The Real Poop
How can you tell if you're a pirate? Because you just arrrrgh.
You've dreamt of being a pirate since you were a wee scallywag. We know you practiced your salty brogue for a long time and honed your peg leg limp. Your stripy shirt and eye patch look good, but there's just not really a market (in America anyway) for being a professional plundering sea dog.
So maybe the whole pirate thing doesn't work out, but don't lose hope; there's still a chance for you to spend months at sea with salt-crusted hair—while actually contributing to society, instead of just stealing booty and burying it on deserted islands (what was the point of taking it?).
Oceanographers are like the pirates of the scientific world, sailing the seven seas while conducting research and studying the movement of the ocean and how it interacts with climate, creates weather, and affects (and is affected by) humanity. They don't board rival oceanography vessels, but they do get about $100,000 worth of "booty" every year (source).
Now that be some real treasure, yar.
Oceanographers have a huge variety of responsibilities as scientists of the sea. They may still need to swab the occasional poop deck (it's not as bad as you think), but they'll also be working in laboratories, writing proposals for scientific research, and (if they're the more adventurous types) setting sail to remote corners of the world.
Seem like a good way to avoid people? Sorry, not quite. The ocean expert will also know how to present a decent slideshow. Countless hours will be spent sharing findings with clients, sponsors, the press, and the general scientific community—and being asked questions that you know are silly but you're not allowed to laugh at.
That's a lot of ground to cover. How can one position have such a variety of job responsibilities? An oceanographer may work for a government organization, a major nonprofit environmental group, or a private corporation, so they have to be able to reel in research grants and funding as much as they do creatures of the sea.
Add to this the fact that most oceanographers are going to have a specialty or set of pet projects, and you can see why you're really going to have to bait that sales hook.
Because of this smorgasbord of saltwater possibilities, any oceanographer worth their salt is going to need to be a master of a plethora of different skills. First off, you're going to need to be extremely detail-oriented and a strong critical thinker—you'll be expected to look at a large amount of ocean formation and use it to come to rational conclusions.
How are your communication skills? Speaking and writing in a way that people can actually understand what you're saying is key to becoming a successful oceanographer. Like a water-bound Lorax, you speak for the seas, which seem to be filling as fast as you please.
Finally, the sailing part. Oceanographers may spend significant amounts of time—we're talking months here—on the water conducting research, taking measurements and samples, and going to the bathroom wherever they feel like it. Being an oceanographer requires a certain amount of intestinal fortitude.
If lying in a hammock or watching a movie in 3D gets you seasick, then months spent sailing around the Arctic Circle will be its own special kind of hurt.
It's going to take a bit more than a boat and a tablet with an unlimited data plan to become an expert of the ocean. Would-be oceanographers are going to earn a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a scientific field like environmental science or geosciences (source).
That may be fine for getting on a research vessel, but to be truly competitive in the scientific job market—scientists are a notoriously vicious lot—you will most likely want to go for a master's degree in a specialized oceanographic (real word) field. Some may even want to continue to earn a PhD in oceanography or a related discipline, especially if they want to conduct high-level research or teach at the university level.
Imagine that talk at conventions. "What do you do?" "I'm an ocean doctor." "Oh. Do you operate often?"
Whatever route you sail to becoming an oceanographer, once you earn your degree, you may be conducting research for an environmental nonprofit, or identifying promising sites for offshore oil drilling. You could study frozen diatoms in Antarctica trying to predict global warming patterns, or research currents in the equator to help meteorologists forecast hurricanes.
Make sure you're ship-shape and have your sea legs ready—and feel free to practice that pirate accent. Just in case.