Masters of Science (M.S.)

Program Objectives

The goal of the Oceanographic Center's Masters of Science Degree Programs is to provide a scientifically-based, credible, holistic and timely introduction and knowledge of key ecological and socio-environmental issues.

Students can complete a degree program in a minimum of 1.5 years of full-time study and a maximum 5 years of part-time study.

There are four M.S. degree programs offered: 

M.S. Biological Sciences
M.S. Coastal Zone Management
M.S. Marine Biology
M.S. Marine Environmental Sciences

Completion of the degree is expected to lead to placements in the workforce in chosen field, in a position requiring graduate training, and in career advancement for working professionals

Learning Outcomes

Expected learning outcomes are:

Delivery System

On campus graduate classes typically meet one evening per week in a three hour session. Exceptions are field courses which may entail several days of intensive study. On-line courses meet periodically at the convenience of faculty and students  

Degree Tracts

There are two tracts for completing an M.S. degree.


All entering M.S. students are accepted in the Capstone (also called Capstone track). Students take a minimum 13 regular courses in their selected degree for 39 credits.   Students must take Capstone Review Paper courses totaling a minimum of 6 credits (which involve submitting and defending a capstone review paper.  This is typically done at or near the completion of formal coursework.  The Capstone review paper is a scholarly review, based upon a comprehensive literature search, review, and synthesis of the chosen topic. Carrying out a Capstone review paper takes place with guidance from a major professor. Typically, Capstone students find a major professor by approaching faculty in the student's area of interest. Students will be assigned a Capstone advisor if they have difficulty in identifying a major professor. Prior to beginning a Capstone review paper and registering for Capstone Review Paper credits, the student must write a proposal which must be approved by the student's major professor, committee (define how committee is formed), and the Associate Dean of Academic Programs, and be submitted to the Director of Academic Support and Administration in the Program Office.

Thesis Optional Track

Some students desire the thesis track.  The thesis track requires an extra step.  A thesis is an original contribution to knowledge resulting from the systematic study of a significant problem or issue. A thesis track requires a minimum of 10 regular courses for 30 credits.  In addition, a minimum of 9 Thesis credits is required. To be allowed entry into the Thesis track the student must secure agreement from a faculty member to be the student's major professor. There must be adequate funding to carry out the proposed research.  Students are not provided with a thesis advisor. Prior to beginning thesis research and registering for thesis credits, the student must write a proposal which must be approved by the student's major professor, committee, and the the Associate Dean of Academic Programs, and be submitted to the Director of Academic Support and Administration in the Program Office. The Thesis option is typically a longer duration track and number of credit hours than the Capstone track.

For further details, students are referred to section 3.8 of this catalog and to the online guidelines for the capstone or thesis track found on the Oceanographic Center Student Information page

M.S. Credit Hour Requirements

The default Capstone track requires a minimum of 45 credits. This includes five 3-credit core classes, eight 3-credit specialty courses and a minimum of two 3-credit Capstone Review Paper courses (consisting of an extended literature review of an approved subject). Once a student starts registering for capstone course credits, they cannot stop registering for credits until the capstone is completed and defended. It is expected the Capstone review paper can be completed within two terms or less.  The completed Capstone review paper is presented in an open defense that includes the student's advisory committee.
The Thesis option track requires a minimum of 39 credits. This includes five 3-credit core classes, five 3-credit specialty courses, and at least nine credits of master's thesis research. The number of thesis research credits above the minimum is dependent upon the length of time needed to complete the thesis research, which may be more than the typical minimum three terms. The final thesis is formally defended in an open defense that includes the student's advisory committee.

Elective Courses

Students in a single degree are allowed to take up to two elective courses outside their degree orientation and have them count towards their final credit count.

For both the Capstone Review Paper and the Thesis degree tracks, once the proposal has been accepted, enrollment in the chosen track must continue until completion of the degree.

Joint M.S. Degrees

Also offered are Joint M.S. Degrees

The joint specialization M.S. degrees require a minimum of 57 course credits (19 courses) or 51 course credits (17 courses) (for Capstone review or Thesis respectively) including nine credits minimum thesis research or the six credits minimum for the capstone review paper. For the joint programs, students take approximately equal numbers of courses within each of the two specialties. The final thesis is formally defended in an open defense that includes the student's committee.

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Marine and Coastal Studies

Program Objectives

This program is designed to provide students with an orientation towards the marine-related social sciences with a broadened, in-depth, scholarly perspective on marine and coastal issues, from the depths of the deep sea to the heights of atmospheric climate change. This on-line, distance education M.A. is designed for a broad range of students and working professionals with an interest in the marine and coastal zone that may not have an academic background in science. Students come from a range of sectors; e.g. administration, teaching, government and policy, urban planning, environmental journalism and film media, tourism, and business.
The maximum time limit for completion of the M.A. program is five years for full-time students, nine years for part-time students. There is no minimum time limitation for completion of the M.A.. Like many other Master’s programs, including those at NSUOC, the program can be completed in less than 2 years but it is anticipated full-time students will complete in 24 to 30 months.

Learning Outcomes
Credit Requirements

To complete the M.A. in Marine and Coastal Studies students must successfully complete the 5 core courses and 7 electives, presenting a final portfolio prior to graduation consisting of rigorous integrated papers scaffolded over their completed term of study. Each core course will require a final term paper which will be graded as 20% of the course final grade. After grading, these term papers will be rewritten until the course instructor finds them acceptable to be incorporated into the student’s portfolio.


The final portfolio, written in the scientific style of writing, is composed of the 5 approved core term papers and a summative essay integrating and showing the synthesis of knowledge and skills gained through completion of the core papers will be presented to the Associate Dean of Academic Programs upon completion of all coursework. The Associate Dean of Academic Programs will insure the summative essay is rewritten until acceptable.