Academic Programs

The Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) of the University of Rhode Island offers instruction leading to the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), the Master of Science (MS), and the Master of Oceanography (MO) degrees in oceanography.  Students can focus on specific areas of oceanography – biological, chemical, geological, and physical – as well as in interdisciplinary and related areas such as atmospheric chemistry. In addition, joint degree programs are offered in Business Administration and in Marine Affairs. Students in the MS and PhD programs typically concentrate in one of the four classical areas, and the courses and requirements differ among them. Those students who are interested in the MS or PhD degree programs at GSO should see the discipline-specific curricular information listed below. The MO program is a non-thesis degree for those students/professionals interested in a non-research career in oceanography.

Doctoral and Master of Science Degree Programs

Biological Oceanography

Biological oceanographers study the relationship between living organisms in the ocean and their environment. Students may choose from a wide variety of courses specializing in specific organism groups such as microbes, phytoplankton, zooplankton, and fish, as well as courses in the ecology of organism groups or ecosystems.

Marine and Atmospheric Chemistry

Chemical oceanographers study the chemical composition of seawater and how it is affected by physical mixing processes and by interactions with the atmosphere, the biosphere, and the sediments and rocks that form the seafloor. The most basic courses include chemical oceanography and the distribution of chemical species in seawater. Students may also specialize in the organic chemistry of seawater and sediments, physical chemistry of seawater, geochemistry of natural and artificial radionuclides, photochemical reactions in seawater, air-sea chemical interactions, and the chemical cycling of elements important to biological systems such as carbon, sulfur, and nitrogen.

Atmospheric Chemistry is a subdiscipline of chemical oceanography. The basic course, chemistry of the marine atmosphere, is supplemented by specialized classes in aerosols, gases and meteorology. Students may specialize in atmospheric transport, atmospheric pollution, or the reactions taking place in the atmosphere.

Marine Geology and Geophysics

Geological oceanographers study the composition, structure and processes associated with sedimentation and rock-forming processes in the ocean basins and within the Earth’s interior.
Research opportunities in marine geology and geophysics (MG&G) exist for students interested in marine geophysics, geodynamics, volcanology, geochemistry, paleoceanography, paleoclimatology, environmental magnetism, and seismology.

Physical Oceanography

Physical oceanographers seek to understand the physical processes that govern the circulation of the ocean and the coupled atmosphere-ocean system. Research opportunities exist for students to apply state-of-the-art techniques in: satellite remote sensing; computer modeling of atmosphere and ocean processes; laboratory modeling of geophysical fluid dynamics; observational studies in air-sea interaction, mixing processes, or large-scale circulation — often using unique instruments developed at GSO/URI. We attempt to engage students in ongoing research as soon as they arrive.

Professional Master of Oceanography (MO) Degree Program

GSO offers the Master of Oceanography (MO). The MO degree is designed for U.S. and international students who are working, or intend to work, in ocean environmental management and assessment, maritime industries, fisheries management, science communication, ocean policy and law, education or intend to continue their education. The MO program prepares students to apply ocean science and technology to real-world problems. Students can also participate in an internship or complete a capstone project that may relate to their employer’s activities. Internships may be arranged at such companies as Exxon Mobil, Raytheon, Army Corps of Engineers, Naval Undersea Warfare Center and others. Undergraduate students enrolled at URI will also have the opportunity to enroll in some of the courses during their senior year.

The MO complements the MS and the PhD degrees in oceanography at the University of Rhode Island and is designed to appeal to and attract a different type of science student or science professional. It is a flexible program designed for completion in 24 months. The MO is a terminal science degree; those who want a master’s degree as a step toward the PhD degree should choose the MS rather than the MO degree program.

For more information, please visit the Professional MO Degree Program page.

The Blue MBA

The Blue MBA program is a dual-degree program that merges the Master of Business Administration (MBA) with the Master of Oceanography (MO). It is designed for students with a science, environmental science, or engineering undergraduate degree who want to develop their management skills and broaden their marketability.

With a growing demand for leaders with skills in business and science – particularly ocean- and coastal-related science, the Graduate School of Oceanography and the College of Business partnered to offer this joint degree program. This is the first program of its kind in the United States, and provides the knowledge and skills needed to develop business models to ensure an environmentally sustainable world for a broad range of industry sectors, companies and organizations.

Students successfully completing the Blue MBA program are prepared to strategically address the broad spectrum of environmental challenges facing the global business community. This program is particularly beneficial to those seeking management careers in industries including the following:

  • Energy
  • Ocean Technology and Engineering
  • Hazard Risk Management
  • Water Resources
  • Fisheries
  • Marine Navigation and Tourism
  • Ocean and Human Health

Students take courses in business, oceanography, and economics. An internship with a business is also embedded in the Blue MBA curriculum.

Joint Degree Program in Oceanography and Marine Affairs

The Graduate School of Oceanography and the Department of Marine Affairs in the College of Environment and Life Sciences offer a joint degree program in which students simultaneously earn an Oceanography PhD and a Master of Marine Affairs (MMA) degree. The program in Marine Affairs focuses on ocean/coastal management, policy, and law, and the joint degree program will prepare scientists with policy knowledge and skills needed in many contemporary professional positions, both inside and outside of government. At the discretion of the cognizant Major Professor, up to six credits from the MMA degree may be counted toward the requirements of the PhD degree, thus reducing the total requirements by six credits. Students wishing to enroll in the joint degree program must apply to be admitted to both the Marine Affairs Department’s MMA program and the GSO PhD program. To ensure adequate marine experience, a student in the program may not be nominated for the MMA degree until the comprehensive examinations in the Oceanography PhD program are successfully completed.