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Joint Program in Oceanography/Applied Ocean Science & Engineering

PhD (ISCED 2011 level 8)


Cost No tuition (students receive a stipend with their Fellowship)

The MIT-WHOI Joint Program provides a high quality education leading to an internationally-recognized doctoral degree awarded by both institutions. The Joint Program is organized within five sub-disciplinary areas, each administered by a Joint Committee consisting of MIT faculty and WHOI scientists: Applied Ocean Science and Engineering, Biological Oceanography, Chemical Oceanography, Marine Geology and Geophysics, and Physical Oceanography. Cutting across the Joint Committees are interdisciplinary themes including “climate and climate impacts” and “coastal processes”. In addition to the cross-cutting themes, many students choose research topics which overlap two or more of the sub-disciplines, and Joint Program leadership works to support and accommodate students with interdisciplinary interests (see interdisciplinary statement and thesis examples). Thesis committees involving biologists and engineers, chemists and geologists, physical oceanographers and biologists are common.

The Joint Program offers a master’s degree program for U.S. Naval Officers, and more than 85 officers have received this degree dating back to the first award in 1970. With the exception of the U.S. Naval Officers program, students are not admitted to the Joint Program for a Master’s degree. However, a Master’s degree can be awarded in all programs on the way to a doctoral degree or as a terminal degree.

The Joint Program is an ocean science program in the broadest sense. Student research projects extend beyond ocean science into earth science, hydrology, glaciology, marine conservation, and environmental chemistry, to name a few. Coursework in marine policy is not mandated by any of the Joint Committees, although there are opportunities to take policy courses at MIT and Harvard. In addition, WHOI has a Marine Policy Center, and its faculty lead informal seminars on marine policy as well as serve on thesis committees.

Joint Program students have access to courses, programs and resources at one of the top oceanographic research institutions in the world (WHOI), one of the top research universities in the world (MIT), and they have the opportunity to take courses at Harvard. In addition to seminars and lectures by visiting scientists from all over the world, students can expand their intellectual horizons by taking courses or participating in programs well outside their main area of focus. For example, MIT’s Technology and Policy Program housed in the Engineering Systems Division offers courses such as Global Environmental Science and Politics.


Structural components
Industry partners
Laboratory training
Practical/Field work
Research Project

Application procedure

Information about the application process can be found here.

Grant opportunities

The Joint Program is committed to providing five years of tuition and stipend support to every student who is admitted, assuming satisfactory progress in the program. The Joint Program also has funds to help students attend scientific meetings, conferences, and special courses and to support student research. The Joint Program provides transportation options between the two campuses as well as housing at MIT and at WHOI for qualified students.


To be admitted as a regular graduate student, an applicant must have earned a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent from a college, university, or technical school of acceptable standing. Students in their final year of undergraduate study may be admitted on the condition that their bachelor’s degree is awarded before they enroll at MIT.

ISCED Categories

Personal skills and communication
Project management
Policy and governance
Conservation and environmental management
Marine Geology
Physical and chemical oceanography
Scientific modelling
Environmental protection technology