Marine Geophysicist

Marine geophysicists explore the earth beneath the ocean's surface, employing advanced technologies to map the seabed, study underwater formations, and understand geological processes. Their work is vital in predicting natural disasters, locating underwater resources, and supporting environmental conservation efforts. This role requires a blend of fieldwork aboard research vessels and laboratory analytical tasks, making it both challenging and rewarding.

At a Glance

Imagine working as an offshore exploration geophysicist for a marine renewable energy company. Your current project involves the North Sea, targeting the precise location of seabed minerals essential for renewable energy technologies. In the morning, aboard a research vessel, you and your team prepare to test innovative seismic exploration equipment designed to locate these minerals with minimal environmental impact.

The challenge is to extract these resources sustainably, balancing economic needs with preserving marine ecosystems. Traditional methods often lead to broader ecological disturbances, but your team's new approach aims to significantly reduce such risks.

Upon deploying the equipment, you encounter a technical hurdle—the seismic waves must provide precise data due to unusual undersea formations. This problem requires a swift response—you adjust the equipment's settings to penetrate these complexities better, enhancing data accuracy.

This solution successfully reveals a valuable mineral deposit, demonstrating the potential of your team's technology to revolutionize sustainable marine exploration. This effort underscores the essential role of marine geophysicists in promoting environmentally responsible resource extraction, contributing to the sustainable development of marine resources while ensuring the protection of underwater ecosystems.

Job Duties

Job duties vary from one position to the next, but in general, marine geophysicists are involved in the following activities:

  • Conduct seismic surveys to collect data on the structure and composition of the ocean floor.
  • Analyze seismic and geophysical data to interpret the geological features and processes of the marine environment.
  • Create maps of subsea geological structures to assist research and exploration activities.
  • Monitor seismic activity to assess and mitigate the effects of earthquakes and tsunamis on coastal regions.
  • Identify and evaluate underwater resources such as minerals, gas hydrates, and oil deposits.
  • Assess the impact of marine and coastal projects on the geological and ecological environment.
  • Prepare detailed reports and documents presenting the findings from research and survey activities.
  • Collaborate with marine biologists, oceanographers, and other scientists in interdisciplinary research projects.
  • Operate and maintain geophysical survey equipment, including sonar systems, magnetometers, and seismic recording devices.
  • Engage in research projects to advance marine geophysics and develop new exploration technologies.

Work Environment

Marine geophysicists work in the office, field, and laboratory. In each setting, they perform various duties.

The office:

  • Use specialized software to analyze seismic and geophysical data collected during field surveys.
  • Compile research findings, analysis results, and recommendations into comprehensive reports for stakeholders and scientific journals.
  • Develop project proposals, including objectives, methodologies, budgets, and timelines, and oversee the execution of projects.
  • Stay current on the developments in marine geophysics by reviewing the scientific literature and incorporating new insights into research and projects.
  • Collaborate with interdisciplinary teams, including oceanographers, environmental scientists, and policymakers, to coordinate project efforts and share findings.
  • Prepare and submit proposals to secure funding for research projects from government agencies, private foundations, and other sources.

The field:

  • Conduct offshore seismic surveys using sound waves to map the ocean floor's structure and underlying geology.
  • Collect sediment and water samples from marine environments to analyze their physical and chemical properties.
  • Install, operate, and maintain oceanographic and geophysical instruments aboard research vessels, such as sonar systems and underwater cameras.
  • Monitor environmental conditions and collect data relevant to marine ecosystems, potential hazards, and resource exploration.
  • Perform visual and instrumental inspections of underwater sites of interest, including potential resource deposits and geological features.
  • Record observations and preliminary data analyses while in the field to ensure the quality and relevance of collected data.

The laboratory:

  • Conduct sediment and water sample analyses to determine their composition, properties, and potential for resource exploration.
  • Use laboratory computers and software to process raw data from field surveys, extracting meaningful geological information.
  • Perform experiments to model geological processes under controlled conditions, simulating the marine environment.
  • Use advanced imaging techniques to interpret seismic data, revealing the structures and dynamics of the Earth's subsurface.
  • Calibrate laboratory instruments and equipment to ensure accurate measurements and analyses of geophysical data.
  • Collaborate with scientists and researchers on joint laboratory experiments, sharing expertise and contributing to interdisciplinary research findings.

