Ocean Engineering (Ph.D.)

Ocean Engineering (Ph.D.)
ocean engineering tank

Why pursue a Ph.D. in ocean engineering?

As a student in our ocean engineering Ph.D. program, you’ll work toward developing real-world, sustainable solutions to the many urgent problems threatening the health of our oceans and planet. Rising sea levels, increasing populations close to the coast, and more frequent and severe storms all are issues ocean engineers are addressing. This interdisciplinary program will prepare you to interact with professionals in diverse disciplines within the ocean science community. An increasing number of positions for marine engineers coupled with a low number of ocean engineering programs nationwide means a very favorable job outlook.

Why Choose UNH's Ph.D in Ocean Engineering Program?

UNH’s ocean engineering program provides hands-on research in ocean renewable energy, ROVs, ocean mapping, ocean acoustics and coastal processes that will give you practical experience in your chosen field. You’ll work closely with outstanding faculty and researchers in state-of-the-art engineering facilities, and benefit from strong partnerships with private organizations and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, giving you distinct career advantages after graduation.

Potential career areas

  • Academia
  • Aquaculture
  • Coastal engineering (structures, erosion)
  • Environmental consulting
  • Government (NOAA, local, state and federal agencies)
  • Marine robotics
  • Ocean acoustics
  • Ocean equipment and instrumentation manufacture
  • Ocean mapping
  • Oceanographic research
  • Offshore structures
  • Renewable energy (wave and tidal)

Director, Center for Ocean Engineering
Office: Chase Ocean Engineering Laboratory, Suite 102, 24 Colovos Road, Durham, NH 03824

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  • Photo of Hannah Arnholt
    Ph.D. Student Mentoring Undergraduates as they Research Undersea Robotics
    As an ocean engineering Ph.D. student, Hannah Arnholt's program prioritizes helping undergraduate students as they study unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV). 
    Learn More


Curriculum & Requirements

Students admitted to the ocean engineering Ph.D. program come from traditional engineering degree programs including physics, mathematics, computer science, and in some cases, marine science programs. Those entering the Ph.D. program with a B.S. degree from an engineering program should be prepared to begin the Ph.D. program directly. Those coming from a B.S. in physics, mathematics, or computer science will have their transcripts more carefully reviewed on an individual basis, as additional courses may be required.

Degree Requirement

The full course requirements below are for students entering with a relevant B.S. degree.

Students entering with a relevant M.S. degree with comparable content must take a minimum of six of the listed courses (exclusive of dissertation research and Ocean Seminars), of which at least three must be at the 900 level. Students entering with an M.S. must either take the listed core courses or demonstrate equivalent knowledge from other programs to be able to successfully pass the OE Ph.D. qualifying exam. As part of preparation for their research, students often take additional, dissertation-specific courses.  Additional graduate courses may also be required based on recommendations by the supervisor or dissertation committee.

Core Courses
OE 990
OE 991
Ocean Seminars I
and Ocean Seminars II
Select one of the following courses in oceanography or ocean science:3-4
BIOL 855
Biological Oceanography
ESCI 852
Chemical Oceanography
ESCI 858
Introduction to Physical Oceanography
ESCI 859
Geological Oceanography
Complete the following core courses in ocean engineering:18
ESCI 820
Ocean Measurements Lab
OE 853
Ocean Hydrodynamics
OE 854
Ocean Waves and Tides
OE #864
Spectral Analysis of Geophysical Time Series Data
OE 865
Underwater Acoustics
Select two 900 level courses from the following list:6-8
ME #910
OE #965
Advanced Underwater Acoustics
OE #972
Hydrographic Field Course
OE 995
Graduate Special Topics
Select two 800 or 900 level courses from MATH or IAM or select both:6-8
ME 886
Introduction to Finite Element Analysis
ME 986
Advanced Finite Element Analysis
Select an additional two CEPS electives (one at the 800 level; one at the 900 level):6-8
Total Credits41-48

The general progress of a student through this program is expected to follow the time frame below:

  • Year 1: Coursework
  • Year 2: Coursework, qualifier by the end of the year, form graduate dissertation committee
  • Year 3: Research, dissertation proposal defense
  • Year 4: Research
  • Year 5: Research, dissertation defense

The course selection and sequencing will be established in consultation with the student's guidance committee. There will be a qualifying examination on the core courses by the end of the second year. The goal of this exam is to test the breadth of a student's knowledge in topic areas essential to ocean engineering. A formal dissertation proposal defense will include a written proposal, a public presentation and an oral exam. After successful completion of the qualifying exam and dissertation proposal defense, the student will be advanced to candidacy. The dissertation will be defended in a public forum when completed.

  • Can conduct original research and develop new technologies in ocean engineering.
  • Communicate research results through peer-reviewed publications and public presentations.

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Applications must be completed by the following deadlines in order to be reviewed for admission:

  • Fall: Jan. 15 (for funding); April 1 (recommended US; final international); July 1 (final)
  • Spring: Dec. 1
  • Summer: N/A
  • Special: N/A

Application fee: $65

Campus: Durham

New England Regional: CT MA ME VT

Accelerated Masters Eligible: No

New Hampshire Residents

Students claiming in-state residency must also submit a Proof of Residence Form. This form is not required to complete your application, but you will need to submit it after you are offered admission or you will not be able to register for classes.


If you attended UNH or Granite State College (GSC) after September 1, 1991, and have indicated so on your online application, we will retrieve your transcript internally; this includes UNH-Durham, UNH-Manchester, UNH Non-Degree work and GSC. 

If you did not attend UNH, or attended prior to September 1, 1991, then you must upload a copy (PDF) of your transcript in the application form. International transcripts must be translated into English.

If admitted, you must then request an official transcript be sent directly to our office from the Registrar's Office of each college/university attended. We accept transcripts both electronically and in hard copy:

  • Electronic Transcripts: Please have your institution send the transcript directly to grad.school@unh.edu. Please note that we can only accept copies sent directly from the institution.
  • Paper Transcripts: Please send hard copies of transcripts to: UNH Graduate School, Thompson Hall- 105 Main Street, Durham, NH 03824. You may request transcripts be sent to us directly from the institution or you may send them yourself as long as they remain sealed in the original university envelope.

Transcripts from all previous post-secondary institutions must be submitted and applicants must disclose any previous academic or disciplinary sanctions that resulted in their temporary or permanent separation from a previous post-secondary institution. If it is found that previous academic or disciplinary separations were not disclosed, applicants may face denial and admitted students may face dismissal from their academic program.

Letters of recommendation: 3 required

Recommendation letters submitted by relatives or friends, as well as letters older than one year, will not be accepted.

Personal Statement/Essay Questions

Prepare a brief but careful statement regarding:

  1. Reasons you wish to do graduate work in this field, including your immediate and long-range objectives.
  2. Your specific research or professional interest and experiences in this field.

Important Notes

All applicants are encouraged to contact programs directly to discuss program-specific application questions.

International Applicants

Prospective international students are required to submit TOEFL, IELTS, or equivalent examination scores. English Language Exams may be waived if English is your first language. If you wish to request a waiver, then please visit our Test Scores webpage for more information.

Explore Program Details

The School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering serves as an interdisciplinary nexus for marine science and ocean engineering teaching and research across the University.

School of marine Science and Ocean engineering

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