Graduate Program in Oceanography

Degree Requirements

Admission Requirements

Applicants are expected to have an undergraduate degree in either mathematics, science or engineering. In addition, they shall have completed prerequisite courses as listed. Students must show proficiency in English, if they are foreign students. GRE scores are required. Students may be accepted subject to the requirement that additional courses are taken to make up deficiencies in their background. Admission to the program also depends on other factors such as work experience, letters of recommendation, and the suitability of background.

The minimum requirements for entry into the Program are:

  • one year of calculus
  • one year of physics
  • one year of chemistry

Students wishing to pursue a degree with an emphasis in physical oceanography will typically have additional mathematics including differential equations and computer programming. Students who wish to emphasize chemical oceanography or geochemistry will typically have had one year of organic chemistry and one year of physical chemistry. To study biological oceanography, it is recommended that students have at least one year of organic chemistry and adequate preparation in the biological sciences. Decisions on admissions to the Program, and interpretation of these requirements, is the responsibility of the Admissions Committee, as provided in the Program Bylaws.


Degree Requirements

A. Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Course Requirements
Each student must complete at least 30 credits of course work with a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0, and 42 credits of research culminating in a written dissertation. No more than 12 credits can be selected from undergraduate courses at the 300 or 400 level, and only 6 of those 12 can be at the 300 level. Only one course with a grade of "C" will be counted toward degree requirements.

Up to 24 credits of course work taken at other institutions can be transferred after review by the Scholastic Review Committee with the approval of the Director of the GPO. Request for credit transfer must be made using the forms obtained from the Graduate School. Approval will be granted only for courses related to the student's proposed direction of study for the Ph.D. and only for courses equivalent to 500 or higher level courses.

A minimum of 9 credits must be earned by taking PHYSICAL OCEANOGRAPHY [16:712:501] and two of the other core courses of the GPO:

  • CHEMICAL OCEANOGRAPHY 16:712:540
  • BIOLOGICAL OCEANOGRAPHY 16:712:522
  • MARINE GEOLOGY 16:460:541

Or by transferring credit from equivalent courses taken at other institutions. These core requirements should be completed within the first two academic years.

Each student must be in residence at Rutgers University for a minimum of one academic year (i.e., two consecutive semesters exclusive of summer sessions) following successful completion of the Qualifying Examination (see below). Exceptions can be made by petition of the student's Chair to the Scholastic Review Committee.

Outline of Program of Study
Each student will have been assigned a major advisor upon admission into the GPO. In the first year, the major advisor will help the student design his/her curriculum in order to meet program requirements and to address any perceived deficiencies in the student's background. At the end of the first year, each student should select his/her dissertation committee chairperson. This faculty member will become the student's major advisor. It will be the responsibility of the committee chair to structure the student's curriculum in the area in which the student expects to specialize and to direct the student's dissertation research.

A qualifying committee (see below) will be selected for each student by the GPO Director in consultation with the student's major advisor near the end of the student's second academic year. Each student will take a preliminary evaluation after completing the core courses typically by the end of the first year and the qualifying examination by the end of the second year (see details below). Upon completion of the qualifying examination, a student will advance to candidacy for the Ph.D. Prior to the examination, the student will have obtained an application form for candidacy for the Ph.D. from the Graduate School and will have submitted the application to his/her qualifying committee chair.

A student should select his/her dissertation committee (see below) in consultation with his/her advisor at the beginning of the second year after completing the preliminary examination. The student will take his/her preliminary dissertation examination (see below) as part of the qualifying examination by the end of the second year. In most cases, the student who had been admitted with a B.A. or a B.S. will complete his/her Ph.D. within 5 academic years. The normal maximum time allowed by the Graduate School is 7 years after the first registration (4 years beyond completion of M.S.). The student must file an application for a diploma (obtained from the Registrar) before April 1 preceding the May Commencement.

All variances from the sequence described above must be approved in writing by the Scholastic Review Committee and the student's advisor.

Qualifying Examination
Each student must pass a preliminary and Qualifying Examinations as the requirement for advancement to candidacy for the Ph.D. These consist of:

I. Preliminary Evaluation: An assessment of the student following their first year will be administered by a Faculty Committee comprised of three instructors from the required courses and one member of the SRC. The faculty committee (FC) will provide feedback to the student and their advisor following completion of the evaluation. The evaluation will be completed in two parts, written and oral.

  • 1) Written: Within one month of the completion of their second semester, each student will have two days for one question drafted by the FC. The interdisciplinary question(s) will assess the student’s knowledge of and ability to integrate the concepts and material taught in the three required courses.
  • 2) Oral: At the beginning of their third semester, each student will have 1 hour oral exam consisting of 20 minutes presentation of their research conducted during their first year. The presentation will assess the student’s ability to conduct and communicate a research project and integrate its interpretation into the relevant context of their field. This will be a public presentation minimally attended by the faculty committee and the student’s advisor.

