NOAA Ocean Exploration's Explorer-in-Training Program

The 2021 application period is now closed. Thank you for your interest in the Explorer-in-Training Program.


Check out some of the great work from past years


Program Description

NOAA OE logo

NOAA Ocean Exploration (OE) is the only federal program dedicated to exploring our deep ocean, closing the prominent gap in our basic understanding of U.S. deep waters and seafloor and delivering the ocean information needed to strengthen the economy, health, and security of our nation.

Using the latest tools and technology, OE explores previously unknown areas of our deep ocean, making discoveries of scientific, economic, and cultural value. Through live video streams, online coverage, training opportunities, and real-time events, OE allows scientists, resource managers, students, members of the general public, and others to actively experience ocean exploration, expanding available expertise, cultivating the next generation of ocean explorers, and engaging the public in exploration activities. From this exploration, OE makes the collected data needed to understand our ocean publicly available, so we can maintain the health of our ocean, sustainably manage our marine resources, accelerate our national economy, and build a better appreciation of the value and importance of the ocean in our everyday lives.

The data collected based on community input informs policies and actions leading to the conservation, management and balanced use of the ocean. The program strives to provide resources and develop technological solutions along with innovative applications to address questions in undersea exploration. A fundamental part of the OE mission is the engagement of the marine science community, general public and training of the next generation of explorers.

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer is the Nation’s only federal vessel dedicated to ocean exploration. The ship is equipped with advanced tools that support systematic exploration of unknown ocean regions. High-resolution sonars, deep-water remotely operated vehicles, and telepresence technology are used to collect baseline information in unexplored areas.

Explorer-in-Training Program Description

Students watching sea floor mapping monitors

Standing Watch: Explorers-in-Training Laura Almodovar, Victoria Dickey, and Kelsey Lane standing mapping watch at the University of New Hampshire Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping/Joint Hydrographic Center. Image courtesy of CCOM.

Since 2009, CPAESS/UCAR and OE have hosted over 120 Explorers-in-Training. For many, this first experiential opportunity was invaluable in subsequent academic and career pursuits. OE continues to seek opportunities to work with external groups to train the next generation of explorers. OE also hosts graduate and undergraduate students as Explorers-in-Training in collaboration with NOAA’s Educational Partnership Program and Cooperative Science Centers.

The Explorers-in-Training Program equips students with skills to meet the current and future demands of the ocean exploration workforce, providing meaningful experiential learning opportunities that support OE’s mission and inspire ocean literacy for the next generation. The program features two internship options: (a) 10-week, summertime opportunities and (b) 2 to 4-week expedition-based opportunities. The 10-week internships will give students an experiential opportunity to develop their skills and knowledge through long-term projects supported by OE mentors. The 2 to 4-week expedition-based internships will involve providing support for specific OE-supported expeditions, giving students the chance to contribute to mission efforts while gaining tangible skills that benefit their future pursuits. For 2021, only 10-week Summer internships are available for application.

The Explorer-in-Training Program offers multiple internship themes to reflect OER’s diverse expertise, work products, and services. These themes are designed to be interdisciplinary and reflect OE’s main focus areas while providing training in critical ocean exploration mission fields. Available themes for the 2021 year include:

  • Exploration Education, Media, & Science Communication (10-week Summer internship): OE strives to engage stakeholders and improve ocean literacy of learners of all ages through our educational programs. To achieve our mission of community-driven exploration, we employ a suite of communication strategies and media tools that bring our discoveries to the public. Interns will work on cross-disciplinary projects to gain experience in scientific communication, ocean education programming, and media use. 

  • Expedition Operations & Coordination (10-week Summer internship): At the forefront of OE’s activities are expeditions to explore previously unvisited areas of the ocean. To accomplish this, we develop mission plans that provide a suite of services needed to virtually take scientists and managers to high-priority, yet otherwise inaccessible, areas of the ocean aided by remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). Explorers-in-Training will gain tangible skills in operational project management, software tools to support planning and execution, and knowledge of ocean exploration data resources.

