3 global leaders in marine, earth and atmospheric sciences
These three leading universities are at the forefront of innovation in marine, earth and atmospheric sciences

Our planet grapples with diverse challenges, from extreme climate events to upheavals to the delicate balance of our atmosphere and oceans. Addressing these issues requires interdisciplinary expertise and the ability to translate scientific breakthroughs into impactful policies for societal well-being.

Marine, Earth and Atmospheric studies are paramount in today’s world and prepare us to solve some of the most pressing challenges to people and the planet. More than just programmes that help us understand the planet we live on, they pave the way for us to support life and resources sustainably while also aiding in predicting and monitoring climate shifts and geological risks.

A good degree in this dynamic field is a launchpad into important roles within governmental agencies, research organisations, the private sector and non-profit organisations. Keen to join the ranks of those driving innovation in marine, earth and atmospheric sciences? Explore the opportunities offered by these three leading universities:

University of Miami

Nestled on the tranquil island of Virginia Key, the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science stands at the forefront of tackling Earth’s most pressing issues. One of the leading academic oceanographic and atmospheric research institutions in the world, its research is cutting-edge and relevant, focusing on climate change and its impacts on the ocean, atmosphere, and human society.

The Rosenstiel School offers a Master of Professional Science (MPS) that equips you with advanced training in marine, atmospheric, and earth sciences to effectively tackle some of the most critical challenges of our time. The MPS is an accelerated master’s programme offered by the following departments: Atmospheric Sciences, Marine Biology and Ecology, Environmental Science and Policy, Marine Geosciences, and Ocean Sciences.

What sets it apart from a Master of Science programme is its duration and culminating project. You can complete it in just 12 to 15 action-packed months, nearly half the time of a typical master’s degree. The programme emphasises professional skills and real-world experience. As Dr. Rita Colwell, former National Science Foundation director, aptly said, the MPS provides “a deeper and broader scientific knowledge uniquely suited to the 21st-century workplace.”

The Rosenstiel School’s MPS programme boasts diverse degree tracks, from aquaculture and coastal zone management to environmental geology and marine conservation. For each track, learning doesn’t just take place in classrooms. The capstone project is a hands-on internship that allows you to gain invaluable practical experience and skills in your chosen field. This impresses potential employers and strengthens your application for future PhD programmes.

Whether you aspire for a business, government, or non-profit career, the programme equips you with the tools and real-world experience to hit the ground running. MPS graduates land jobs faster and see higher starting salaries. A recent National Research Council study revealed that science and engineering MPS holders outpaced both bachelor’s and PhD graduates in salary growth over the past decade.

University of Oxford 

At the Department of Earth Sciences, researchers are seeking to understand the structure and dynamics of the Earth’s interior; the origin and internal development of the Earth and other terrestrial planets; and the assembly of modern biodiversity, to name just three focus areas. Research activity here is classified as “world-leading” or “internationally excellent.” The department also topped the ranking for research quality in the 2014 Research Excellent Framework with a score of 3.4.

Researchers are award-winning experts across many areas of the Earth Sciences. Recently, Head of Department, Professor John-Michael Kendall, won the 2024 Gold Medal for Geophysics from the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS)  in light of his important contributions to the field of seismology (the study of earthquakes and seismic waves in the Earth’s interior) and for his support of the next generation of seismic researchers. It’s the society’s highest honour, bestowed for specific pieces of exemplary research or in recognition of lifetime achievement. 

Around the same time, Dr. Laura Stevens was awarded an Arne Richter Award for outstanding early career scientists. Her research is in the field of ice-sheet dynamics, and how ice-sheet melting can drive changes in ice-sheet flow — vital for an improved understanding of global ice volumes, the vulnerability of these ice masses, and their effects on sea level. 

Kendall and Stevens represent the kind of calibre amongst educators leading the department’s programmes. To join them, consider joining the department’s four-year DPhil. It’s supported by supplementary learning opportunities, such as scientific writing, demonstrating and tutorial teaching, teaching mathematics to non-mathematics students mentoring undergraduate projects, and demonstrating on field courses.

Australia National University

The Australian National University’s (ANU) Research School of Earth Sciences is a crucible of discovery. Ranked ninth in the world for Earth and marine sciences (QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021), it boasts the country’s largest concentration of Earth scientists, each driven by a deep-seated curiosity about our planet’s past, present, and future.

Taking an interdisciplinary approach, researchers leverage mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology to address the big questions and challenges facing the Earth sciences. Dr Sima Mousavi, a seismologist, discovered a new “fault” that will be used in seismic hazard assessments in Victoria, which are important tools for land-use planning, emergency response and the design of building codes. Dr. Ilya Bobrovskiy led a team that found the contents of the last meal consumed by the earliest animals known to inhabit Earth more than 550 million years ago. Dr. Mahdiyeh Razeghi specialises in combining geodetic satellite data sets with in-situ observation to study groundwater evolution.

ANU’s cross-disciplinary approach to earth sciences has led to a legacy of breakthroughs and internationally acclaimed scientists, recognised with prestigious awards like the Victor Moritz Goldschmidt Medal and fellowships for the likes of the Royal Society and the Australian Academy of Science. More importantly, the school has nurtured generations of graduates who have gone on to excel in academia, industry, public service, and education, forming the backbone of Australia’s scientific and environmental leadership.

Aspiring earth scientists can embark on their path of discovery by joining any of the school’s postgraduate programmes. The Master of Earth Sciences (Advanced) programme, for instance, provides training in research methods, computational geosciences, data sciences and analytical techniques. You can choose from a wide range of research topics, including biogeochemistry, experimental petrology, geobiology, geochemistry, geochronology, geology, geophysics, ocean and climate change and planetary sciences. Expert supervision will be provided.

*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International