Oceanography

at UBC's

Vancouver Campus

Oceanography is the study of our oceans, including their circulation, physical and chemical properties, and life. Physical, biological, and chemical oceanographers often work together in this richly interdisciplinary science to better understand how the ocean works, affects global climate, and impacts communities. You could tackle challenges of safe shipping, sustainable food supply, sanitary sewage disposal, and healthy recreation.

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Program information

  • Campus: Vancouver
  • Faculty: Faculty of Science
  • Degree: Bachelor of Science
  • Length 4 yrs
  • Co-op Yes
    You can combine your studies with full-time, paid work at top local and international organizations.
  • Honours Yes
    You can study intense specialization in a single field.

Oceanographers study the physical and chemical properties of ocean water, the life within it, the sea floor, and the ocean’s connection to the rest of the planet. Oceanography draws from biology, physics, chemistry, and geology, making it a truly multidisciplinary science. Oceanographers work in diverse areas, including biological oceanography; the physics of waves, tides, and currents; the creation, evolution, and structure of sea floors; and chemical oceanography. They work to understand how the ocean works and tackle challenges related to global climate change and its impacts on ocean communities, safe shipping, and sustainable food supplies.

Oceanography is offered at the undergraduate level through the Honours in Fisheries Oceanography program, which is intended for students wishing to pursue graduate studies in the field or work as consultants in fisheries/environmental management. Oceanography can also be paired with another science subject as a Combined Major or Combined Honours degree, including Biology, Chemistry, Geology, Geophysics, Microbiology and Immunology, or Physics. The Combined Honours programs are generally geared towards students intending to pursue graduate work in oceanography and involve an upper-level field course in which students develop and carry out their own research program.

Campus features

UBC is home to the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, as well as the Marine Mammal Research Unit (MMRU), Project Seahorse, and the Pacific Centre for Isotopic and Geochemical Research (PCIGR). Ocean Dynamics Laboratory conducts oceanographic research. Current topics include the nearby ocean, arctic hydrography, and lakes of British Columbia.

Life at UBC's Vancouver campus

Built in 2012 to LEED Gold construction standards, the Earth Sciences building is home to the Department of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. It houses the department’s cluster computers for numerical weather and climate simulations, weather-instrument platform for research and teaching, modern labs for oceanographic research, wet labs, and two computer lab classrooms for undergraduate student use.

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Your future

A BSc in Oceanography will equip you with laboratory experience, computer skills, and an in-depth knowledge of the oceanic environment. Graduates are qualified for work in a wide range of jobs in environmental organizations affecting policy, commerce, and education.

The Honours in Fisheries Oceanography and Combined Honours prepare you for additional graduate studies in a wide range of oceanography subfields.

Program graduates

  • Oceanographer researcher, RBR Ltd.
  • Ecological monitoring technical, Parks Canada
  • PhD candidate in fishery ecology, UBC Institute for Oceans and Fisheries
  • Research marine biologist and biological consultant, Fisheries and Oceans Canada
  • Species-at-risk biologist, Bedford Institute of Oceanography
  • Research associate, University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences

Program requirements

English-language requirements

English is the language of instruction at UBC. All prospective students must demonstrate English-language competency prior to admission. There are numerous ways to meet the English Language Admission Standard.

General admission requirements

  • Completion of the IB Diploma with a minimum score of 24 points, including at least three Higher Level courses and additional points for Extended Essay and Theory of Knowledge.
  • Completion of Standard Level or Higher Level English A at a minimum score of 3, where English is the primary language of instruction.

Degree-specific requirements: Science

  • IB Mathematics (Standard or Higher Level; IB Math Studies does not meet the requirement)
  • One of IB Biology, IB Chemistry, or IB Physics (Standard or Higher Level)
  • One year of Chemistry immediately prior to IB Diploma
  • One year of Physics immediately prior to IB Diploma (may be waived with scores of 5 or higher in IB Mathematics and IB Chemistry)
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