  • Ocean Exploration Science & Technology (10-week Summer internship): Exploration often leads to discoveries that highlight areas, features, resources, and/or processes that are new to ocean science and need further study. To accomplish these discoveries, OER promotes the innovative use of existing technologies while investing in new technologies that will help to better understand deep-water areas and more effectively target future research efforts. 

The Explorer-in-Training Program has historically focused on hydrography and seafloor mapping. For 2021, no new applications will be accepted for a Hydrography & Seafloor Mapping internship theme. We will be giving priority to accepted 2020 Explorers-in-Training whose internships were cancelled due to COVID-19. Check out some of their great work from past years and check back next year for new opportunities in this theme! 

  • Hydrography & Seafloor Mapping (Remote, expedition-based, 2-4 week internship): Mapping the seafloor via NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer is an integral part of OE’s mission, providing critical bathymetric data needed to characterize previously unexplored areas. Students in this track will work on projects related to multibeam sonar and sound velocity profile data acquisition and processing with support from OE’s experienced mapping team. These interns will gain tangible skills in the use of geographic information system (GIS) software, hydrographic processing and display software, and data management. 


Eligibility and Application Requirements


  • U.S. Citizenship
  • Currently enrolled students (undergraduate or graduate) or students who have already graduated, but whose graduation date is within a year of the application date (i.e., “gap-year students”); students must be enrolled in or have received a degree from an accredited academic institution within the United States or its territories
  • Degree, major, or intent to major in a field relevant to OER’s mission; these can include, but are not limited to: STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, social sciences, communications, education, business operations/administration, and ocean policy/management
  • Willingness to learn and follow OER office and shipboard standard

Application Rquirements

  • Submission of online application form
  • Short answer response to each of the following prompts:
    1. What attracts you to ocean exploration? (250 words or less; this question is required)
    2. What are your expectations for an Explorer-in-Training internship? What skills and/or experience are you hoping to gain to advance your future career goals? (250 words or less; this question is required)
    3. Is there anything else about yourself/your experience that you feel is important and that you would like to share? (500 words or less; this question is optional) 
  • Current resume or curriculum vitae (CV)
  • Contact information for at least one academic (professor, advisor, teacher, etc.) and one character reference (community member, work supervisor, mentor, etc.). These references should be able to speak to your character and your professional and/or academic background.


Please compile short answer question responses and resume/CV into a single PDF and email to oer.explorerintraining@noaa.gov. If you have any questions, need guidance, or experience technical difficulties, please email oer.internships@noaa.gov.

Applications must be submitted by February 15th, 2021. 

Upon completion of an internship, each intern will be required to submit a short (1-2 page) written report regarding their experience as an Explorer-in-Training.

Learn more information about NOAA Ocean Exploration.

Additional information about the Explorer-in-Training Program is available through the NOAA Ocean Exploration.


For 10-week internships, a weekly $500 stipend is provided. For 2-4 week expedition-based internships, a daily stipend of $150 per day is provided. Travel costs to and from the ship are covered in addition to the stipend.


Operations at sea inherently entail some safety risks. Applicants whose internship involves going to sea are expected to provide their own medical insurance coverage if selected for a trainee position. Additional medical, offshore or worker’s compensation insurance is not provided by UCAR or by NOAA.

How to Apply

There are two steps to the application process.

Step 1:

Submit the online application form.

Step 2:

The following information is required and should be emailed to oer.explorerintraining@noaa.gov to complete the application process:

1. A current resume or Curriculum Vitae.

2. Contact information for at least one academic (professor, advisor, teache, etc.) and one character reference (community member, work supervisor, mentor, etc.).

3. Answer to the short response questions listed above.

Instructions:  Combine items 1-3 above into one document and save as a PDF or Word Document, rename it starting with your last name and "-okeanos2121" appended, and email to oer.explorerintraining@noaa.gov.  The subject of the email should be EIT Application followed by your last name. 


Application Deadline:  11:59PM EST, February 15, 2021

Contact Information

For additional information please visit Okeanos Explorer and Explorer-in-Training.



Ocean floor mapping images