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How to Become a Meteorologist

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MIAMI - AUGUST 30: Meteorologist Jessica Schauer works on tracking Hurricane Earl at the National Hurricane Center on August 30, 2010 in Miami, Florida.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

If you or someone you know watches the Weather Channel for hours at a time, gets excited when weather watches and warnings are issued, or always knows what this and next week's weather will be, it may be a sign that a meteorologist, climatologist, or atmospheric scientist is in-the-making!

Here is some advice on how to prepare, at all stages of your education, for a career in weather science.

1. For Elementary, Middle, and High Schoolers

Weather in the classroom. Meteorology isn't a part of core curriculum, however, most science classes now include lesson plans on weather and the atmosphere. Although there may not be many chances to include weather in daily learning, one way to express your individual interest is to make use of any "choose your own" show-and-tell, science project, or research assignments by focusing on a weather-related topic.

Be math-minded. Because meteorology is a physical science, a solid understanding of mathematics and physics is important to grasping the advanced concepts you'll learn later in your weather studies. Be sure to take courses like Calculus in high school--you'll thank yourself later! (Don't be discouraged if these subjects aren't your favorites...not all meteorologists were members of the math club.)

2. For Prospective Undergraduate Students

A Bachelor's degree (B.S.) is typically the minimum requirement needed to obtain an entry-level meteorologist position. Unsure if you'll need more training? Here's an early career planning tip: if you'd like to work for a specific organization, consider looking at that company's job openings then tailoring your skills to those listed in the position description.

Choosing a university. Less than fifty years ago, the number of North American schools offering degree programs in meteorology was under fifty. Today, that number has nearly tripled. Those accepted as top schools for meteorology include:
  • Pennsylvania State University (University Park, PA),
  • Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL),
  • and the University of Oklahoma (Norman, OK).

For a complete list of universities offering degree programs in the U.S. and Canada, click here.

Are internships a "must-do"? In a word, yes. Internships and co-op opportunities provide hands-on experience, give entry-level resumes a boost, and allow you to explore different disciplines within meteorology for the purpose of finding which best suits your personality and interests. By connecting you with a professional organization, a diversity of scientists, and perhaps even a mentor, they also help to build rapport, which in turn, can increase your chances of employment after graduation.

Keep in mind that students aren't eligible for most internships until their Junior year. (Even so, don't make the mistake of waiting until the summer of your Senior year to get involved--the number of programs accepting recent graduates are far and few between.) What sorts of opportunities should underclassmen consider in the meantime? Possibly a summer job. Most weather internships are unpaid opportunities, so plan your finances accordingly!

The American Meteorological Society (AMS) maintains a list of internships by state.

3. For Prospective Graduate Students

If your heart is set on a career in atmospheric research (including storm chasing), teaching in a university setting, or consulting work, you should be prepared to continue your education at the masters (M.S.) and/or doctorate (Ph.D.) levels.

Choosing a university. While returning to your alma mater is one option, you'll also want to shop around for schools whose facilities and faculty support research that matches your interests.

4. For Professionals & Weather Enthusiasts

Certificate programs. The above advice is helpful to individuals planning their academic career, but what options exist for individuals already in the workforce? Certificates of Meteorology are a great way to gain training in weather without the full commitment of entering into a degree program. Not to mention, these are earned by completing a fraction of the coursework required of degree programs (10-20 semester hours vs. 120 or more). Some classes can even be completed online in a distance learning manner.

Well-known certificate programs offered in the U.S. include Penn State's Undergraduate Certificate in Weather Forecasting and the Broadcast and Operational Meteorology certificate programs offered by Mississippi State.  

Whatever your age, it's never too early or too late to grow your love and knowledge of weather.

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