II. Qualifying Examination: This will be taken at the end of the 4th semester except for special circumstances when it can be taken by the end of the 5th semester. The exam will consist of 1) 30 minutes presentation and discussion of the student’s thesis proposal; 2) Examination of knowledge on the specific area of the student’s thesis and the broader context in oceanography.

The qualifying exam will be administered by the student’s thesis committee and chaired by a faculty member not on that committee.

Upon successful completion of the qualifying exam the student will transition into PhD candidacy. A failure in this exam will result in transition to a terminal MSc degree.

The Preliminary Evaluation will be administered by a Qualifying Examination Committee, which is constituted for each student at least one month in advance of the Evaluation.

Each Preliminary Evaluation Committee will consist of the student's dissertation advisor, who may not chair the committee, a second faculty member in the student's sub-discipline, and two other members. The latter two come from sub-disciplines other than the student's own, in which the student has taken the core courses. Membership in a student's Preliminary Evaluation Committee is discussed by the student and her/his advisor. Each Preliminary Evaluation Committee will be approved by the Program Director, who will also select the committee chair.

Members of the Preliminary Evaluations Committees for any given semester will design general question for the written examination in consultation with the instructors in the core courses taken by the students. The Scholastic Review Committee will review the written examinations before they are administered to assure that the examination material is appropriate and clearly worded.

A student may be discouraged from taking the qualifying exam, if he/she did not pass the preliminary evaluation. The student will be given the opportunity to review the results of the written exam before proceeding to the oral. The Evaluation will test the student's basic knowledge of oceanography and other fields that are pertinent to the student's anticipated area of specialization. The Preliminary Evaluations will normally be administered once each semester at a mutually convenient date for all students electing to take them that semester.

For both the Preliminary Evaluation and Qualifying Exam, the student will pass the examinations upon approval of all members of the Committee or upon approval of all but one member of the Committee. After passing the Qualifying Examination, the student will advance to candidacy for the Ph.D. Applications for admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. may be obtained from the Graduate School. A failed Qualifying Examination will terminate the student's application for candidacy for the Ph.D. Under special circumstances and under recommendation of the Qualifying Examination Committee, a student may be required to retake all or part of the Qualifying Examination before they may advance to candidacy. In the event of a failed Qualifying Examination, members of the Qualifying Examination Committee will discuss specific reasons for failure with the student.

Preliminary Dissertation Examination
As part of the Qualifying Examination the student must meet with her/his Dissertation Committee to discuss and defend her/his dissertation topic. The Dissertation Committee will consist of the student's Committee Chairperson (Dissertation advisor), at least two other members of the GPO faculty, and at least one person from outside the GPO. The student may also elect to have two GPO faculty members as co-chairs. The outside member may be a Rutgers faculty member from another graduate program, or a faculty member from another institution. Final membership of the Dissertation Committee must be approved by the Director of the GPO and reported at the next meeting open to all members of the GPO. Outside members who are from other institutions must be approved by the GPO faculty.

Once the Dissertation Committee has been approved, single substitutions in membership can be made with approval of the Director of the GPO if a member is unable to serve. If the student's dissertation topic changes enough to warrant a major change in the Dissertation Committee, the new committee must be approved by the Scholastic Review Committee and the Director of the GPO.

Prior to her/his Exam, the student will prepare a written research proposal and will distribute copies of the proposal to members of the Dissertation Committee at least three weeks before the Exam. Committee members will communicate to the students their comments on the dissertation within two weeks of receiving the draft. During the Exam the student will be asked to describe and defend her/his dissertation topic in an approximately 30-minute presentation, and then to answer questions directly related to the dissertation research. The student's oral presentation will be open to all GPO faculty members who wish to attend, but members outside of the Dissertation Committee will be asked to leave before questioning by the Dissertation Committee commences. The Prelim will be passed if all members of the Dissertation Committee approve of the scope and direction of the dissertation topic, or if all but one member of the Dissertation Committee approve. The outcome of the Exam must be conveyed in writing by a brief letter from the Dissertation Advisor to the Director of the GPO.

Dissertation
The Ph.D. dissertation will describe the candidate's independent, original research in oceanography. It will be prepared in accordance with the regulations of the Graduate School and will ordinarily be in the style of manuscripts submitted for journal publication preceded by a general introduction, which describes the rationale of the overall work and how it extends from background material in the field.

Each Ph.D. student must pass a final Dissertation examination. The examination will be in the form of an open oral presentation and question period followed by a closed dissertation defense administered by the student's Dissertation Committee. A minimum of four Dissertation Committee members must be present at the defense.

The final draft of the dissertation must be distributed to members of the Dissertation Committee at least three weeks prior to the final oral presentation and defense of the dissertation. At the conclusion of the dissertation defense, Dissertation Committee members should all sign a copy of the dissertation approval form from the Graduate School, and the title page of the original copy of the dissertation. A dissertation must be approved by all members of the candidate's Dissertation Committee, or by all but one member.

