Case study

Operational meteorologist — Emma Wilson

Emma describes the satisfaction she gets from working as a meteorologist, seeing the impact and influence that her forecasts make on critical military operations

How did you get your job as a meteorologist?

I have always been fascinated by the weather and the far-reaching impacts it has on everyday life. Being a meteorologist has been my career goal for as long as I can remember, so when it came to my A-levels and degree, I was focused on developing a broad science-based skillset.

Throughout my time at university, I prioritised meteorology-focused modules and projects, and took advantage of mentoring schemes and opportunities to widen my understanding of the job role.

During my final year, I applied through the Met Office meteorologist recruitment campaign and was offered a job, starting my forecasting journey.

How relevant is your degree to your forecasting work?

Studying physical geography developed my understanding of the intricate relationship between the natural world and humanity. Having this awareness allows me to appreciate the impact of weather on military operations, which drives me to be a better forecaster.

My degree was heavily focused on geographic information system (GIS) and this gave me extensive experience in analysing geographical data. Recently, I have taken on an additional role outside of forecasting that requires the analysis of climatological records using GIS software.

Already understanding these systems was a key reason for being offered the position and it has been instrumental in my success in the role so far.

What are your main work activities in operational meteorology?

I am responsible for forecasting the weather for fixed-wing and rotary aircraft based at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire. Most of my work is completed in a busy morning routine and involves using a vast amount of model and observational data, alongside my meteorological knowledge, to create a comprehensive weather forecast for the day.

Once happy with my forecast, I brief pilots across the base, advising them of where the weather is best for flying so they can complete their operations. The rest of my day involves monitoring and updating the evolving weather situation, as well as dealing with customer enquiries.

How has your meteorology role developed and what are your career ambitions?

I started off my Met Office career as an operational meteorological technician, which served as a foundation year to becoming a forecaster. Working alongside meteorologists in the operations centre in Exeter, I gained an invaluable understanding of my future job role, as well as the core values and vision of the company.

I then progressed onto the operational meteorology forecasting course, a tailored exam-based programme that provides the essential theoretical and practical knowledge to become an operational forecaster.

Since qualifying, I have worked at several RAF bases across the UK and further afield, including MOD Boscombe Down, RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Mount Pleasant in the Falkland Islands. My priority is seeking further forecasting opportunities in the UK and abroad to develop myself as a well-rounded, experienced meteorologist.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The weather is different every day and always provides a new challenge and learning opportunity. I see daily, the impacts of my forecasts, and know that the decisions I make have a huge influence on critical military operations.

I also take advantage of the varied development and travel opportunities on offer, with the Met Office providing forecasting services at Royal Air Force (RAF) bases across the world, including Cyprus, Ascension Islands, and the Falklands. I have completed a detachment to RAF Mount Pleasant in the Falklands Islands, where I spent five months forecasting for the RAF, Navy, and Army. It provided a fantastic learning experience, as well as an opportunity to explore the Islands and see an array of exciting wildlife.

What are the challenges in your role?

The most challenging aspect of being a meteorologist is the shiftwork. Depending on where you're based, you may work a combination of 12-hour day and night shifts, or a mixture of very early morning and evening shifts that can finish late into the night, including at weekends.

Being a shift worker requires a huge amount of flexibility and you need to be creative to achieve a healthy work-life balance. In addition, during the first years of qualifying, you can be expected to move around a lot, often to remote locations. You need to be comfortable with travelling and potentially being far away from family and friends.

Do you have any advice for someone wanting to start a career as a meteorologist?

Having a passion for the weather is essential to being a successful candidate. The Met Office culture is firmly rooted in providing an exceptional service by people who live and breathe it. You need to be enthusiastic about making a difference and be open to new experiences.

Take advantage of any career mentoring schemes that your university offers and keep an eye out for work experience or placement opportunities at the Met Office. Networking through LinkedIn can also be a great way to get your questions answered by the experts, as well as learning about what the company has to offer.

Find out more

How would you rate this page?

On a scale where 1 is dislike and 5 is like

success feedback

Thank you for rating the page