South Africa’s oceans and coasts are dynamic environments shaped by wind, water density and tides that regulate climate, absorb carbon and cycle nutrients for marine ecosystems. These systems are constantly in a state of flux due to variations in climate, which in turn shapes marine biodiversity and ecosystems. Understanding the properties and interrelated nature of oceans and coastal systems support decision-makers in managing oceans and coastal environments that support global and local economies and livelihoods.

Oceanographers study the physical, chemical and biological properties of the ocean. They investigate the interactions between the sea and air to establish its influences on weather and climate patterns. They also examine the processes involved in the formation of the seafloor and coastline, forecasting potential changes and its causes. Some also investigate the chemical composition of seawater, determining the quality of water and its impacts on marine environments.

Oceanographers periodically work aboard research ships or boats observing and collecting data, returning to a laboratory and office environment to perform tests and report their findings. Due to the nature of their work, they can be out at sea for days, weeks or even months at a time.


Oceanographers need a thorough knowledge of marine systems and practical experience with digital mapping, remote sensing and computer modelling. They will also benefit from:

  • Strong research and laboratory competence
  • Ability to logically analyse large data sets
  • Excellent physical fitness, for diving and long periods at sea
  • Good verbal and written communication and presentation skills


Perform research and plan marine expeditions

Analyse and interpret data from samples, measurements and remote sensing aids

Perform simulations of oceanographic phenomena

Report on and publish findings in academic journals and books


B.Sc., B.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc. in Oceanography at UCT

B.Sc., B.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc. in Marine Biology at UCT and UKZN.

B.Sc., B.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc. in Biological Sciences specialising in Botany or Zoology at all universities

Diploma, Advanced Diploma, M.Tech in Oceanography at CPUT


National, provincial and local government.

NGOs, community-based and development organisations and private consultancies.

Research institutions.


Offshore mining companies.

Related career paths