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Specialisations in oceanography


For those who love to unravel the mysteries of the oceans and face the challenges, oceanography presents an exciting career full of varied opportunities.

Oceanographers must be prepared to spend most of their working days at sea.

Photo: K. R. Deepak

Underwater tool: Equipment used for scanning the seabed.

Oceanography is the science of oceans. It is the scientific study of seas, their coastline, coastal waters, estuaries, shelves and ocean bed. It is an interdisciplinary science that integrates principles of biology, chemistry, geology, meteorology and physics. It is of great significance to developing countries.

The study of all aspects of physics, chemistry, geology and biology of the sea is called marine science.

Oceanography covers a wide range of topics such as marine organisms and ecosystem dynamics, ocean currents, waves and geophysical fluid dynamics, plate tectonics and the geology of the sea floor, chemical substances and physical properties within the ocean.


There are some specialised branches in oceanography: chemical, geological, physical and biological oceanography and so on.

Chemical oceanography deals with the composition and quality of water. Its focus areas include development of technology to profitably recover valuable elements from the sea and develop appropriate solutions to pollution problems in estuaries and near shore waters.

Geological oceanography involves the study of the surface and sub-surface and geological and geophysical characteristics of coastal margins for the selection of suitable locations for marine structures as well as the exploitation of ocean mineral sources.

Physical oceanography deals with physical phenomena of the ocean such as waves, tides and currents. Remote sensing is one of the critical areas of activity in this field.

Biological oceanography, or marine biology, is the study of life processes in the marine environment. Marine biology covers various aspects of marine life. It also deals with the ocean processes that control the productivity and distribution of marine life.

Some other categories include marine archaeology, ocean engineering and marine policy. Marine archaeologists are involved in the systematic recovery and study of material evidence such as shipwrecks. Marine and ocean engineers apply scientific and technical knowledge for practical uses. Marine policy experts combine their knowledge of oceanography and social sciences such as law, economics and business to develop guidelines and policies for the wise use of the ocean and coastal resources.

Study facilities

Since the oceanography course can only be conducted in places close to the sea, only a few universities offer them. The Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat) is one. It offers M.Sc. Oceanography. The Department of Physical Oceanography, Cusat, Kochi - 682 016 (Phone: 0484 - 2363950) that offers this course was established in 1996 for initiating teaching and research in newer fields of national relevance.

The topics covered include land-ocean interaction, coastal engineering, coastal zone management, sea state analysis, environmental oceanography and Geographical Information System (GIS).

B.Sc. degree holders with physics or mathematics as the main subjects and with 55 percent marks are eligible for admission.

Those with mathematics as the main subject should have studied physics as one of the subsidiary subjects and vice-versa. Selection is based on the Cusat Common Admission Test.

The department also conducts M.Tech. Ocean Technology and Ph.D. programmes. M.Sc. degree holders in oceanography, physics, marine geology, meteorology, marine geophysics and environmental sciences or M.Sc. (Tech.) degree holders in marine geophysics or B.Tech. degree holders in civil or environmental science with 60 per cent marks and having a valid GATE score are eligible for admission to the M.Tech. programme.

The university also conducts M.Sc. Marine Geology, Marine Geophysics, Marine Biology, Hydrochemistry and Chemical Oceanography programmes.

Details can be had from the web site,

Andhra University, Visakhapatanam - 530 003 ( conducts an M.Sc. marine science programme with physical oceanography as one of the specialisations.

List of more universities offering the M.Sc. course in oceanography or allied subjects can be collected from the University Handbook published by the Association of Indian Universities, New Delhi.

Career prospects

A career in oceanography is bound to prove challenging to those with M.Sc. or Ph.D. and having an intrinsic curiosity about the subject.

Major job opportunities are available in government sector organisations such as the Department of Oceanography, National Institute of Oceanography, Meteorological Department and Oil and Natural Gas Commission.

In the private sector, marine industries provide employment to oceanography specialists.

Oceanographers must be prepared to spend most of their working days at sea.

The work of an oceanographer involves conducting studies on samples collected from seas, planning sea strips and teaching. However, much of it depends on the area of specialisation that one chooses.

A research professional should spend long periods at the sea with all its challenges and hazards.

Those who obtain Ph.D. or qualify in the CSIR-UGC lectureship examination are eligible for lecturers’ posts in the academic field.

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