AQS FAQ

Why an Aquarium Science Program?
The college conducted a nationwide survey of the aquatic animal husbandry industry (public aquariums, aquaculture facilities, and ornamental fish businesses) and found that: 1) Over half of the supervisors reported having experienced difficulties in hiring skilled personnel. These employers noted that specific job related skills and knowledge were most frequently absent in newly hired staff, 2) General education skills of science, math, writing and oral communication were also lacking, and 3) Over the next five years, new facilities are scheduled to open, while established aquariums are expanding or increasing their program offerings. As a result of these factors, the need for skilled personnel remains high. Over 80% of the responding supervisors indicated that graduates of this program would be qualified to work at their facility.

What type of degrees are offer?
The college offers a 2-year Associate of Applied Science degree in Aquarium Science and a 1-year certificate. The 2-year certificate is for individuals who do not have a BS degree or higher in a Life Science. The 1-year certificate is available for individuals who have earned a BS or higher in a Life Science. Both options require that you apply to the program.

What is the job placement rate for graduates?
In June (2005), the program graduated their first group of students. By late August, each had secured a job in their profession. Institutions that hired students include the Peace Corp, Oregon Coast Aquarium, New York Aquarium, and Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. A fifth graduate has started an aquarium service business.

Is this a marine biology program?
The Aquarium Science Program does not substitute for marine biology. A number of concepts covered in marine biology will also be addressed in the Aquarium Science Program. If you desire to conduct research as a career, then you would be better served by attending an institution such as Oregon State University .

What will this program allow me to do?
The program is designed to provide instruction and student opportunities to learn aquatic animal husbandry skills. These skills can be marketed to a number of organizations and businesses such as public aquariums, research groups, fish hatcheries, aquaculture production facilities, aquarium service businesses, and the ornamental fish trade including retail, wholesale or fish farm production levels. Graduates could also transfer to a four-year institution.

Are the Aquarium Science credits transferable?
This situation depends on what school you are planning to transfer to. The general education credits you earn at OCCC will transfer to other schools because the college is accredited through the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges. Most of the courses with an AQS prefix do not have an equivalent course at other institutions and as a result may transfer as a lower division elective credit. If you were to transfer to the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University , then 22 credit hours of Aquarium Science degree would transfer into their program. For more details confer with an OCCC academic advisor.

I want to be a dolphin trainer. Will this help me to become one?
This program does not specifically train individuals to be marine mammal trainers. Many individuals get their start by volunteering many, many hours at a facility that house these specialized mammals. By having an aquatic animal husbandry background, getting your "foot in the door" as an employee at such facilities is more likely than if you had not developed these skills and knowledge. You could then begin to volunteer with the Marine Mammal Department.

What types of physical activities do aquatic animal keepers do?
The job of aquatic animal keepers, also known as aquarists, is a physically active job. Besides the potential for SCUBA diving, other job duties include lifting boxes of frozen fish (50 lbs), climbing up and down stairs or ladders, bending down, carrying buckets of water, restraining and netting animals. Days are frequently spent wearing boots and standing on your feet.

How do I enroll?
After contacting an OCCC advisor and taking the COMPASS test, complete the OCCC admission application and Aquarium Science Program Information Request Form. The application requires student information and responses to questions. Also required are a current resume, transcripts, letters of recommendation and applicant evaluation forms. After all the documents have been received, your application will be evaluated. During this process you will be scheduled for an interview with the Aquarium Science Program interview panel. Shortly after the interview, you will be notified of your status.

What should I be doing now?
If you are a high school student, take as many mathematic, science and English courses as possible. Everyone should fulfill as many general education requirements beforehand as possible. By taking these classes, you develop strong background skills that will help in your studies. If you receive low placement scores, then you should begin to take courses that address this shortcoming. Remember, you must also apply for enrollment.

When am I accepted into the program?
For those who applied during the early admission period, notification will be sent out in mid-January. All other students will be notified shortly after their interview.

How many students will be admitted into the program?
There will be a maximum of 22 spots available. 

What classes are required?
Your classes fulfill the requirements for a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree. You will be enrolled in several general education classes as well as the specialty courses. The Aquarium Science courses include Introduction to Aquarium Science, Practicum 1 and 2, Biology of Captive Fish, Biology of Captive Invertebrates, Current Issues in Aquarium Science, Aquatic Animal Health Management and more.

For the 1-year certificate, all the Aquarium Science courses plus a few general education courses are required. The 1-year certificate can be completed in one full year (fall through summer). Please refer to the Oregon Coast Community College catalog for more details about courses and study options. If you wish more information please call us at (541) 867-8678, or email us at chris.spaulding@occc.cc.or.us

When do classes start?
The Aquarium Science Program students will begin their course work in the fall term (typically in late September or early October). Courses are typically 11-weeks in length.

Where are classes taught?
Several different locations host classes. Some courses will be held at the College while others will be at the Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC). Most all of the laboratory portions of the class will be at the HMSC. Field trips are also part of the curriculum. The two hands-on Practicum courses will be held at a number of locations in the area. We are also requiring students to complete an eleven (11) week internship just prior to graduating. We have internship agreements with facilities throughout the country.

Why teach at the HMSC?
The college does not operate from the typical college setting, though this will change in the near future. In May 2004, the college received voter approval to build a college campus. Within these funds, the college's board of education has allocated funds to construct a dedicated Aquarium Science building at the Hatfield Marine Science Center.

Who pays for the internship?
There is a wide range of internship programs, but most are non-paying and non-subsidized. The intern bears the cost of tuition, fees, travel, room and board, and incidental costs. The Aquarium Science Program is seeking creative ways to defray some cost via scholarships, but anticipate this expense as a cost of gaining experience. Students served internships at the Alaska SeaLife Center, Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, Le'Oceanografic in Valencia , Spain, Oregon Coast Aquarium and a tropical fish store.

Are there part-time husbandry jobs available while I am a student?
Chances are poor that there will be animal related part-time positions available. There are always other types of jobs listed in the local newspaper. There is also an Oregon State Employment Division office in Newport that may prove useful. Hopefully you can find something suitable to your situation.

How much does this program cost?
The major costs include tuition, laboratory fees, and books. The tuition rate depends on whether or not the student is a state resident or not. Please refer to the current OCCC college catalog for tuition and fees.

What financial aid is available?
Contact the student services at (541) 867-8501 for scholarship and financial aid information.

What housing is available around the college?
The college does not provide housing. There are a number of rental options available in the area. Check the local paper, information board postings and real estate offices for available units.

How do I get more information?
If you wish more information please call us at (541) 867-8678, or email us at chris.spaulding@occc.cc.or.us