Hydrographic Science > Overview


The USM Hydrographic Science Graduate Program began as a joint venture between the DMS and the Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO). USM contributes the academic environment including faculty support, as well as research, educational facilities and equipment. NAVOCEANO and its Fleet Survey Team provide field support in the form of equipment loans and students. The program received Category A recognition from the International Federation of Surveyors/ International Hydrographic Organization/International Cartographic Association International Board on Standards of Competence for Hydrographic Surveyors in April, 2000. In April 2011, the International Board re-certified the program at the Category A Level. To date, the program has awarded 174 Master’s Degrees in Hydrographic Science including students from 24 different countries and two PhD’s in Marine Science (with an emphasis in Hydrographic Science). In past years, most students were one-year students sponsored by U.S. Government agencies or foreign navies and hydrographic offices. The last several years has seen an increase in non-sponsored students due to the 100% job placement of program graduates.


The Program

Most students follow the accelerated one-year track, which includes two semesters of classroom lectures and practical exercises and one semester of application, combining for about 50 continuous weeks of study. Students may also choose to complete the program in two years and conduct research with the Hydrographic Science Research Center (HSRC). Only two-year students are eligible for assistantships. The degree awarded is a non-thesis masters in Hydrographic Science.

The Hydrographic Science Field Project is conducted for six weeks in the local area Gulf Coast. Although the actual project is conducted at the end, many practical exercises completed during the year are directed towards developing the skill sets needed to conduct the field project. The project is comprised of a complete nautical charting hydrographic survey including

  • Data mining for all existing spatially-related information for the project area
  • Planning, preparation and development of Hydrographic Survey Specifications for the project area 
  • Data collection (multi-beam, single-beam, side-scan sonar, tides, sound velocity, shoreline, navaids, etc.) 
  • Data processing and analysis
  • Quality assurance checks to determine if international standards have been met
  • Electronic Navigational Chart production 
  • Completion of a comprehensive Report of Survey meeting the standards of the current NOAA Hydrographic Survey specifications and deliverables
  • Presentation of the project and results to the examination committee

Data collection platforms include 21’ and 29’ USM research vessels, as well as, the recently acquired 135' R/V Point Sur. All vessels are capable of conducting hydrographic operations using multi-beam sonar and side-scan sonar systems. These systems provide the students exposure to state-of-the-art technology and processes student and the opportunity to build a fully functioning hydrographic survey platform from a small boat. The final charts and Report of Survey are submitted to the NOAA office of the Coast Survey. If deemed acceptable, the information is used to update existing nautical charts.