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Marine/Coastal GIS | Career Resources

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Resources about GIS Careers

Ocean career profiles
Career profile: Dawn Wright (including marine GIS)
Career profile: Peter Etnoyer (including marine biology)
NOAA Fisheries Young Scientists (NOAA Fisheries)
Marine Science at OSU (see other portions of this site as well)
NOAA Marine GIS Overview (by Robert Aguirre)
USGS Resources (requires self-study and skillful searching)
OceanExpert (UNESCO IODE Directory of Marine & Freshwater Professionals)
GeoGeek Rapid Fire (including GIS future directions)
ECO interview, marine GIS
Esri Careers Site

General Advice from "the Captain"...

For students interested in a career in marine GIS, I would suggest taking as many marine science courses as you can, in addition to all of the GIS courses. Many marine GIS practioners actually have degrees in oceanography at the M.S. or Ph.D. level. A satellite remote sensing of the oceans course would be great as well, in addition to the general oceanography courses. A computer science class would not hurt either, especially one that focuses on GIS scripting (e.g., see CS 195, CS for Geospatial Technologies at the U. of Vermont).

Also, attending relevant conferences is always a great way to learn and get connections. Some of the major ones that feature marine GIS are the ESRI User Conference in San Diego, Coastal GeoTools, every other year in Charleston, SC (sponsored by the NOAA Coastal Services Center), the Society for Conservation GIS annual meeting (with its marine tracks therein), and many more. All of these can be found by searching this site or using Google.

Jobs are everywhere - hard to pinpoint exactly, but a typical example of the kinds of positions that seem to be out there can be found at the SAIC careers site. Enter "GIS" in the "Keyword" search field.

At the graduate level there is a lot of marine GIS activity at Oregon State via our Marine Resource Management Program (see also the lab of James Watson, the Marine Mammal Institute, and the Heppell Lab in marine ecology, conservation biology, and fisheries), as well as at Duke University, Nicholas School of the Environment, with Professor Patrick Halpin or at San Francisco State's Marine & Coastal Conservation Spatial Planning Center with Professor Ellen Hines, or at Canada's University of Victoria with Professor Rosaline Canessa. In addition, other places in the U.S. and Canada that offer marine GIS/geomatics courses or research foci include Cal State-Monterey BayOld Dominion University with Professor Tom AllenUniversity of Alaska, the Memorial University of Newfoundland (Professors Rodolphe Devillers and Thierry Schmitt) and the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. See also Labs, Centers, Institutes.

Advice for prospective graduate students.

You might also be interested in the GEBCO Postgraduate Certificate Program in Ocean Bathymetry at the University of New Hampshire.

And finally, below is some great advice from Karen Shell at Oregon State U. on Master vs. Ph.D applications (from the standpoint of atmospheric science but can be applied to many other majors as well). She submitted this to the Earth Science Women's Network (ESWN) list serve in December of 2012:
"As the admission coordinator for Atmospheric Science at Oregon State University, I can address a couple of these questions, for my program at least (though I leave the post-grad ones to those in industry). Our program accepts students for both the Masters and PhD programs. We do not view a Masters as a "backup" for the PhD. As others have discussed, students have different reasons for obtaining a graduate degree. For some careers, you do not need a PhD. Also, we get plenty of people who show up intending to get a MS and switch to a PhD or vice versa. (This is relatively easy to do in our program.) We also get students who do a Masters here and then go somewhere else to do a PhD (having decided their main interest lies outside of the research expertise of the faculty here). We're happy to get a great student for a couple of years.

In terms of funding, we fund both MS and PhD students through RA and TA positions. Sometimes, a Masters student is easier to fund b/c you only need one 3-year grant to cover them, whereas PhD students will normally need 2 grants (or more) to get them through. We've had Masters students TA their way through the whole program, though I definitely don't recommend this for PhD students.

This being said, I think that this is going to be a rough year funding-wise. Alot of faculty are waiting to hear about proposals, which I suspect will not happen until after the "fiscal cliff" is resolved. In general, funding rates have been going down. This year, our group has a few RA positions available, but nowhere near as many as we've had in some previous years. So I continue to recommend that applicants apply for as many fellowship as possible. I've collected info about a number here. We'll also have a few TA positions available, but we give top priority to our current students who need funding.

In short, to get back to your original question, if you're interested in a program, just ask the contact person for that program about Masters vs PhD applicants. Usually the department's philosophy isn't a big secret.

Also (for all grad program applicants): every year we have to reject promising applicants because we don't have funding for them. Obviously try to be realistic about your abilities, but please don't take non-acceptance personally. We may not be the right program for you, and more than just merit goes into the application decisions (e.g., advisor-student matching).

Feel free (anyone) to contact me if you have questions about Atmospheric Science grad school or our program in specific. I've also put together some general guidelines on applying to grad school in Atmospheric Science (and related sciences) here."