Doctor of Philosophy in Oceanography (PhD)
Oceanographers investigate both fundamental and applied problems relating to the physics, mathematics, biology, chemistry, and geology of the sea, often working across traditional academic disciplines. Research carried out both independently and in collaboration with federal government laboratories occurs in many different oceanographic regimes, including coastal BC fjords, the inland sea of the Strait of Georgia, open ocean regions of the Subarctic Pacific, and many other locations, including the Arctic and Antarctic Oceans. The types of problems that can be studied include fundamental questions about the flow of stratified fluids at scales ranging from tens of meters to thousands of kilometers, applied research in estuaries, coastal, and deep-ocean processes, general ocean circulation and climate change issues, marine chemistry, geochemistry, and biogeochemistry, natural product chemistry, marine viruses, fisheries oceanography, plankton ecology and physiology, and primary production of the sea. The Department is well equipped to carry out research in the field (using either its own boat or larger vessels in the oceanographic fleet), at the laboratory bench, and in the numerical heart of a computer. Most problems involve aspects of all three.
Students in Oceanography may select courses, depending on their interest, from the following areas of specialization:
-marine chemistry and geochemistry
-physical oceanography and atmospheric sciences
Students are encouraged to broaden their knowledge by taking courses outside their area of specialization. Courses related to Oceanography are also offered in the Departments of Botany, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Geography, Physics and Astronomy, and Zoology.
What makes the program unique?
The Program builds on a proven record of accomplishments of the core faculty of the Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences Department that supervised several hundred graduate students. The program brings together 12 full-time faculty allowing students to choose from wide range of concentrations such as biological oceanography, chemical oceanography, and physical oceanography.
Contact the program
Admission Information & Requirements
1) Check Eligibility
Minimum Academic Requirements
The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies establishes the minimum admission requirements common to all applicants, usually a minimum overall average in the B+ range (76% at UBC). The graduate program that you are applying to may have additional requirements. Please review the specific requirements for applicants with credentials from institutions in:
Each program may set higher academic minimum requirements. Please review the program website carefully to understand the program requirements. Meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission as it is a competitive process.
English Language Test
Applicants from a university outside Canada in which English is not the primary language of instruction must provide results of an English language proficiency examination as part of their application. Tests must have been taken within the last 24 months at the time of submission of your application.
Minimum requirements for the two most common English language proficiency tests to apply to this program are listed below:
TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language - internet-based
Overall score requirement: 100
IELTS: International English Language Testing System
Overall score requirement: 7.0
Other Test Scores
Some programs require additional test scores such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Graduate Management Test (GMAT). The requirements for this program are:
The GRE is not required.
2) Meet Deadlines
January 2024 Intake
Application Open Date01 April 2023
September 2024 Intake
Application Open Date01 October 2023
January 2025 Intake
Application Open Date01 April 2024
3) Prepare Application
All applicants have to submit transcripts from all past post-secondary study. Document submission requirements depend on whether your institution of study is within Canada or outside of Canada.
Letters of Reference
A minimum of three references are required for application to graduate programs at UBC. References should be requested from individuals who are prepared to provide a report on your academic ability and qualifications.
Statement of Interest
Many programs require a statement of interest, sometimes called a "statement of intent", "description of research interests" or something similar.
Students in research-based programs usually require a faculty member to function as their supervisor. Please follow the instructions provided by each program whether applicants should contact faculty members.
Instructions regarding supervisor contact for Doctor of Philosophy in Oceanography (PhD)
Permanent Residents of Canada must provide a clear photocopy of both sides of the Permanent Resident card.
4) Apply Online
All applicants must complete an online application form and pay the application fee to be considered for admission to UBC.
In 2012 the new Earth Sciences Building was completed. The $75 million facility was designed to inspire collaboration and creativity across disciplines.
