Meteorologists study weather patterns and use sophisticated models to forecast the weather. To get started in this career, you will need a bachelor's degree in atmospheric science, meteorology, or a closely related field.
The most common way to get started in this career is to pursue an accredited bachelor's degree in atmospheric science. These interdisciplinary degrees require classes in atmospheric sciences, chemistry, physics, environmental science, math, and earth science.
Since many meteorologists and atmospheric scientists work for the government, prospective students should make sure that their program meets the educational requirements outlined by the US Office of Personnel Management. The government has particular requirements for the number of thermodynamics, weather prediction, physical meteorology, instrumentation, physics, and math classes students are required to take.
While a bachelor's degree is sufficient for atmospheric scientists who predict and broadcast weather patterns, scientists who work in weather research need a graduate degree. Master's students typically take general courses in physics and atmospheric science, as well as specialization classes in a particular focus, like climate change, dynamics of atmospheric systems, or air pollution. The PhD in atmospheric science is required for college-level research and teaching positions. These programs require students to take classes in quantitative and qualitative research methods, as well as advanced physics and atmospheric science topics. Students develop a dissertation project in a particular meteorology specialization area, like chemistry and radiation, climate and weather, or space physics.
What Will I Learn in a Meteorology Degree Program?
- Dynamic Meteorology: This class discusses fluid dynamics and the physics behind large masses of air and water vapor, which is responsible for large weather patterns. Students study physics principles like momentum and conservation of mass, and how these result in particular weather phenomena.
- Environmental Studies: Courses in environmental studies introduce students to issues of pollution, climate change, global resources, and other issues of human interaction with the environment.
- Principles of Broadcasting: Students who plan on becoming broadcast meteorologists on television or radio can take this course to study communication principles, the business aspects of meteorology, and government's role in weather broadcasting.
- Weather Forecasting: This course covers the methods for analyzing weather information from radar, satellites, and other modeling systems.
What Job Opportunities Can I Expect as a Meteorologist?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts an 11 percent increase in the job market for meteorologists during the next few years. This is about on par with the average growth for all occupations in the United States during this period. Better weather modeling systems have increased the demand for meteorologists in a variety of work settings.
However, even with the growth in jobs, meteorologists can expect competition for positions. This is because there are more qualified graduates of meteorology programs than there are new job openings. Additionally, downsizing in the federal government will decrease the number of openings in agencies like the National Weather Service. Better job opportunities will be had in the private sector. Meteorologists with a master's degree will also have better job opportunities.
What Work Environment Will I Have in Meteorology?
About 36 percent of meteorologists work in the federal government. Most of these scientists are employed by the National Weather Service. An additional 15 percent work in scientific and technical consulting, 15 percent work in colleges and universities, and 12 percent work in scientific research and development. About 7 percent work in radio and television broadcasting. Since weather patterns have to be monitored around the clock, meteorologists and atmospheric scientists may have to work night or evening shifts. The majority work standard full-time schedules.