Master's Programme in Physical Oceanography

Master’s programme
2 years
120 credits (ECTS)
Study pace
Study form
Application open
Application code
Full education cost: 244 000 SEK
First payment: 61 000 SEK

No fees are charged for EU and EEA citizens, Swedish residence permit holders and exchange students.

More information about tuition fees

Application closed, late application opens 15 July 2022.


In the Master’s programme in Physical Oceanography you will learn to describe, analyse, and calculate ocean circulation systems using advanced equipment and mathematical models.

The Master’s programme is designed for students with a bachelor’s degree in Marine Sciences, or within the STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

After your studies you can work in for example meteorological and hydrographic agencies, or in companies specialising in climate risk analysis or hydrographic observation techniques.


Physical Oceanography is concerned with the description of ocean currents and the distribution of ocean properties such as temperature, salinity or dissolved carbon.

The motion in the ocean can take many different forms, from the smallest whirl of fluid to the planetary scale flow exchanging waters between the different ocean’s basins. Through its ability to transport heat, carbon and other important chemical properties, the Ocean acts as a central regulator of the Earth’s climate.

Physical Oceanography combines a great diversity of approaches and techniques from classical physics to engineering, statistics, and data science. Physical oceanography may be subdivided into descriptive and dynamical physical oceanography. Descriptive physical oceanography is focused on describing the fluid motions and the distribution of ocean properties using direct observations (in situ or satellite-based) and realistic numerical simulations. Dynamical physical oceanography builds upon the field of Geophysical Fluid Dynamics (GFD) to produce a theoretical description of the processes that drive the state and variability of the ocean with the aid of idealized numerical models.

Physical Oceanography is naturally connected to atmosphere and climate sciences, but it interacts also strongly with the other branches of marine sciences, such as marine geochemistry and marine biology.

It offers unique opportunities to tackle some of the most challenging issues of our time, including the prediction and mitigation of climate change, the development of a sustainable use of ocean resources, or the impact of human activities on ocean’s ecosystems.

A comprehensive and interdisciplinary Master’s programme

Our programme offers the most comprehensive education in physical oceanography available in Sweden, combining a theoretical training to applied courses presenting modern techniques used to observe the ocean and an introduction to ocean modelling.

The programme is designed so that you can explore the main branches of Physical Oceanography, including theory, observation and numerical simulation, and later specialize according to your own interests.

The programme includes a field work training, where students gets an opportunity to design a small field experiment using a research ship and scientific equipment/sensors. Through field data analysis and the setting up of numerical models, you will also acquire a solid set of skills in scientific data science.

The programme will describe the bridges that exist between these different scientific disciplines, highlighting why physical oceanography is so important to other marine and Earth sciences.

The master’s programme in Physical Oceanography is designed to be accessible to students with a wide range of bachelor’s degrees within the marine sciences, meteorology, or the scope of the STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

Programme structure and content

The programme consists of four mandatory courses:

  • Physical Oceanography I, 15 credits
  • Physical Oceanography II, 15 credits
  • Ocean Models, 15 credits
  • Observing the Ocean from Micro to Macro Scale, 15 credits

The mandatory courses provide combined theoretical teaching and at-sea field work. You will receive a theoretical foundation for studying the physics of the ocean, including currents, waves, and effects of rotation and stratification; be introduced to the numerical modelling of turbulence, heat and salt balances, sea ice, lakes, coastal seas, and coupled basins; and gain an understanding of the ocean processes that impact its motion.

In addition to the mandatory courses, you will be able to choose from a number of courses to specialise according to your own interests.

Degree projects may be 30, 45 or 60 credits.

More information about programme structure and content

Who should apply?

  • Can you see yourself enthusiastically taking part in major ocean expeditions?
  • Do you see yourself producing, handling, and analysing scientific data on a supercomputer?
  • Are you curious about nature and want to further your understanding of the physical world we are living in?

Apply for the master’s programme in Physical Oceanography if you have a study background in STEM disciplines, marine sciences, physics, oceanography, or meteorology, and want to learn scientific programming and acquire specialized knowledge about how we observe and study the ocean.

Prerequisites and selection


Bachelor's degree in oceanography or meteorology or physics or mathematics (or the corresponding knowledge) from an accredited (internationally recognized) university. Applicants must prove their knowledge of English: English 6/English B from Swedish Upper Secondary School or the equivalent level of an internationally recognized test, for example TOEFL, IELTS.


Selection is based upon the number of credits from previous university studies, maximum 165 credits.

After graduation

Graduates of the programme receive the degree Master of Science in Physical Oceanography.

Many opportunities exist to work directly after graduation, either in public agencies, such as the Swedish meteorological and hydrographic institutes, or in private companies specializing in work such as hydrographic observing techniques or climate risk analysis.

Employers within industry, consultancy, research institutes, and all levels of government are seeking physical oceanographers with special knowledge of ocean dynamics, data analysis, and computational skills.

In addition, you will have the necessary tools and knowledge to pursue an academic career with further doctoral studies in physical oceanography.


Gothenburg is situated at the west coast of Sweden and is close to the open sea. The Gothenburg region offers proximity to a wide range of marine environments, with different fresh water inputs, tidal ranges, and various atmospheric, terrestrial, and human influences.

Our facilities include marine research stations, smaller and larger research vessels, and a fleet of autonomous vehicles such as gliders, autonomous underwater vehicles, benthic landers, and sail buoys.

We welcome researchers and students from all over the world. During your studies, you will therefore meet both national and international researchers and teachers.

Read more about our study facilities at the Botany Building, our marine research stations, and our new state-of-the-art research vessel Skagerak in the link below.

More information about facilities

Exchange opportunities

During the course of your Master’s programme, you will have the opportunity to do an internship or exchange studies with international institutions, taking advantage of the numerous collaborations that local researchers have developed in Europe, the US, and beyond, such as in South Africa, Korea, or Australia.

More information about exchange opportunities


Internships can be at the Department of Marine Sciences, or externally at another university, or at a public or private organization in Sweden or abroad. The student has the responsibility to search and find a host organization and supervisor.

More information about Internship