Three final copies of the dissertation are required. The original and one copy, approved by the dissertation committee, are filed with the Graduate School after the oral defense. One copy is filed with the student's Dissertation advisor.


B. Requirements for the Master of Science Degree with Thesis

A Master's student will have an advisor upon entry into the program. This advisor will also be the student's thesis committee chair unless the student requests a change of advisor before the end of his/her first academic year.

In consultation with his/her committee chair, the student will form his/her thesis committee at the start of his/her second academic year. The thesis committee will have at least three members (including the chair) and at least two of the members (including the chair) will be members of the GPO faculty. One committee member may be appointed from outside of the GPO. The membership of the thesis committee must be approved by the director of the GPO and reported to the GPO faculty. Any subsequent changes must be approved by the Director of the GPO.

Each student should prepare a program of study in consultation with his/her committee chair. The program of study will require the program's core requirements (see below) and other courses pertinent to the student's research area. The student's thesis committee may require remedial courses, even if such courses must be taken without degree credit.

Course Requirements The minimum requirement for completion of the M.S. with thesis is 24 credits of course work and 6 credits of research. The minimally acceptable GPA is 3.0. No more than 12 credits can be selected from undergraduate courses at the 300 or 400 level, and only 6 of those 12 can be at the 300 level. Only one course with a grade of "C" will be counted toward degree requirements.

A minimum of 6 credits must be earned by taking PHYSICAL OCEANOGRPHY [16:712:501] and two of the other core courses of the GPO:

  • CHEMICAL OCEANOGRAPHY 16:712:540
  • BIOLOGICAL OCEANOGRAPHY 16:712:522
  • MARINE GEOLOGY 16:460:541

Or by transferring credit from equivalent courses taken at other institutions. These core requirements should be completed within the first two academic years. These core requirements should be completed within the first academic year. During the second year the student will concentrate on his/her thesis work while taking related courses.

The M.S. student should submit to his/her thesis committee a progress report at the termination of each academic year following the formation of the thesis committee. The purpose of this progress report is to summarize the student's course of study and thesis research plans and progress.

All requirements for the M.S. degree must be completed within three consecutive calendar years. Any extension must be through written petition and permission by the GPO Director after review by the Scholastic Review Committee.

M.S. Thesis
The thesis will be written in accordance with the guidelines and requirements of the Graduate School and will ordinarily follow the style of a manuscript submitted for publication in a scientific journal. A draft of the thesis must be submitted to committee members at least three weeks before the final thesis examination. Committee members will communicate to the students their comments on the dissertation within two weeks of receiving the draft. Three final copies of the thesis are required. The original and one copy, approved by the thesis committee, are filed with the Graduate School after the oral thesis defense. One copy is filed with the student's thesis advisor.

Final Examination
Each M.S. student must pass a final examination at least three weeks prior to commencement. The examination will be in the form of an open oral thesis presentation and defense followed by a closed oral examination administered by the student's thesis committee. Material covered in the examination may include the content of required program courses as well as the student's specific research subject. A student will pass upon approval of all members of his/her committee or upon approval of all but one member.

Continuation to a Ph.D. Program
A student who completes a Master of Science Degree with a thesis may elect to continue in the Ph.D. program. To expedite the process, the student is encouraged to convey in writing to the GPO Director and his/her M.S. thesis committee his/her desire to continue on for the Ph.D., before the student's final examination. After the final examination, the thesis committee will recommend to the Scholastic Review Committee whether or not the student should be encouraged to continue. The Scholastic Review Committee will review the recommendation and advise the GPO Director, who will decide if permission to continue will be granted.


C. Requirements for the Operational Master Degree in Oceanography

This track offers a condensed 15-month program intended for students who are interested in marine related employment. The program includes 2 semesters of coursework taken between two summers of research. Students applying to this track can fulfill all the requirements for a Master’s degree if 6 credits of graduate work can be drawn from the student’s undergraduate coursework. The preferred 6 credits are equivalent to Rutgers’ Physical Chemical or Biological Oceanography core courses that are cross-listed as both undergraduate and graduate courses. New courses in this track include:

  • Software Boot Camp - 16:712:509
  • Integrated Ocean Observing 1 & 2 - 16:712:505; 16:712:506
  • Field Laboratory Methods 1 & 2 - 16:712:507; 16:712:508
  • Operational Ocean Modeling/Visualization 1 & 2- 16:712:510; 16:712:511

D. Requirements for the Master of Science Degree without a Thesis

No student may elect this option upon admission into the program. It is reserved for Ph.D. candidates who complete a minimum of 24 course and 6 research credits with the required minimum GPA of 3.0, who have contributed to a unit of original research, e.g. as a co-author on a journal publication, and who show Master's level competency during the qualifying examination, but do not pass to candidacy for the Ph.D.

The M.S. degree without a thesis is a terminal degree that will be awarded only under special circumstances and with the approval of the Scholastic Review Committee.