Tuition & Financial Support
|Fees||Canadian Citizen / Permanent Resident / Refugee / Diplomat||International|
|Installments per year||3||3|
|Tuition per installment||$1,802.52||$3,166.73|
|Tuition per year|
(plus annual increase, usually 2%-5%)
|Int. Tuition Award (ITA) per year (if eligible)||$3,200.00 (-)|
|Other Fees and Costs|
|Student Fees (yearly)||$1,081.64 (approx.)|
|Costs of living (yearly)||starting at $18,517.90 (check cost calculator)|
All fees for the year are subject to adjustment and UBC reserves the right to change any fees without notice at any time, including tuition and student fees. Tuition fees are reviewed annually by the UBC Board of Governors. In recent years, tuition increases have been 2% for continuing domestic students and between 2% and 5% for continuing international students. New students may see higher increases in tuition. Admitted students who defer their admission are subject to the potentially higher tuition fees for incoming students effective at the later program start date. In case of a discrepancy between this webpage and the UBC Calendar, the UBC Calendar entry will be held to be correct.
Applicants to UBC have access to a variety of funding options, including merit-based (i.e. based on your academic performance) and need-based (i.e. based on your financial situation) opportunities.
Program Funding Packages
All full-time students who begin a UBC-Vancouver PhD program in September or January will be provided with a funding package of at least $25,500.00 CAD plus tuition fee coverage for each of the first four years of their PhD. The funding package may consist of any combination of internal or external awards, teaching-related work, research assistantships, and graduate academic assistantships. Please note that many graduate programs may provide funding packages that are substantially greater than above amount per year. Please check with your prospective graduate program for specific details of the funding provided to its PhD students.
- 8 students received Teaching Assistantships. Average TA funding based on 8 students was $4,815.
- 9 students received Research/Academic Assistantships. Average RA/AA funding based on 9 students was $7,525.
- 10 students received internal awards. Average internal award funding based on 10 students was $24,617.
- 1 student received an external award valued at $11,667.
Scholarships & awards (merit-based funding)
All applicants are encouraged to review the awards listing to identify potential opportunities to fund their graduate education. The database lists merit-based scholarships and awards and allows for filtering by various criteria, such as domestic vs. international or degree level.
Teaching Assistantships (GTA)
Graduate programs may have Teaching Assistantships available for registered full-time graduate students. Full teaching assistantships involve 12 hours work per week in preparation, lecturing, or laboratory instruction although many graduate programs offer partial TA appointments at less than 12 hours per week. Teaching assistantship rates are set by collective bargaining between the University and the Teaching Assistants' Union.
Research Assistantships (GRA)
Many professors are able to provide Research Assistantships (GRA) from their research grants to support full-time graduate students studying under their direction. The duties usually constitute part of the student's graduate degree requirements. A Graduate Research Assistantship is a form of financial support for a period of graduate study and is, therefore, not covered by a collective agreement. Unlike other forms of fellowship support for graduate students, the amount of a GRA is neither fixed nor subject to a university-wide formula. The stipend amounts vary widely, and are dependent on the field of study and the type of research grant from which the assistantship is being funded. Some research projects also require targeted research assistance and thus hire graduate students on an hourly basis.
Financial aid (need-based funding)
Canadian and US applicants may qualify for governmental loans to finance their studies. Please review eligibility and types of loans.
All students may be able to access private sector or bank loans.
Foreign government scholarships
Many foreign governments provide support to their citizens in pursuing education abroad. International applicants should check the various governmental resources in their home country, such as the Department of Education, for available scholarships.
Working while studying
The possibility to pursue work to supplement income may depend on the demands the program has on students. It should be carefully weighed if work leads to prolonged program durations or whether work placements can be meaningfully embedded into a program.
Tax credits and RRSP withdrawals
Canadian residents with RRSP accounts may be able to use the Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP) which allows students to withdraw amounts from their registered retirement savings plan (RRSPs) to finance full-time training or education for themselves or their partner.
Please review Filing taxes in Canada on the student services website for more information.
Applicants have access to the cost calculator to develop a financial plan that takes into account various income sources and expenses.
17 students graduated between 2005 and 2013. Of these, career information was obtained for 15 alumni (based on research conducted between Feb-May 2016):
RI (Research-Intensive) Faculty: typically tenure-track faculty positions (equivalent of the North American Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor positions) in PhD-granting institutions
TI (Teaching-Intensive) Faculty: typically full-time faculty positions in colleges or in institutions not granting PhDs, and teaching faculty at PhD-granting institutions
Term Faculty: faculty in term appointments (e.g. sessional lecturers, visiting assistant professors, etc.)
