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 approach. The 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 Telonicher Marine Laboratory and the research vessel, Coral Sea.

FAQ - Undergraduate Program in Oceanography

The following are the nine questions most 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" and will be assigned an advisor in the Advising Center. Your assigned advisor will work with you to select courses that will satisfy general education and all-university requirements.

3. When do I have to declare a major?

You should delcare 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.

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

This 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 diving.

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

Because the Oceanography degree provides a rigorous 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, and geophysicist.

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, 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.

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. What would be my best course of action?

By carefully constructing your course schedules for the first four semesters, 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. Please click here for an example pathway.