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Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Oceanography

Bachelor (ISCED 2011 level 6)


Duration 8 semesters
Cost Tuition fee guide for 2020 is available on the website


Nothing on this planet connects local, national and global issues as much as the ocean. Oceanography at Otago includes study in marine physics, chemistry and geology. It develops from large-scale global systems such as ocean circulation in first year to topical local issues such as dredging Otago Harbour in third year.

Our students develop a keen appreciation for the wonders and importance of the sea, alongside a strong commitment to mathematical modelling and complex problem-solving. Graduates with our Oceanography degree got on to study and work in oceanography in New Zealand and abroad.

What will I learn?

A BSc in Oceanography opens your eyes to the dynamic processes that define our ocean planet. You will delve into the physics and maths that drive our climate and power the ecosystems on which we depend, see first-hand how physical processes influence the distribution of marine organisms, and get your hands dirty with the marine sediments that hold clues to the history of our planet. Board our fleet of research vessels to experience the practical side of oceanography, and use the samples and data you collect to develop your skills in writing, collaborative problem-solving, and quantitative exploration of the marine system. Your study in oceanography is designed to help you build mastery of observation, interpretation, and understanding from microscopic to global scales. To get started, enrol in: • EAOS111 (Earth and Ocean Science) • MARI112 (Global Marine Systems) Health Science students may enrol in MARI112 as their optional eighth paper, making it easy to continue in Oceanography.

How will I study?

Oceanography is a hands-on discipline. Apart from attending lectures and tutorials, you will also have practical laboratories and field trips at sea. The Marine Science department, which offers the Oceanography degree, has research and teaching facilities on the main campus in Dunedin, a major research laboratory at Portobello on the Otago Peninsula, and field stations on Stewart Island and at Doubtful Sound. A fleet of research vessels, including the expedition vessel RV Polaris II, provides access to coastal and off-shore environments

Career opportunities

Your degree in Oceanography will open doors to a diverse array of careers. Oceanography students at Otago develop a broad foundation in all areas of oceanography, with opportunities to concentrate in physical oceanography, biological oceanography, marine geology or marine chemistry. Throughout your programme, you will work with classmates to plan and execute field expeditions, collecting, evaluating, and presenting real-world data. Our degree is designed to support you to develop the problem-solving, teamwork, and data-handling skills that are valued by employers. As an Oceanography graduate, your career path may lead you to:

• Assess effects of tsunami for a regional council

• Develop tidal turbines for an alternative energy company

• Advocate for responsible policy through an NGO

• Pursue a teaching career at any level

• Conduct oceanographic and Antarctic research at a university or government agency

• Explore for petroleum or minerals in the resource industry

• Track trace metals to see where shellfish come from Oceanographic research can take you from the poles to the tropics, Antarctica to Rarotonga, from regional councils to government agencies, such as NIWA, GNS, and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Otago graduates have launched their careers in private consultancy firms, within the IT industry, in science communication media (for example, Dunedin’s Natural History New Zealand Ltd), and government science policy groups. Other graduates continue their Marine Science careers within the educational system, through science teaching and community engagement, or university research and teaching positions. Those interested in pursuing postgraduate study may end up working as a research scientist for an oceanographic institute or university anywhere in the world.

Structural components
Ship training
Industry partners
Internship/Workplace experience
Laboratory training
Practical/Field work
Research Project

ISCED Categories

Ocean Literacy
Marine Geology
Physical and chemical oceanography
Scientific modelling
Oil, gas and mineral resources