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
|2014||The Arctic is one of the most threatened environments because of rapid climate change. Dr. Chenard's work examined viruses infecting polar bacteria in Arctic freshwater regions, and she discovered previously unknown groups of viruses. Her work provides new tools to study the diversity of these viruses and their effects on polar bacteria.|
|2014||Dr. Shelford examined the role of viruses that infect bacteria in the ocean. She provides evidence that viruses are adding back vital nitrogen to the ocean for the benefit of other organisms such as phytoplankton, and this helps to sustain marine food webs. Her work contributes to the field of marine microbial nutrient cycling.|
|2014||Dr. Gurney constructed the first marine ecosystem model of the Subantarctic Prince Edward Achipelago. The model captured the food web of marine life and was able to reproduce past population dynamics and forecast potential effects of climate change. The model provides a tool for fisheries and conservation research at the islands.|
|2014||Dr. Brown examined the factors controlling carbon in the Arctic Ocean. Her research employed field-based measurements to infer the relative importance of several processes affecting carbon distributions in the water column and sea ice. This work advances our understanding of carbon cycling in the polar ocean and the impact of sea ice on this cycle|
|2013||Dr. Tommasi examined zooplankton populations in Rivers Inlet, a fjord in central BC. The research showed which zooplankton species are dominant under specific environmental conditions. Knowledge of how environmental forces shape zooplankton is essential to fisheries managers assessing how fish stocks such as salmon will vary in the future.|
|2013||Dr. Luo studied ocean processes such as circulation and carbon flux with chemical tracers. His research improved the methods we use, to better understand the role that oceans play in climate change. This work provides several promising future research perspectives for oceanography, which are especially beneficial to scientists who study climate change.|
|2012||Dr. Guo studied the physiological role of copper in marine phytoplankton, and elucidated, for the first time, the presence of two copper transport systems (a high and a low affinity). Her research highlights the importance of copper for phytoplankton growth and the complex interaction between iron and copper nutrition.|
|2012||Dr. Clarke Murray investigated recreational boats as a source of marine invasive species and found significant potential for initial introduction and regional spread of these species by the recreational fleet. This research will assist in the development of monitoring and management measures to prevent future invasions and protect biodiversity.|
|2012||Dr. Cassis studied the causes of cadmium levels, stress levels, and mortalities in cultured oysters. He worked closely with BC oyster farmers to improve their culture methods based on a better understanding of the marine environment.|
|2011||Dr. Riche quantified the seasonal circulation of seawater in the Strait of Georgia using sophisticated mathematics and a unique set of monthly observations taken over the years 2002 to 2005. He also quantified the seasonal growth and abundance of marine microscopic algae and showed that some of their nutrient requirements differed from estimates made in previous studies.|
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.