Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences (SOC)
The Discipline and the Major
The oceanography major is designed for the “hands-on” student with a strong interest in the physical and dynamic properties of the ocean and atmosphere. Oceanography majors reinforce knowledge gained in the classroom with underway and computer laboratories and conduct current and scientifically relevant research. The faculty includes tenure-track civilian professors, rotational military instructors with recent fleet experience and permanent military professors. Oceanography majors take 13 courses in oceanography, meteorology, and applied mathematics. Students in the honors program take 14.
Oceanography attracts a diverse cross-section of midshipmen that has included a Rhodes Scholar, several Trident Scholars, varsity athletes, high-ranking members of the Brigade leadership and many students whose research work has been published in professional conferences and journals. A prospective major can expect to take two courses in general oceanography and a course on the dynamics of the atmosphere during third class year. The second class year builds on these introductory courses and includes courses on atmospheric thermodynamics, quantitative methods in the science of the ocean and atmosphere and research methods if selected for honors. The list of available electives is diverse and includes geological oceanography, geographical information systems, polar oceanography, near-shore oceanography, biological oceanography, estuarine oceanography, global climate change, synoptic meteorology, tropical meteorology, and environmental remote sensing. The first class year includes required courses in waves and tides, underwater acoustics and sonar, mathematical modeling of the ocean and atmosphere and a faculty mentored capstone or honors research project.
Faculty-directed field and computer-based research opportunities include the retreat of glaciers associated with global climate change, the survey of century-old ship wrecks, ocean turbidity in Key West, oxygen depletion and oyster populations in the Chesapeake Bay, and wind regimes over the Andes mountains in Chile. Our robust internship program includes storm chasing over the midwest, flying through hurricanes over the Atlantic Ocean, analyzing satellite imagery of icebergs, sampling sea ice in the Bering Sea and a week in Antarctica that includes a flight to the South Pole. After graduation, oceanography majors may pursue careers in surface warfare, submarines, naval aviation, the Marine Corps (air and ground), special warfare, and other fields.
Opportunities exist for immediate graduate school at the University of Rhode Island, Massachusetts Institute of Technology or Scripps Institute. After their initial tours, a few transfer into the naval oceanography community and obtain advanced degrees at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. After transition to the public sector, employment opportunities exist in the federal government (NOAA, NSF, USGS, NASA, EPA, Department of Energy), numerous academic institutions that offer courses in oceanography and meteorology related fields, and in private industry (engineering companies, fisheries, petroleum industry and marine policy).
Considerations for those who might be interested in this major
Because the major is scientifically diverse and technologically oriented, prospective students should be inquisitive and persistent, have a strong background in mathematics and be comfortable with the use of computers. Midshipmen are attracted to the major because they are interested in the ocean or the atmosphere and want to learn the science of the Earth’s environment.