Oceanographer Licensing Requirements

Oceanography mixes biology, chemistry and geology to examine the ecosystems of the world's oceans. These scientists study marine life and its relationship with humans to understand how our activities affect the marine environment and what actions we can take to reduce our impact on other species. Once you obtain your oceanographer's license, you will be able to find jobs in a variety of areas, from water management to oil industry safety.


The field of oceanography covers a variety of scientists that work in some way with ocean life, such as marine biologists, geoscientists and hydrologists. Some states and private licensing boards may also include other geoscientists who deal with environmental events influenced by the oceans, such as sedimentologists and geologists. Many oceanographers start their careers by working as research assistants or laboratory technicians in a related field. Hands-on experience in a field such as mineralogy or biology provides valuable knowledge that you can use in your studies of the ocean's environment.


You must meet certain minimum education requirements to be eligible for the state licensing tests. In most states, you will need at least a four-year university degree in oceanography or a similar science. Your employer may also require a graduate degree and one year of work experience with a licensed oceanographer for certain types of jobs, but this is not typically needed just to get a basic license. Higher-level research positions and teaching jobs generally require a Ph.D.

Mandatory Licenses

Licenses are not required for oceanographers in all states. Oceanographers are usually classified as geoscientists in the states that do require a license. Some states only require you to obtain a license if you offer your services to the general public. Contact your local state licensing board to find out the exact requirements in your area. You will usually be required to take a written examination and pay a fee to obtain your license.

Voluntary Certification

Private organizations also administer their own oceanographer certification tests. These tests are not always recognized by state licensing boards, but still act as a demonstration of your expertise in the field. Certification can make you eligible for a wider selection of jobs and may open networking opportunities if you join the trade organization that sponsors the examination. The testing process is similar to the state oceanography examinations, but may be split into narrower specialties, such as freshwater and saltwater marine life or wetlands preservation.

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