Meteorologists play an integral role in researching and evaluating weather patterns and informing the public about potential weather severity. Prerequisites for entrance to a bachelor's degree program in this field include a high school diploma with high SAT or ACT scores and a strong background in math, computer science, and physical science.
Admittance to a master's degree program requires a bachelor's degree in meteorology or atmospheric science as well as a strong GRE score in math. Graduates enrolling in meteorology doctoral programs usually need a master's degree in the field, a letter of recommendation, GRE scores, a personal statement and experience in the field. It may be possible to take some relevant courses online, although most degree programs are offered on campus or only partially online.
Bachelor of Science in Meteorology
Bachelor's degree programs in meteorology cover weather-related concepts, applications of weather forecasting and methods for analysis and forecasting. These programs usually allow students to choose a concentration, which may include climatology, broadcast meteorology, or environmental meteorology. The curriculum for undergraduate meteorology programs leans heavily on math, physics, and chemistry. Many programs are designed to meet the employment requirements for the National Weather Service, which include a specific number or course hours in meteorology, physics, differential equations and physical science. Along with heavy math, physics, and chemistry courses, typical courses in meteorology include:
- Atmospheric physics
- Atmospheric dynamics
- Synoptic meteorology
- Dynamic meteorology
- Analysis and forecasting
- Tropical meteorology
- Air pollution meteorology
- Remote sensing
Master of Science in Meteorology
Most graduate programs in meteorology are research focused and allow students to pursue a specialized area, such as air pollution or global climate change. Students are well prepared for careers in meteorological research and analysis, as well as for academic careers. Master's degree programs typically take two years to complete and require students to complete thesis projects with an oral defense. Course topics include:
- Atmospheric dynamics
- Research methods in meteorology
- Meteorological instruments
- Global climate change
- Meteorological analysis
With electives that may be specific to your thesis topic.
Ph.D. Programs in Meteorology
Students in meteorology Ph.D. programs are generally interested in pursuing independent, original scientific research in a specific area of atmospheric science. Programs typically require students to complete prescribed coursework and complete and defend a dissertation. While research may be the focus of a Ph.D. program, students also complete advanced coursework in physics, chemistry and dynamics. Courses might also include:
- Cumulus dynamics
- Statistical meteorology
- Atmospheric chemistry
- Remote sensing
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects employment for meteorologists and atmospheric scientists to grow at a faster than average rate of 9% from 2014-2024. Most new jobs are expected to be created in private industry, such as consulting firms catering to the farming industry, utility companies and construction firms. Mean annual wages were reported at $90,210, as of May 2015.
Continuing Education and Certification
Students with a bachelor's degree in meteorology may consider earning a graduate degree for more career opportunities, according to the BLS. The American Meteorological Society (AMS) offers certification for consulting meteorologists and broadcast meteorologists. Applicants must meet the educational and experience requirements to become certified.
Graduates with a master's degree in meteorology who meet the experience requirements are also eligible for certification with the AMS. Continuing education is required to maintain certification. Students who are interested in academic careers or wish to research in a specific area can pursue a doctoral degree program in meteorology.
There are many undergraduate and advanced degrees available for individuals wishing to pursue careers in meteorology. Undergraduate degree programs focus on building a foundation in science and mathematics, while graduate degree programs require advanced research in an area of interest.