Graduate students in oceanography: Recruitment, success, and career prospects



Graduate education, student quality, stipend support, and subsequent employment form a triad of concern to many oceanographers. While the number of graduate degree programs in oceanography in the U.S. exceeds 50, remarkably few data are available on numbers of student applications, student survival rates, the quality of the applicants and accepted students, and their subsequent employment.

Consequently, most discussions within an institution are based on data from a single school, while most statements made to federal government program managers by scientists are based on personal perceptions and feelings. With the emerging global initiatives, which are very labor intensive, it appears appropriate to ask, “Is there an impending crisis in graduate education in oceanography?” Widespread concern about availability of new talent, the quality of incoming students, and the overall national crisis in science and engineering student recruitment has led many scientists to state that oceanography has widespread problems in terms of student numbers and, more importantly, quality. Often, when a scientist does not find a student in the spring application rites, the scientist declares there is a national shortage of well-qualified students. Moreover, in certain subdisciplines of the field (e.g., physical oceanography) the crisis is perceived as severe and immediate, though as we shall see, physical oceanography is in an improving mode and is also experiencing an interesting increase in the numbers of well-qualified women applicants.