Coastal Management: Academic Requirements, Professional Outlook

Coastal Management:  Academic Requirements, Professional Outlook

Coastal Management

All around the world, our coastal resources are under increasing pressure from population growth and development. More people live in coastal areas than in any other type of area, putting a strain on beaches, marine plants and animals, water resources, and natural resources. Management programs strive to protect our coastal resources for future generations while balancing today's competing economic, cultural and environmental interests.

Coastal management is concerned with protecting, conserving and managing coasts and coastal resources. It is a specific area of environmental protection which focuses on coastal areas. In the United States, coastal management is greatly affected by government regulation, especially the Coastal Zone Management Act. According to the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, this Act strives to balance the conservation and development of the nation's coastal, estuarine and ocean resources. Its mission is to, "sustain coastal communities, sustain coastal ecosystems and improve government efficiency."

Coastal Management is socially important because it is concerned with the fair allocation and use of coastal resources while managing these areas sustainably, so that they can be used by future generations. Coastal managers try to involve all parties in management decisions, so that resources are used fairly.

The Academic Requirements

Students learn about ocean and coastal resources and their management. There is an emphasis on understanding the many issues in the field, how they interact and how best to solve problems regarding the use of coastal natural resources. Students will also learn about the legal and institutional components of coastal management, and the socio-economic issues that affect management decisions.

Students also study specifics of ocean and sediment movement; the action of waves, currents and tides; sediment transport; and marine biology and archaeology. The importance of sustainable use of natural resources is an important facet of coastal management studies.

Those who go on to pursue master's and/or doctorate degrees will likely focus on a specific component of coastal management, such as public policy, fisheries management or resource economics. Graduate students will do more in-depth research, requiring hours in the lab and in the field. Those with advanced degrees will be better equipped to conduct or assist in major research in the field after graduation.

Here are some courses that we've seen:

  • Coastal and Marine Law
  • Estuarine Science and Management
  • Natural Resource and Community Values
  • Environmental and Resource Economics
  • Marine Pollution
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Ocean Uses and Marine Science
  • International Ocean Law
  • Peoples of the Sea
  • Human Responses to Coastal Hazards
  • Coastal Systems Planning
  • Principles of Geological Oceanography
  • Meterology
  • Mitigation and Restoration of Coastal Systems
  • Global Marine and Fishery Policy
  • Watershed Science and Management
  • Conservation Biology
  • Ecological Footprints

Professional Outlook

Career opportunities for graduates of a coastal management program vary. Graduates can work in research, helping to advance our knowledge of coastal systems and impacts (research positions usually require advanced degrees or job experiences). Many coastal managers work with local, State, Federal, or international government agencies to help successfully implement environmental statutes related to coastal areas. These managers brainstorm with others to come up with effective solutions to coastal area issues. They have to be effective communicators, and willing to work with the different parties in a dispute in order to come up with the best solutions. Some graduates go on, after attaining advanced degrees, to work in academia. Teaching is a very rewarding field because you are helping the next generation of marine scientists become the best they can be. You will also get to stay at the forefront of research, as most professors continue to conduct or take part in research at their school.

Coastal management graduates can also work in environmental restoration, restoring damaged coastlines, estuaries and wetlands, and fragile near-coast marine environments. These scientists work closely with affected plants and animals to ensure their sustainability. They may work with local and State interest groups and agencies. They may work for a non-profit organization and run groups of volunteers to help with restoration projects, such as planting native grasses. They may work with community groups, such as fishermen and environmental groups, to solve a multi-faceted issue like over-fishing. Scientists in this area may also work internationally, helping to restore the environment in traditionally neglected but ecologically important areas, such as Southeast Asia and South America.

According to the Bureau of Labor, a bachelor's degree is required for entry-level jobs, while a master's degree can help you secure a better-paying job with better advancement opportunities. A Ph.D. is required for most research positions in higher learning institutions and with the government. Many jobs require extensive time outside and/or in laboratories, although those in upper-level positions may have office jobs. Many scientists are employed in academia or with government agencies. Some work as private consultants or with a consulting firm. Many of the rest worked for private industrial research agencies or in environmental education and conservation.

Here are some job titles that we've seen, including some of the organizations that offer them, all of which included a requirement for experience in Coastal Management:


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