Students on the Coral Sea

Among the few undergraduate programs of its kind in California, a Bachelor of Science in Oceanography at Cal Poly Humboldt provides a firm foundation in the study of the physical, chemical, and biological aspects of the ocean through a rigorous combination of academics and practical oceangoing experience on the North Coast.

Program Overview

The ocean covers 70 percent of the planet and is crucial to our survival. With ecological sustainability in mind, our Oceanography undergraduate program is one of the few in California.

People often ask: "What is the difference between Oceanography and Marine Biology?" While both disciplines include study of ocean organisms, Oceanography examines the entire range of ocean processes, including the physics, chemistry, and geology, as well as the biology. Oceanography requires understanding a broad range of scientific fields and techniques to engage with the ocean as a whole system.

The B.S. Oceanography program is designed specifically for students interested in pursuing professional, research or academic careers, and/or advanced degrees in ocean sciences. Once you master the basics, you'll take courses with an oceanic focus, such as biological oceanography, chemical oceanography, geological oceanography and physical oceanography. 

At the same time you’ll have a chance to apply what you’ve learned in the classroom. Practice cutting-edge research techniques aboard our oceangoing vessel, the Coral Sea and the nearby Telonicher Marine Laboratory. And gain practical experience from professional scientists through paid research opportunities at partnerships with large science organizations.  We’re a small department, too, which means class sizes are small. You’ll have plenty of chances to get to know faculty and receive personal attention from professors. 


Oceanography is a very broad and interdisciplinary field. It's impossible to be an expert in all aspects of the ocean, so Oceanographers pick a specialization based on the aspect of the oceans of most interest to them. As such, students who major in Oceanography at Humboldt tailor their electives units to the topics that interest them the most, often within one of the four main subdisciplines of Oceanography.

Sub-discipline Options


We offer a minor in oceanography. 

Featured Alumni Profile

Renee Takesue, 1995

Geologist, US Geological Survey, Santa Cruz, California

Field work, planning, lab work, and publishing research. For example, one of the projects I'm working on now is how pollution affects nearshore ecosystems and processes.

Career Options

With a strong foundation in science and oceanic studies, you will have the knowledge and skills to tackle some of the most pressing issues that affect the health of our oceans and in turn, the health of our planet. Those issues include rising seawater, pollutants, the impact of human activity on marine ecosystems, and seismic activity. 

Our graduates are also well-prepared for the next step in their lives. Some pursue their masters or Ph.D. programs at some of the world’s best graduate schools. Others pursue a variety of private sector and governmental careers. In fact, over 80 percent of our graduates get jobs related to their Oceanography degree at research companies, science centers, public and environmental health departments, and government agencies.

Here are a few examples of possible career fields.

Marine Biologist
Biological Oceanographer
Water Pollution Chemist
Chemical Oceanographer
Tsunami Modeler
Physical Oceanographer

Geologist Oceanographer
Coastal/Ocean Engineer
Sea-going Technician
Marine Research Assistant
Scientific Diver

R/V Coral Sea

RC coral Sea

Aboard Cal Poly Humboldt’s 90-foot ocean going research and teaching vessel, students can collect and observe marine plants and animals in their natural environment. 

More about the Coral Sea  »