I'm a junior studying math at a Canadian university and I'm planning on applying to oceanography grad schools. However, I haven't taken much physics or geology courses, and am just starting to swap out some of my math courses for courses like remote sensing and environmental modelling.

What are some good grad schools for physical oceanography and what do they typically look for in an applicant? Will decent math and physics grades and high grades in geology courses look good, along with a decent GRE score? I'm thinking of applying to Canadian and US institutions. If you have any suggestions on where I can apply, I'd appreciate that too!

I'm interested in marine acoustics, ocean engineering, and physical oceanography in general. My top choices right now are Scripps, and the program at the University of New Hampshire.

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    $\begingroup$ You might be better off asking this question on the Academia SE (academia.stackexchange.com). $\endgroup$ – Trevor J. Smith Dec 11 '16 at 16:42
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    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it would be better answered on academia.SE. $\endgroup$ – bon Dec 11 '16 at 18:20
  • $\begingroup$ Great choice for acoustics. You might also consider the WHOI-MIT joint program (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution - Massachusetts Institute of Technology). $\endgroup$ – arkaia Dec 12 '16 at 14:27
  • $\begingroup$ It'll likely be closed on Academia as a "shopping" question because of the request for university recommendations. $\endgroup$ – mkennedy Dec 13 '16 at 0:53

Most of the physical oceanography students I know studied mechanical engineering, physics or mathematics in undergrad. Strong physics and mathematical skills are very important. Programming is also a plus. Having a few earth sciences courses is good, but the physics and math is much more important, so I think you will be in good shape.

However, beyond the basic background, clear ability to do research is very important in PhD admissions. Even if the applicant doesn't have any research experience, there are ways he/she can show that potential. A clear statement of purpose that outlines and contextualizes the problems the student wants to address in graduate school will catch the eye of any professor looking for students. There many students who have posters at AGU, GSA ect, however, the truth of the matter is that most undergraduates with research experience entering graduate school aren't ready to hit the ground running anyway. Professors know that, as they have had students before.

For courses, I would say skip the environmental modeling course unless it is directly related to what you want to research. Take the remote sensing, and instead of environmental modeling, take a full on numerical modeling course. A rigorous undergraduate level (or if you can stomach it, graduate level) will give you a very strong foundation for whatever simulations you may or may not to run during your career as scientist, even if you start out as a purely observational scientist. Fluid Mechanics is also a no brainer if you still have time.

Finally, the oceanography researchers at LDEO (columbia university) are top notch. So are the ones at University of Washington, Hawaii, and Rhode Island.

Good luck on your applications, you have a lot of time to decide what you want to do (since your junior year just started I'm assuming).

The best advice I can give you is look at what researchers are doing on their websites and try and read a few of their papers. If you know any professors with these same interests, ask them what you don't understand. Earth Sciences is much different than math (I came from pure physics), spend some time trying understand what an oceanographer does. If you can figure that out, you will be more than prepared to reflect that in your statement of purpose and you will be a stellar candidate for graduate school.

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    $\begingroup$ How it is that "Earth Science" is much different from Applied Mathematics and Physics? Do you mean that major mathematical relationships (say, sampling theorem, or average of a product of fluctuating functions) can be ignored? Also, how it is that Fluid Mechanics falls into "if you have time" category, while all oceanic and atmospheric circulations are pure fluid dynamics? $\endgroup$ – Ale..chenski Dec 17 '16 at 5:42
  • $\begingroup$ Because the nature of Earth Science graduate school is interdisciplinary, there are no strict requirements when entering graduate school. Graduate Coursework is generally heavily tailored towards the students interests (I have a degree in geology, took 0 geology courses). One of my colleagues entered a geodynamics degree (basically applied math) without having taken linear alegebra, diff eq, or any physics beyond a introductory level. By the time he finishes, he will be an expert in the maths and physics of his subfield. $\endgroup$ – Neo Dec 17 '16 at 5:46
  • $\begingroup$ In addition, I think this would be a good question on its own for the stack.echange $\endgroup$ – Neo Dec 17 '16 at 5:47

I agree that full-on numerical modelling is good but could be delayed to grad school, since the student has a strong math background. I think environmental modelling is important for an understanding of how conceptual models are constructed and then implemented mathematically. Yes to physics.

The other reason is so the person asking the question can find out if they are really interested in the discipline. It would be bad to get to grad school and then find out it isn't as good as it sounds.

You might look at Dalhousie University because of the proximity to Bedford Institute of Oceanography. Also check out the Federal Student Work Experience Program and see if there is a chance to spend some time at BIO or elsewhere. That would look very good on an application.


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