Ocean Surface Currents
Careers in Physical Oceanography

I'm a full professor at the U. of Miami. My speciality is physical oceanography. I have undergraduate degrees in mathematics and marine science, and a PhD in physical oceanography. Oceanographers use a lot of math, physics, computer programming, and technical writing skills in performing their job. I do some teaching and a lot of research. My previous and present research projects include analyzing Sea Surface Temperature measurements; developing new methods for assimilating ocean data into ocean circulation models (just like weather forecasting); studying the effects of hurricanes on the ocean; analyzing the path of the Gulf Stream and how it varies; determining how the ocean velocity field controls the distribution of plankton; documenting oceanic turbulence/variability from Lagrangian instruments (subsurface floats and near-surface drifters) and radar-based surface velocity measurements; producing global maps of Sea Surface Temperature and average sea surface velocity; and developing/testing algorithms for finding people and objects lost at sea.

A typical day consists of some combination of (i) teaching and class preparation, (ii) research-writing software to analyze data, reading scientific journals and textbooks, and helping graduate students with their research, (iii) meetings-committee meetings for students, faculty meetings, and scientific meetings; (iv) writing both proposals to government agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, and NASA, and manuscripts for publication in scientific journals, (v) reviewing proposals and manuscripts from other scientists, and (vi) going out into the field and collecting ocean data.

I really enjoy my work. I could be doing a lot of other jobs with my math background but being a physical oceanographer is a very rewarding job. Oceanographers get to travel all over the world to scientific meetings and oceanographic cruises, and meet great people. I interact with very, smart students and colleagues. I'm working on hard, real-world problems whose solutions, one day, may help society with better weather forecasts and better methods for search and rescue.

A good all-around science background is essential for a career in physical oceanography. A Bachelor of Science (BS) degree is the minimum degree that physical oceanographers usually have. Jobs for those with BS degrees include working for a government agency like the Navy or NOAA, crewing on a research vessel, data collection for a private company, technical writer/editor, or being a research assistant to a professor or other scientists. One year of introductory college chemistry, thermodynamics, physical chemistry, one year of introductory college physics, mechanics, waves/optics, fluid dynamics, electronics, calculus I,II,III, differential equations, probability and statistics, marine biology, ecology, geology, technical writing, drafting, mechanical and ocean engineering, numerical methods/analysis, and computer programming classes (Fortran, C (++), Unix OS) are many of the recommended classes an aspiring oceanographer should take. Become familiar with math and statistical software packages like Matlab, S-Plus, Mathematica, etc. Many students go on to graduate school for advanced degrees, either a Master of Science (MS) or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). Those with MS degrees perform many of the same jobs as those with BS degrees but are usually paid more and have more responsibility. Almost all of the leading oceanographers and college professors have a PhD degree.

Arthur Mariano

For more information contact ...

The Graduate Studies Office or
The Division of Meteorology and Physical Oceanography (MPO) of the Rosenstiel School.