 104 credits, to include the following:

  1. Core requirements (74 credits): PHYS 121; MATH 124, MATH 125; CHEM 142; BIOL 180, BIOL 200; ESS 210 or ESS 211; OCEAN 200, OCEAN 201, OCEAN 210, either OCEAN 215 or CSE 160, OCEAN 220, OCEAN 285, OCEAN 295, OCEAN 320, OCEAN 330, OCEAN 351
  2. Elective foundational science (5 credits): one of PHYS 122, MATH 126, CHEM 152, BIOL 220, or OCEAN 270
  3. 300- or 400-level oceanography coursework that may include the senior thesis sequence, selected in the student’s area of specialization, in consultation with a faculty adviser (minimum 15 credits)
  4. Upper-division science, mathematics, or engineering, selected in the student’s area of specialization, in consultation with a faculty adviser (10 credits)

Bachelor of Science

Suggested Pre-College and First- and Second-Year College Courses: Same as for Bachelor of Arts degree (shown above)

Department Admission Requirements

Students in good academic standing may declare this major at any time.

General Education Requirements

Same as for the Bachelor of Arts degree (shown above).

Major Requirements

Minimum 116 credits, to include the following:

  1. Core requirements(74 credits): PHYS 121 ; MATH 124, MATH 125; CHEM 142; BIOL 180, BIOL 200; ESS 210 or ESS211; OCEAN 200, OCEAN 201, OCEAN 210, either OCEAN 215 or CSE 160, OCEAN 220, OCEAN 285, OCEAN 295, OCEAN 320, OCEAN 330, OCEAN 351.
  2. Senior thesis sequence (8 credits): OCEAN 443, OCEAN 444, OCEAN 445
  3. Elective foundational science (5 credits): one of PHYS 122, MATH 126, CHEM 152, BIOL 220, or OCEAN 270
  4. 300- or 400-level oceanography coursework selected in the student’s area of specialization, in consultation with a faculty adviser (9 credits)
  5. Upper-division science, mathematics, or engineering, selected in the student’s area of specialization, in consultation with a faculty adviser (20 credits)

Students with introductory science and mathematics courses equivalent to those listed are encouraged to contact the Oceanography adviser.

Continuation Policy

All students must make satisfactory academic progress in the major. Failure to do so results in probation, which can lead to dismissal from the major. For the complete continuation policy, contact the departmental adviser or refer to the department website.

Minor

Minor Requirements: 26 credits as follows:

  1. OCEAN 200, OCEAN 210
  2. One of the following sequences: OCEAN 285 and OCEAN 320, or OCEAN 295 and OCEAN 330
  3. 9 credits of OCEAN electives, chosen from 300- and 400-level oceanography courses

Minor in Arctic Studies: See entry for Arctic Studies in the Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Programs section of the General Catalog.

Minor in Marine Biology: See entry for Marine Biology in the Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Programs section of the General Catalog.

Minor in Climate Science: See entry for Climate Science in the Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Programs section of the General Catalog.

Student Outcomes and Opportunities

  • Learning Objectives and Expected Outcomes: The degree offers students a solid foundation in biological, chemical, geological, and physical oceanography, together with more specialized expertise in one of those options. Expertise is gained through team-based field and laboratory research during the sophomore and junior years, then by independent research on a thesis topic during the senior year. Emphasis is on building skills with the tools and techniques of shipboard oceanographic research and data analysis and interpretation. Students engage in fieldwork and data collection, learn to analyze and interpret that data, and prepare scientific reports. Additionally students acquire familiarity with the specialized instruments of oceanographic research.

    The program prepares students to enter the profession directly or to pursue graduate studies. Oceanographers seek to produce a new understanding of an ocean system and to explore the potential consequences to the marine environment of human activities. They collect samples and data, analyze and interpret them, and prepare and disseminate the results. They work at sea, on land, in laboratories, and with computers. Most are employed in education and research institutions and federal, state and local government agencies. Other employers include environmental consulting firms and private companies extracting and harvesting marine products. A degree can also serve as a background for a career in teaching, administration, marine affairs, computing, or environmental studies.

