Individuals who want to become a Navy oceanographer may enlist in the Navy without having a formal college education as this branch of the military has a specialized training program. People interested in entering officer training do generally need a college degree, however. The US Navy generally combines the earth science fields of meteorology and oceanography into one career option. Naval officers who wish to obtain a graduate degree in the field can enter the Naval Postgraduate School for a master's degree in meteorology and oceanography or a doctorate in oceanography. On all levels of training, the programs do not merely encompass the two fields, but also include education that applies the sciences to naval operations.
After enlisting to become a Navy oceanographer, individuals typically attend an education, research, and specialized training program. The knowledge and skills acquired through training may be applied toward a college degree as earned credit hours. Upon completion, students earn the title aerographer's mate. The training provides knowledge concerning the methods and instrumentation used by the Navy for monitoring and collecting data pertaining to the various aspects of ocean and weather conditions. The education also prepares personnel for creating charts and maps for navigation, based on acquired data, and the communication skills required to relay this information to aircraft, ships or shore based military installations.
The Navy may accept a college graduate with a bachelor's degree to become a Navy oceanographer if the individual meets certain requirements. The degree must be in geophysics, math, meteorology, or in the areas of oceanography, physics or the physical sciences. Students must have completed their studies with a grade point average of 2.2 or higher and must have acquired at least a C+ in calculus and physics. Qualifying graduates typically attend Officer Candidate School (OCS) for 12 weeks, followed by Basic Oceanography Accession Training (BOAT) for 11 weeks. After completing the education and training requirements, the Navy assigns new officers to a duty station where personnel acquire on-the-job training (OJT) and perform assigned duties as a meteorology and oceanography (METOC) officer.
An officer who wants to become a Navy oceanographer with a graduate degree usually attends the Naval Postgraduate School. The master's degree program requires that students take courses in meteorology and oceanography. Students enrolled in the two-and-a-half year program must also complete a thesis project. The PhD programs at the Naval Postgraduate School allow students to focus their educational efforts on specific oceanography subjects. Students may direct marine science studies in areas including acoustical oceanography, coastal ocean circulation, or the the polar regions.