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Oceanographers study all aspects of oceans, including their boundaries, contents and role in the earth's climate system.

  • Avg. Salary $139,071.00
  • Avg. Wage $69.53
  • Minimum Education 6 years post-secondary
  • Outlook below avg
  • Employed 3,900
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

Biological Oceanographer, Biological Scientist, Chemical Oceanographer, Geological Oceanographer, Physical Oceanographer, Research Scientist, Water Scientist

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Geologists, Geochemists and Geophysicists (2113) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Geologists, Geochemists and Geophysicists (C013) 
  • 2011 NOC: Geoscientists and oceanographers (2113) 
  • 2016 NOC: Geoscientists and oceanographers (2113) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

Average Wage
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Interest Codes
The Oceanographer is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Geologists, Geochemists and Geophysicists

Interest in synthesizing information to plan and direct field studies, drilling and testing programs, and seismic, electromagnetic, magnetic, gravimetric, radiometric, radar and other remote sensing programs to extend knowledge of the earth; in assessing deposits and geological age; and in determining characteristics and suitability of materials for use as concrete aggregates, road fill and other applications


Interest in precision working with instruments to identify deposits of construction materials; and in participating in remote sensing programs and in analyses of core samples, drill cuttings and rock samples to identify chemical, mineral, hydrocarbon and biological composition


Interest in consulting to recommend the acquisition of lands, exploration and mapping programs, and mine development; and in advising in areas such as waste management, route and site selection and the restoration of contaminated sites; may supervise and co-ordinate well drilling, completion and workovers, and mining activities

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Updated Dec 14, 2016

Oceanographers work in a variety of fields, such as:

  • mining and petroleum production
  • fisheries and food production
  • ocean forecasting and climatology
  • tidal power
  • sea ice studies and ice forecasting 
  • transportation
  • remote sensing
  • ecology
  • environmental studies
  • climate studies and modelling
  • recreation
  • academic research
  • national defence.

They may specialize in:

  • biological oceanography - studying plant and animal life in the oceans, including distribution, abundance, productivity, cycles and interdependence with the chemistry of the oceans. Practical applications of biological oceanography include marine ecology food production, fisheries management, environmental impact assessment and aquaculture (for example, oyster, shrimp, salmon farming).
  • chemical oceanography - studying the occurrence and movement of chemicals in the ocean, the effects of contaminants on marine life and the chemical processes operating in the ocean, sea floor and marine atmosphere. Practical applications include pollution control, studies of the role of oceans in atmospheric chemistry and global climate change, and assessments of the quality of fish and fish products.
  • geological oceanography - mapping the ocean floor, examining rocks, sediment, core samples and fossils, and conducting seismic surveys. Practical applications include offshore oil and gas exploration, sea-bed mining and coastal erosion or sediment accumulation.
  • physical oceanography - studying the temperature and density of seawater, tides, waves, currents, ice conditions, ocean turbulence and sediment transport. Practical applications include charts of ocean properties (for example, temperature, salinity, currents), forecasts of wave heights and distribution of marine pollutants, and computer models of ocean climate (currents, temperature and density structure). Models of global ocean conditions assist in weather forecasting and predicting climate changes.

In general, oceanographers in all disciplines:

  • plan and execute investigations
  • record the details of experiments and expeditions
  • develop and test theories and models
  • prepare papers and reports
  • respond to criticisms of their conclusions
  • help establish policy on coastal and marine environments and resources, and manage related human activities.
Working Conditions
Updated Dec 14, 2016

In the course of their work, oceanographers use surface ships, aircraft, satellites, underwater craft and a variety of specialized scientific equipment. Since field research normally is conducted from ocean-going vessels, field oceanographers may spend up to 3 months a year on ships. They may be expected to share a cabin with another person and may have to work long hours to complete research projects.

Physical requirements vary. When conducting field research, oceanographers may be required to lift items weighing over 20 kilograms. On the other hand, oceanographers who primarily work in office environments, concentrating on theoretical issues or computer modelling, may do minimal lifting.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Dec 14, 2016

Oceanographers need the following characteristics:

  • an inquiring mind and aptitude for the physical sciences
  • analytical and problem solving abilities
  • strong computational and programming skills
  • the ability to apply theoretical concepts and analyze large volumes of information
  • the ability to work alone or co-operatively as a member of a team
  • the ability to express ideas clearly orally and in writing.