  • Instructional and Research Facilities: The school has extensive laboratory facilities equipped with highly specialized instruments and computers for teaching and research. The school operates two research vessels: the 274 foot R/V Thomas G. Thompson, used chiefly for open ocean research throughout the world, and the 65 foot R/V Clifford A. Barnes, used for research in coastal waters and estuaries of Washington. Undergraduate students have ample opportunities to gain research experience in the laboratories of faculty and to do oceanographic research in Puget Sound.
  • Honors Options Available: With College Honors (Completion of Honors Core Curriculum and Departmental Honors); With Honors (Completion of Departmental Honors requirements in the major). See adviser for requirements.
  • Research, Internships, and Service Learning: Special opportunities for oceanography majors are provided by involving students in undergraduate research projects and part-time employment.
  • Department Scholarships: See adviser for availability.
  • Student Organizations/Associations: The Student Oceanographic Society (SOS) provides peer advice, organizes field trips, sponsors alumni career panels, and holds social gatherings.

Graduate Program

Graduate Student Services
108 Ocean Teaching, Box 357940
(206) 543-5039
student@ocean.washington.edu

The School of Oceanography provides instruction and research opportunities at the graduate level: biological, chemical, and physical oceanography, and marine geology and geophysics. The program emphasizes independent research in conjunction with basic and specialized courses. Interdisciplinary research is encouraged, and students work across scientific boundaries. Coursework during the first two years is required in each option; specialized coursework is structured to fit the student's background and objectives. Foreign-language proficiency is required only when deemed crucial to scholarly research.

Master of Science

Includes coursework in the student's area of interest and the other oceanography options, as well as completion of an approved research project and oral presentation of the results. Thesis and non-thesis programs are offered; most students select the non-thesis option.

Admission Requirements

  1. One official copy of transcript(s) from all colleges or universities attended
  2. Minimum 3.00 GPA or B for last 90 quarter (60 semester) credits
  3. GRE scores
  4. TOEFL scores for international students
  5. Statement of goals and objectives, which may include any or all of the following: how or why applicant became interested in oceanography, significant accomplishments, summary of research experience, research area(s) of special interest, ultimate goals, extracurricular activities and interests.
  6. Three letters of recommendation on School of Oceanography forms. Recommendations should be from faculty or scientists familiar with the applicant's academic achievements and research experience. Applicants who have been out of school for some time may include recommendations from employer(s), should include at least one letter from academic faculty.

Degree Requirements

36 credits, as follows:

  1. Thesis program: Minimum 36 quarter credits (27 course credits and 9 credits of thesis). Non-thesis program: Minimum 36 quarter credits of coursework.
  2. Minimum 18 credits numbered 500 and above. (In a thesis program, 9 credits may be OCEAN 700. With the exception of summer quarter, students are limited to 9 thesis credits per quarter.)
  3. Numerical grades in at least 18 quarter credits taken through the UW. Minimum cumulative 3.00 GPA
  4. Minimum three full-time quarters of residence credit. Part-time quarters may be accumulated to meet this requirement.
  5. A final master's examination, either oral or written, as determined by the student's Supervisory Committee

Biological Oceanography Option: OCEAN 530 , OCEAN 531 , OCEAN 532 , OCEAN 533 . Master's level students must take a minimum 3 credits of advanced biological oceanography courses.

Chemical Oceanography Option: OCEAN 520 . Master's level students must take a minimum three advanced chemical oceanography courses.

Marine Geology and Geophysics Option: OCEAN 540 , OCEAN 541 , OCEAN 545 .

Physical Oceanography Option: OCEAN 500 , OCEAN 510 , OCEAN 511 , OCEAN 512 , OCEAN 513 , OCEAN 514 , OCEAN 515 , OCEAN 517. Three courses in applied mathematics.

Out-of-Option Requirement: All graduate students take a minimum of one 3-credit, numerically graded, 500-level course from each option outside their own (9 credits). See department website for list of suitable courses. Students complete this breadth requirement prior to receiving an MS degree.

Doctor of Philosophy

The degree program places a strong emphasis on research following completion of course requirements and the general examination. Upon successful completion of the general examination, the student undertakes an original research investigation, which is described in the dissertation and defended during the final examination.

