Program Leading to a Bachelor of Science Degree in Oceanography

The B.S. Oceanography program is designed specifically for students interested in pursuing professional, research or academic careers and/or advanced degrees in ocean sciences. Oceanography is a truly multidisciplinary field which is becoming more technological and global in its scope and approach. The B.S. Oceanography degree program reflects the need for students to develop basic proficiencies in mathematics, biology, chemistry, geology, and physics, as well as effective written and oral communication skills. In addition, the program includes individually selected electives that allow students to focus on their specific interests. The program also includes hands-on experiences, utilizing the research vessel, Coral Sea and the Telonicher Marine Laboratory.

FAQ - Undergraduate Program in Oceanography

The following are nine questions frequently asked by prospective students interested in studying the oceans.

1. What distinguishes the Oceanography program at Humboldt State University from similar programs at other universities?

2. Do I have to decide on a major before I come to HSU?

No. When you apply to HSU, you have an option of being "Undeclared". Being undeclared gives you the opportunity to explore the academic, career, and personal interests you have while working to identify the best major for you. As an Undeclared student, you will have an advisor assigned from the Academic & Career Advising Center (ACAC) until you have declared a major. ​Whether you have interests already and are trying to choose, want to get into an impacted major and need to meet the requirements first, or perhaps you're not sure where to begin, you will be guided, encouraged, and supported through your exploration.

Learn about majors, general education, advising, and more. Visit Undeclared Resources on the Academic & Career Advising Center website.

3. When do I have to declare a major?

You should declare a major by the time you have completed 60 units.

4. What happens if I decide to change my major?

Many students decide to change their major at some point. When contemplating a program of study, schedule an appointment with an advisor within that program to discuss the change and your best course plan. You can talk to program advisors at any time to discuss selecting a major. It is recommended that you schedule such an appointment sooner, rather than later, as most science courses have pre-requisite course requirements that may affect your program of study.

5. Should I also complete a minor in another field and combine it with the Oceanography major?

Completion of a minor in another field is very possible, and in many cases desirable, as a way of adding a second focus to your degree. Students often apply their elective units in just such a way. There are a large number of such options that you should discuss with your oceanography advisor.

6. Do I need to take scuba diving to be an oceanographer?

Scuba diving is not required for any degree at HSU. Scuba diving can be a useful tool for some shallow water research and can also be an enjoyable form of recreation. The HSU Diving program offers a series of diver training courses and a Minor in Scientific Diving. Many of our students participate in the diving program.

7. What kinds of opportunities are available to Oceanography students following graduation?

Because the Oceanography degree provides a rigorous and interdisciplinary program of study in science and math as well as hands-on research experiences, many graduates go on to pursue graduate studies. Others find employment in the fields of biological oceanography, chemical oceanography, geologic oceanography, physical oceanography, marine environmental science, management and consulting, with state or federal governments, in science outreach and teaching, or in the private sector. Some of the job titles that have been reported by graduates include: oceanographer, marine technician, aquatic chemist, aquatic biologist, hydrologist, environmental specialist, science officer, research assistant, marine products developer, sea-going instrument technician, acoustic technician, physical science specialist, assistant meteorologist, environmental planner, water pollution technician, ocean products salesperson, geophysicist and hydrographer.

8. What is the difference between Marine Biology and Biological Oceanography?

These two fields are similar in many ways, but differences exist that divide the two specialties.

Simply stated, the field of Biological Oceanography is the study of the interactions of populations of marine organisms, both with one another and with their physical, chemical, and geological environment. These interactions are typically complex and require the use of techniques from a range of scientific fields. Biological Oceanography is, of necessity, interdisciplinary.

The field of Marine Biology is the study of marine organisms. It is concerned with evolutionary , organismic, genetic, genomic, physiological, and biochemical processes in these organisms, and the relationship between them and their biotic and physical environment.

9. I have decided that I would like to study either Biological Oceanography or Marine Biology but am not yet sure which one. What would be my best course of action?

By carefully constructing your course schedules for the first year, students can take classes that can be used for either program, while gaining an understanding of the differences in these two fields of study. You should be able to identify which major best suits your goals by the end of the sophomore year. Consult with an academic advisor to best construct an effective course plan.

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