Best Oceanography Degrees Online and On-Campus: Top 10 Values 2024

Oceanography

Author: Melissa Maypole / Reviewed by: Melissa Anderson / First covered: November 2016 / Updates: 5

Bachelor’s in oceanography students may study biological, physical, chemical, and geological oceanography. They may also choose to specialize in one of these fields. Oceanography is a hands-on course of study. It includes many opportunities for students to conduct research and field studies. A bachelor’s in oceanography can prepare students for a few entry-level positions in the field. Although most will need to follow up with a master’s program to qualify for oceanography jobs. This ranking explores the 10 top value schools for a bachelor’s in oceanography. This includes online oceanography degrees.

Rating Best Value Colleges for a Bachelor’s in Oceanography

Our editors used College Navigator to identify the initial 37 schools for a bachelor’s in oceanography. From there, we considered each school’s tuition and financial aid numbers. We also consulted program information from each school’s website. Using this ranking methodology, we identified the following 10 top-value bachelor’s in oceanography programs.

Featured Programs

Types of Degrees Mentioned in this Ranking

  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in Marine and Coastal Sciences
  • BS in Marine Science
  • Bachelor’s in Biology: Marine Biology
  • BA/BS in Oceanography
  • BS in Marine Biology
  • Bachelor’s in Fisheries and Marine Science

#10—Montclair State University

Montclair, New Jersey

BS in Marine Biology and Coastal Sciences

Website
Points: 9
Tuition: $13,762

Montclair State University offers an interdisciplinary oceanography degree. The program emphasizes the core sciences of biology, chemistry, physics, and geology. Prospective students can expect to take classes, such as:

  • Introduction to Marine Biology
  • Principles of Biology: Organisms and Diversity
  • Research in Aquatic and Coastal Sciences
  • Oceanography and Climate Change
  • Environmental Geochemistry
  • Marine Geology and Plate Tectonics

MSU is institutionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Pros:

  • Location
  • Great student resources

Cons:

  • Graduation rate is lower than the national average
  • Financial aid can be difficult to navigate

#9—University of South Florida

Tampa, Florida

BS in Marine Science

Website
Points: 9
Tuition: $6,410

The University of South Florida offers an undergraduate oceanography degree program. It can be completed through either its Tampa or St. Petersburg campus. This Bachelor of Science in Marine Science emphasizes contemporary issues in marine biology. You will also master practical skills such as research and data collection methods. Sample course titles include

  • Physiology of Movement
  • Introduction to Theoretical Ecology
  • Managing Protected Areas
  • Urban Ecology
  • Marine Environmental Science

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges has accredited USF to award this oceanography degree at the undergraduate level.

Pros:

  • Accepts AP and dual credits
  • Graduation rate is higher than the national average

Cons:

  • Student to faculty ratio is higher than the national average
  • Acceptance rate is lower than the national average

#8—Brigham Young University-Hawaii

Laie, Hawaii

Bachelor’s in Biology: Marine Biology

Website
Points: 9
Tuition: $6,250

BYU-Hawaii’s oceanography degree program is a BS in Biology with a minor in Marine Biology. Students in the marine biology minor will engage in the scientific study of marine animals in their natural habitat off the island of Oahu. Course requirements for this program may include:

  • Marine Biodiversity
  • Pacific Natural History
  • Marine Biology
  • Coastal Processes
  • Marine Ecosystems
  • Coral Reef Ecology

The WASC Senior College and University Commission has accredited BYU-Hawaii to award this ocean science degree for undergraduates.

Pros:

  • Culturally diverse campus
  • FInancial aid availability

Cons:

  • The conservative campus culture may not be for everybody
  • Administrative issues can be a challenge

#7—California State University, Monterey Bay

Seaside, California

Bachelor’s in Marine Science

Website
Points: 10
Tuition: $7,323

The Cal State, Monterey Bay undergraduate oceanography degree is an interdisciplinary program. This Bachelor of Science offering features required courses such as:

  • Introduction to Oceanography
  • Ecology, Evolution, Biodiversity, and Plants
  • Marine Ecosystems
  • Molecular and Cell Biology and Animal Physiology
  • Marine Ecology

Aspiring oceanographers at CSUMB also enjoy experiential learning through lab and field experiences. The WASC Senior College and University Commission has fully accredited Cal State, Monterey Bay.

Pros:

  • Close-knit campus community
  • Great location

Cons:

  • Few academic programming options
  • Small campus can lead to to lack of social interaction

#6—California State University, Long Beach

Long Beach, California

Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology

Website
Points: 10
Tuition: $6,884

Cal State, Long Beach, offers a BS in Marine Biology through the school’s Biological Sciences Department. The oceanography degree is taught by faculty members who hold PhDs in the field. Once enrolled, students will take general education courses and courses specific to the major. Some of these classes may include:

  • Molecular Cell Biology
  • Marine Mammalogy
  • Animal Physiology
  • Marine Organisms
  • Physical Oceanography

Scholarships and grants are available to qualified CSULB students. The school also offers a master’s degree in oceanography for students who desire graduate study opportunities.

