During the inaugural Physical Oceanography Dissertation Symposium in June 2002 we found that the graduate school experience varied markedly amongst the 20 international participants. The diversity of backgrounds led to lively discussion about the differences between physical oceanography programs. Here we review the length, content, and quality of education for graduate programs in Australia, France, Germany, the UK, and the U.S. We also comment on the financial, social, and scientific status of graduate students in these countries. Graduate programs in physical oceanography face the challenge of introducing students to the wide range of tools and techniques which define the field, ranging from observational work and remote sensing, through dynamical theory and laboratory experiments, to numerical modeling. While individual character largely determines the success of the Ph.D. experience, a graduate education in physical oceanography should include the following factors to best serve students in their future career: solid mentorship, regular department level progress checks, course work, summer schools, field work, practice in communication skills, scientific and social integration, international exchange, and stable and sufficient funding. We propose a model four year physical oceanography graduate degree structure, distilled from the best aspects of international physical oceanography programs.