Admission Requirements

  1. One official copy of transcript(s) from all colleges or universities attended
  2. Minimum 3.00 GPA or B for last 90 quarter (60 semester) credits
  3. GRE scores
  4. TOEFL scores for international students
  5. Statement of goals and objectives (to be defined in online application), which may include any or all of the following: how or why applicant became interested in oceanography, significant accomplishments, summary of research experience, research area(s) of special interest, ultimate goals, extracurricular activities and interests.
  6. Three letters of recommendation on School of Oceanography forms (available in online application). Recommendations should be from faculty or scientists familiar with the applicant's academic achievements and research experience. Applicants who have been out of school for some time may include recommendations from employer(s), but all efforts should be made to include at least one letter from academic faculty.

Degree Requirements

Minimum 90 credits, as follows:

  1. Completion of a program of study and research as planned by the Graduate Program Coordinator in the student's major department or college and the Supervisory Committee. Half the total program, including dissertation credits, must be in courses numbered 500 and above. At least 18 credits of coursework at the 500 level and above must be completed prior to scheduling the general examination.
  2. Minimum three years (nine full-time quarters) of resident study, two being at the UW with at least one year in continuous full-time residence. The year of full-time residence, satisfied by completing any three full-time quarters (not necessarily continuous) at the UW, must be completed prior to the general examination. Residence requirement cannot be met solely by part-time study. Minimum two academic years of resident study must be completed prior to scheduling the general examination.
  3. With the approval of the degree-granting unit, an appropriate master's degree from an accredited institution may be applied toward one year of resident study at the UW.
  4. Numerical grades in at least 18 quarter credits of coursework taken at the UW. The Graduate School accepts numerical grades (a) in approved 400-level courses accepted as part of the major, and (b) in all 500-level courses. A minimum cumulative 3.00 GPA is required for a graduate degree at the University.
  5. Creditable passage of a examination. Registration as a graduate student is required the quarter the examination is taken and candidacy is conferred.
  6. Preparation and acceptance by the Dean of the Graduate School of a dissertation that is a significant contribution to knowledge and clearly indicates training in research. Credit for the dissertation ordinarily should be at least one-third of the total credits. The candidate must register for a minimum of 27 credits of dissertation over a period of at least three quarters. At least one quarter must come after the student passes the general examination. With the exception of summer quarter, students are limited to a maximum of 10 credits per quarter of dissertation (OCEAN 800).
  7. Creditable passage of a final examination, usually devoted to defense of the dissertation and the field with which it is concerned. General and final examinations cannot be scheduled during the same quarter. Registration as a graduate student is required the quarter the examination is taken and the degree is conferred.
  8. Completion of all work for the doctoral degree within ten years. This includes quarters spent on leave or out of status as well as applicable work from the master's degree from the UW or a master's degree from another institution, if applied toward one year of resident study.

Biological Oceanography Option: Core curriculum consists of OCEAN 530 , OCEAN 531 , OCEAN 532 , OCEAN 533 . Doctoral level students take a minimum 9 credits of advanced biological oceanography courses.

Chemical Oceanography Option: Core curriculum consists of OCEAN 520 . Doctoral-level students must take a minimum of six advanced chemical oceanography courses.

Marine Geology and Geophysics Option: Core curriculum consists of OCEAN 540 , OCEAN 541 , OCEAN 545 .

Physical Oceanography Option: Core curriculum consists of OCEAN 500 , OCEAN 510 , OCEAN 511 , OCEAN 512 , OCEAN 513 , OCEAN 514 , OCEAN 515 , OCEAN 517. Students take a sequence of three courses in applied mathematics.

Out-of-Option Requirement: All graduate students take a minimum of one 3-credit, numerically graded, 500-level course from each option outside their own for a total of three courses (9 credits). Each option provides a list of courses that can be taken to fulfill this requirement. See department website or adviser for list of suitable courses. Students complete this breadth requirement prior to receiving an MS degree. A graduate student affairs committee, chaired by the Graduate Program Coordinator, addresses any requests for waivers.

Financial Aid

Normally all students pursuing a graduate degree are supported by research or teaching assistantships, or by fellowships and scholarships from national or private sources. Most appointments continue through the summer when students are engaged in research.