Sample Employers in Higher EducationOregon State University (2)
University of Victoria
Oregon Health and Science University
Universidad Santo Tomás
University of Connecticut
University of California - Santa Cruz
University of British Columbia
Sample Employers Outside Higher EducationNorth Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES)
Government of Canada
Sample Job Titles Outside Higher EducationResearch Scientist (2)
PhD Career Outcome SurveyYou may view the full report on career outcomes of UBC PhD graduates on outcomes.grad.ubc.ca.
DisclaimerThese data represent historical employment information and do not guarantee future employment prospects for graduates of this program. They are for informational purposes only. Data were collected through either alumni surveys or internet research.
Enrolment, Duration & Other Stats
These statistics show data for the Doctor of Philosophy in Oceanography (PhD). Data are separated for each degree program combination. You may view data for other degree options in the respective program profile.
Completion Rates & Times
|2018||A quarter of the oxygen we breathe is produced by oceanic algae called diatoms. Using physiological and proteomic approaches, Dr. Hippmann identified the diverse response of diatoms to trace metal limitations. Her work highlights the importance of using a multi-facetted approach to increase our ability to predict population dynamics on a global scale.|
|2017||Dr. Finke investigated the abundance and genetic diversity of marine viruses. He also studied the composition of viral communities and how the dynamics of viral replication is affected by in situ environmental conditions.|
|2017||Dr. Posacka examined the biogeochemical cycle of copper in the ocean. Her research identified major processes that influence copper concentrations in the Northeast Pacific and highlighted the importance of copper nutrition in marine bacteria. This work provides insights into how copper regulates biological processes in the ocean.|
|2016||Phytoplankton are the forests of the ocean. Invisible to the naked eye, these organisms take up as much CO2 and evolve as much O2 as all the plants on land combined, which makes them a crucial component of our planet's climate. Dr. Schuback's work helps to more accurately estimate rates of 'phytoplankton primary productivity' in the oceans.|
|2016||Dr. Capelle investigated the role oceans play in controlling atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. His work identified the key processes responsible for the production and transport of the potent greenhouse gases nitrous-oxide and methane in coastal British Columbia waters and how they may respond to climate-driven ocean change.|
|2016||Dr. De Baere developed a continuous-flow chemical leaching module, known within the department as the 'Belgomatic'. This novel instrumentation has been used to study the behaviour of minerals as they dissolve into a solution. The technology from this work has been applied to help predict drainage quality from mine waste.|
|2015||The marine gas dimethyl sulfide plays a role in natural climate regulation by bridging the atmospheric and oceanic sulfur cycles. Dr. Asher developed new methods to measure the variability and production of this gas across time and space. Her work advances our understanding of the marine sulfur cycle and informs climate change research.|
|2015||Dr. Montes-Aste found fractal patterns in the temporal dynamics of commercial shrimp catches off the BC coast. He discovered a close link between a long-range temporal memory in fisheries and oceanographic variability. This led to development of a novel early warning indicator to be used in predicting major changes through the history of the fishery.|
|2015||Dr. McAlister measured trace metals in both the Pacific and Arctic oceans. His research identified new applications to determine how the sources of trace metals and nutrients in those oceans vary with depth, location and, importantly, time. These findings contribute to research investigating the influence of the oceans on global climate change.|
|2014||Dr. Semeniuk investigated how naturally occurring chemical forms of copper in seawater affect the growth of microscopic plants in the northeast Pacific Ocean. His work demonstrates that copper plays a significant role in determining the success of different microscopic plants in marine ecosystems.|
Sample Thesis Submissions
Oceanographers investigate both fundamental and applied problems relating to the physics, mathematics, biology, chemistry, and geology of the sea, often working across traditional academic disciplines. Research carried out both independently and in collaboration with federal government laboratories occurs in many different oceanographic regimes, including coastal BC fjords, the inland sea of the Strait of Georgia, open ocean regions of the Subarctic Pacific, and many other locations, including the Arctic and Antarctic Oceans. The types of problems that can be studied include fundamental questions about the flow of stratified fluids at scales ranging from tens of meters to thousands of kilometers, applied research in estuaries, coastal, and deep-ocean processes, general ocean circulation and climate change issues, marine chemistry, geochemistry, and biogeochemistry, natural product chemistry, marine viruses, fisheries oceanography, plankton ecology and physiology, and primary production of the sea.