Pros:

  • Great return on investment
  • Affordable tuition

Cons:

  • Limited resources
  • Limited campus experiences

#5—Florida International University

Miami, Florida

BS in Marine Biology

Website
Points: 10
Tuition: $6,565

Florida International University offers both a major and minor in marine biology. The robust curriculum features course titles such as:

  • Physical Oceanography
  • Marine Botany
  • Ocean Currents
  • Coastal Marine Conservation
  • Field Methods in Marine Ecology

In addition to coursework, a field experience in marine biology is also required before graduation. High-achieving students may also consider applying for the honors track.

Pros:

  • Country’s largest Hispanic Serving Institution
  • Wide range of academic programming

Cons:

  • Acceptance rate is lower than national average
  • High student to faculty ratio

#4—University of Washington, Seattle

Seattle, Washington

BA/BS in Oceanography

Website
Points: 11
Tuition: $12,242

The University of Washington, Seattle, offers a unique oceanography program featuring BA and BS tracks. Coursework for the two tracks is comparable and may include courses such as:

  • Introduction to Oceanography
  • Integrative Oceans
  • Marine Geology and Geochemistry
  • Marine Biogeochemical Cycles
  • Remote Sensing and Data Analysis

The BS track also features a thesis requirement at the program’s culmination. UW-Seattle holds its accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Pros:

  • Graduation rate is much higher than the national average
  • Student debt after graduate rate is lower than national average

Cons:

  • Large class sizes
  • Acceptance rate is lower than the national average

#3—University of Alaska, Southeast

Juneau, Alaska

Marine Biology BS

Website
Points: 11
Tuition: $6,960

The oceanography degree from the University of Alaska, Southeast, is a bachelor’s in marine science. It has an optional emphasis in Fisheries Science. The comprehensive curriculum for the program emphasizes practical experience. It consists of 120 credit hours of coursework. Major courses include:

  • Introduction to Marine Biology
  • Animal Physiology
  • Alaska Native Knowledge
  • Ecology
  • Physical and Chemical Properties of the Ocean

Graduates may qualify for a variety of jobs with oceanography degree programs like this one, including:

  • Fisheries Biologist
  • Marine Biologist
  • Research Scientist
  • Natural Sciences Manager

Students are also prepared for graduate school upon completion of the program. The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities has accredited the University of Alaska-Southeast.

Pros:

  • Smaller class sizes
  • Accepts AP and dual credits

Cons:

  • Graduation rate is higher than the national average
  • Student debt after graduation is lower than the national average

#2—San Jose State University

San Jose, California

BS in Marine Biology

Website
Points: 12
Tuition: $7,899

Students enrolled in the oceanography program at SJSU will take classes on campus and at Moss Landing, an offsite facility. The curriculum for the program consists of 34 credit hours of core courses intended to give students a deeper understanding of the world’s oceans. Some of these classes may include:

  • Biological Oceanography
  • Comparative Taxonomy
  • Marine Life and Ecosystems
  • Physical Ecology
  • Functional Morphology

Students are also invited to select 17 credit hours of elective classes from options like:

  • Marine Birds and Mammals
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Physical Properties of Seawater
  • Quantitative Marine Science
  • Global Warming and Ocean Acidification
  • Ecological Field Sciences
  • Ocean Floor Formation
  • Evolutionary Genetics
  • Numerical Models and Data Analysis in Ocean Sciences

A total of 120 credit hours are required for this four-year undergraduate degree in oceanography. San Jose State is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Pros:

  • Diverse student body
  • Great on-campus resources

Cons:

  • High student to faculty ratio
  • Graduation rate is lower than the national average

#1—University of Alaska, Fairbanks

Fairbanks, Alaska

Bachelor’s in Fisheries and Marine Science

Website
Points: 13
Tuition: $7,896

One of the few oceanographer schools offering online oceanography degrees, the University of Alaska-Fairbanks is home to an online Bachelor of Fisheries and Marine Science. Prospective students may pursue one of three optional concentrations:

  • Fisheries
  • Marine Biology
  • Oceanography

Regardless of concentration, all students will take classes to fulfill program requirements, including:

  • Fish and Fisheries in a Changing World
  • The Harvest of the Sea
  • Chemical Oceanography
  • Introduction to Marine Science
  • Aquatic Ecology
  • Physical and Chemical Properties of Seawater

The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities has accredited UA-Fairbanks to award this online oceanography degree in marine sciences.

Pros:

  • Student diversity
  • Supportive campus community

Cons:

  • Limited campus resources
  • Few job opportunities

Sources

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook
  • National Center for Education Statistics: College Navigator
  • PayScale.com