Program Areas

Interested in applying to our MS or PhD programs? View presentations from this year's info sessions.


The Department of Scripps Institution of Oceanography is organized into three academic programs:

Each of these programs is responsible for all graduate educational activities in its area, including instruction, advising, and examinations:

  • Applicants may apply to up to two programs.
  • Upon admission, students are assigned a three-person guidance committee that includes an advisor (chair).
  • Students are assigned to a curricular group based on their interests. Although students may change curricular groups in the fall quarter, they must commit to a curricular group early on, as this determines which departmental exam they will take at the conclusion of their first year.

The academic programs are umbrellas for smaller, more focused curricular groups.

Climate - Ocean - Atmosphere Program (COAP) curricular groups:

  • Applied Ocean Science (AOS)
    Applied Ocean Science is multidisciplinary and focused on the application of advanced technology to ocean exploration and observation. The emphasis is on the resolution of key scientific issues through novel technological development.  Instruction and research focus on mechanical, electrical, and physiological problems operating within the ocean and upon applied marine environmental science.
  • Climate Sciences (CS)
    Climate Sciences concerns the study of climate systems with emphasis on the physical, dynamical, and chemical interactions of the atmosphere, ocean, land, ice, and terrestrial and marine biospheres.  Researchers study changes on seasonal to interannual time scales and those induced by human activities, as well as paleoclimatic changes on time scales from centuries to millions of years.  Graduates understand the climate system as a whole, crossing boundaries of traditional Earth science disciplines.
  • Physical Oceanography (PO)
    Physical Oceanography deals with the mechanisms of energy transfer through the ocean and across its boundaries and with the physical interactions of the ocean with its surroundings, especially the influence of the seas on atmospheric phenomena.
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Geosciences of the Earth, Oceans and Planets (GEO) curricular groups:

  • Geophysics (GP)
    Geophysics emphasizes the application of general principles of mathematics and experimental physics to fundamental problems of the oceans, oceanic and continental lithosphere, and crust and deep interior of the Earth.
  • Geosciences (GS)
    Geosciences emphasizes the application of general principles of geology, geochemistry, and geophysics to problems in marine and terrestrial environments.
  • Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry (MCG)
    Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry concentrate on the chemical processes operating within the marine environment — the oceans, atmosphere, and seafloor.  Studies are typically interdisciplinary and involve integration of chemical concepts with information about physical, biological, or geological processes that influence natural systems.
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Ocean Biosciences Program (OBP) curricular groups:

  • Biological Oceanography (BO)
    Biological Oceanography focuses on the interactions of populations of marine organisms with one another and with their physical and chemical environment.  This is an interdisciplinary program of study, including physical oceanography, marine chemistry, and marine geology, in addition to biology.
  • Marine Biology (MB)
    Marine Biology is comprised of two tracks:
    • Marine Biology is the study of marine organisms, their development and adaptations, as well as physiological and biochemical processes, genetic relationships, and ecology.  Several prominent areas of modern biology are encompassed and interpreted through an understanding of the physical and chemical dynamics of the oceans.
    • Marine Chemical Biology is a multidisciplinary program focused on problems relating to the marine environment that are best addressed through research at the chemistry-biology interface.  Studies involve marine biomedicine, biotechnology, and chemical ecology.
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