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Marine and ocean sciences courses

If you are fascinated by marine life or the role oceans play in controlling our climate and shaping our coastline you may be interested in marine biology or oceanography. Courses include core sciences such as biology, chemistry, physics and geology, practical lab work, field trips on research boats and could include diving. These courses prepare you for careers in areas such as research, oil exploration, conservation, environmental monitoring and weather forecasting.

Studying marine and ocean sciences at university

Example course modules

  • Marine organisms and ecosystems
  • Oceanography
  • Marine animal science
  • Basic and scientific diving
  • Introduction to marine ecology
  • The Earth system
  • Quantitative earth and ocean science
  • IT communication, field and laboratory skills
  • Dynamic earth
  • Geomorphological processes

Teaching hours / week

Average for this subject


Average for all subjects

The time you'll spend in lectures and seminars each week will vary from university to university, so use this as a guide.

More on studying and contact hours at uni

Who studies this subject

  • Female : 39%
    Male : 61%
  • Mature : 42%
    School leaver : 58%
  • Full-time : 99%
    Part-time : 1%

What you need to get on a course

Subjects you need

A-levels (or equivalent) usually required

  • Choose two from biology, chemistry, physics and maths

Useful to have

  • geography
  • Geology

Application checklist

Here's a guide to what to expect from the application process - also check individual university entry requirements, as these may differ.

  • January application
  • October application
  • Personal statement
  • Portfolio
  • Interview
  • Entry test
  • Work experience
  • Audition

Personal statement advice

Your personal statement is a core part of your university application, and getting it just right takes time. Before you start work on yours, take a look at our five quick tips on writing a personal statement. We'll help you past that writer's block!

Career prospects

Sources: HECSU & KIS
The recession has been difficult for some environmental scientists, with jobs and funding cuts, so bear that in mind when you look at the figures. This is also one of those subjects where graduates don’t usually go to London to work, so if you want to work in East Anglia or the South West – or overseas – this might be a good subject. Graduates tend to get jobs in the environment, in surveying and as lab technicians, but, like a lot of other subjects, if you want a job in research, start planning to take a doctorate. The stats also include a small number of oceanographers and meteorologists.
Professional and accrediting bodies:

Six months after graduating

Typical graduate job areas
  • Natural and social science professionals

Longer term career paths

Jobs where this degree is useful

  • Oceanographer
  • Marine surveyor
  • Environmental officer

Other real-life job examples

  • Geophysicist

What employers like about this subject

Students of marine and ocean sciences can gain subject-specific skills in the biology, physics, chemistry and geology of the marine environment; in oceanographic and marine field skills and training in experimental practice and design. You'll also gain a whole suite of sought-after transferable skills including numeracy, communication, data handling, team-working and problem-solving skills. Marine and ocean science graduates work in industries including oil and gas, scientific research, higher education, technical consultancy, museums and zoos and government.