Where to Work

Marine geophysicists find employment in a diverse array of settings, contributing their expertise to various aspects of marine and geological sciences.

  • Oceanographic research institutions.
  • Oil and gas companies.
  • Environmental consultancies.
  • Government agencies.
  • Universities and academic institutions.
  • Marine renewable energy companies.
  • Seismic data processing companies.
  • Marine conservation organizations.
  • National and international geological surveys.
  • Remote sensing and mapping firms.

Search for jobs on the ECO Canada Job Board.

Education and Skills


If you are considering a career as a marine geophysicist, you should have a keen interest in:

  • Exploring and understanding the Earth's underwater landscapes.
  • Using advanced technology for seismic data collection and analysis.
  • Contributing to marine ecosystem conservation.
  • Solving complex geological puzzles beneath the ocean's surface.
  • Working in multidisciplinary teams to investigate and protect marine resources.

If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as a marine geophysicist, the following undergraduate programs are most applicable:

  • Geophysics or Geoscience.
  • Oceanography.
  • Environmental Science.
  • Marine Biology with a focus on marine ecosystems' physical aspects.
  • Physics, electives in earth sciences and oceanography.
  • Geological Engineering.

In most cases, the minimum education requirement to work as a marine geophysicist is an undergraduate degree. Pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree in fields related to marine geophysics enhances your expertise, career prospects, and ability to contribute to the field. These advanced degrees offer specialized knowledge and skills highly valued in the professional and academic worlds.

Professional certification and license for a marine geophysicist establishes a recognized standard of competence and ethical practice in the hydrography community. It enhances credibility and career advancement opportunities and demonstrates a commitment to maintaining the field's highest professional and technical standards.

  • Professional Geoscientist (P.Geo,): Granted by provincial and territorial regulators, this certification acknowledges those meeting the education, experience, and ethics needed to practice geoscience in Canada professionally.

Our Environmental Professional (EP) designation can also help you progress in your chosen environmental career.


Technical Skills

  • Seismic data acquisition and analysis
  • Geophysical survey techniques
  • Sonar and acoustic imaging
  • Geographic information system
  • Remote sensing
  • Data management and analysis
  • Programming and software development
  • Oceanography
  • Environmental impact assessment
  • Fieldwork and sampling techniques

Personal and Professional Skills

  • Analytical thinking
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Adaptability
  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Communication skills
  • Project management
  • Critical thinking
  • Leadership
  • Curiosity and continuous learning

Environmental employers look for professionals who can combine technical knowledge with soft skills. Watch our free webinar Essential Not Optional: Skills Needed to Succeed in Canada’s Environmental Industry or take our Essential Skills courses.

Role Models

Your Impact

Marine geophysicists contribute to our understanding of the Earth's marine ecosystems. Through the collection and analysis of seismic data, these professionals map the ocean floor, identify geological formations, and study underwater processes. They assess the potential environmental effects of underwater construction, oil and gas exploration, and other marine activities, ensuring that such projects are undertaken responsibly. This occupation focuses on exploring and safeguarding oceanic resources and habitats. Marine geophysicists analyze data to mitigate climate change issues, such as sea-level rise and ocean acidification.

Marine geophysicists are essential to sustainable marine management, identifying locations for offshore wind farms that offer a cleaner energy alternative with minimal environmental impact. Their work locating underwater resources supports industries in sustainable resource extraction, balancing economic growth with environmental conservation. Additionally, their predictive analyses of natural disasters like tsunamis and earthquakes are crucial for early warnings, reducing the impact on communities and livelihoods.

Marine geophysicists advance environmental protection, sustainable development, and societal well-being, marrying economic viability with ecological stewardship and community safety.

Occupational Classification

Marine geophysicists are classified into the following occupational grouping:

NOC Code: 21102 – Geoscientists and oceanographers

The National Occupational Classification (NOC) provides a standardized language for describing the work performed by Canadians in the labour market. It gives statisticians, labour market analysts, career counsellors, employers, and individual job seekers a consistent way to collect data and describe and understand the nature of work within different occupations.

See ECO’s Blue National Occupational Standard for a career competency profile for a marine geophysicist that outlines the specific skills, knowledge, and behaviours required for individuals to perform effectively in this particular role. This profile is a benchmark for training and development, ensuring consistency and quality across professions within the blue economy.

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