Field oceanographers should be physically fit and not be prone to severe sea sickness.

All oceanographers should enjoy co-ordinating information and solving problems, working with tools, instruments and equipment at tasks requiring precision, and consulting with others.

Educational Requirements
Updated Dec 14, 2016

Oceanographers must have a master of science (M.Sc.) or doctoral (PhD) degree in oceanography. Graduates of bachelor of science (B.Sc.) degree programs may work as research or laboratory assistants or technicians who provide technical support.

The admission requirement for M.Sc. degree programs in oceanography is an acceptable average in either of the following:

  • a B.Sc. degree program that includes course work in mathematics, physical sciences, chemistry, geology, biology or atmospheric sciences
  • an engineering degree program with coursework related to oceanography.

There are no bachelor's degree programs in oceanography offered in Alberta, but the University of Alberta in Edmonton, the University of Calgary and the University of Lethbridge do offer a variety of science and engineering degree programs that may include courses offered in conjunction with the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University at the Western Canadian Universities Marine Biological Station, Bamfield, Vancouver Island. Entrance requirements vary depending on the school and program, but generally include a competitive average in English Language Arts 30-1 and 4 30-level mathematics and science courses.

In Western Canada, the following schools offer programs in oceanography:

  • The University of British Columbia in Vancouver offers programs leading to B.Sc., M.Sc. and PhD degrees in oceanography. The B.Sc. programs are an honours program in fisheries oceanography or a combined honours program in oceanography and another science.
  • The School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Victoria offers a bachelor of science (B.Sc.) honours program with a combined major in physics or chemistry and ocean sciences, and M.Sc. and PhD programs in earth and ocean sciences.

The University of Alberta offers graduate (master's and PhD) degree programs in physical oceanography. Elsewhere in Canada,McGill University in Montreal, University of Quebec in Rimouski (instruction in French), Dalhousie University in Halifax and Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's offer graduate degree programs in oceanography.

The Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS) grants the status of CMOS Accredited Consultant to applicants who have demonstrated that they meet established standards of training and experience in the fields of atmospheric and oceanographic sciences.

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Dec 14, 2016

There is currently no provincial legislation regulating this occupation in Alberta.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Dec 14, 2016

Oceanographers are employed by: 

  • colleges, universities and research institutes
  • governments
  • environmental and engineering consulting firms
  • meteorological organizations
  • marine transport companies
  • port and harbour authorities
  • emergency response organizations.

Some oceanographers work as private consultants. Many oceanographers are located in coastal cities. Experienced oceanographers may move into international positions (for example, work for the United Nations as advisors or consultants).

Oceanographers also may work in related aspects of marine science such as aquaculture, environmental science, fisheries biology, marine biology and ecology, meteorology, hydrology, geophysics or ocean data management.

Oceanographers are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 2113: Geologists, geochemists and geophysicists. In Alberta, 89% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

In Alberta, the 2113: Geoscientists and oceanographers occupational group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 1.4% from 2019 to 2023. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 59 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Dec 14, 2016

Geoscientists and oceanographers

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $23.56 $69.60 $46.99 $45.64
Overall $25.40 $97.36 $69.53 $69.60
Top $30.90 $155.85 $91.51 $95.64

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

B: Good Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Good Reliability, represents a CV of between 6.01% and 15.00% and/or fewer than 30 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 50% of all estimated employment for the occupation.

Industry Information
Oil & Gas Extraction
Public Administration
Professional, Scientific & Technical Services

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years


Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties


Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months


Vacancy Rate

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Computer and Information Technology
  • Engineering, Architecture and Related Studies
  • Environment, Forestry and Related Studies
  • Mathematics
  • Sciences
Other Sources of Information
Updated Dec 14, 2016

Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS) website:

ECO Canada website:

MareNet (Network of Marine Research Institutions and Documents) website:

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 23, 2016. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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