Studying the atmosphere and understanding the weather, the work of meteorologists is of vital importance to many industries. Discover what courses involve and where your career could lead

Why choose meteorology?

Meteorology is the branch of science concerned with studying the earth's atmosphere and how it causes changes in weather conditions.

'The impact of climate change and extreme weather events on our day-to-day lives is growing ever more apparent and a degree in meteorology equips graduates with the skills to understand, forecast and explain these phenomena,' explains Dr Tristan Quaife, admissions tutor, Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading.

'The coming decades are going to present the world's population with significant challenges and meteorologists will have a key role to play in helping governments and industry make informed decisions across a range of sectors. Flooding, extreme winds and heatwaves are all obvious examples that have a direct impact on human wellbeing, but understanding climate and weather is also vital for industries such as agriculture, energy and transport to name just a few examples,' adds Dr Quaife.

What do courses involve?

To break into meteorology, a degree is essential. However, you don't necessarily have to study a meteorology course. Graduates can enter the field with a first degree in subjects such as maths, physics, environmental science, physical geography, computer science and climate change.

The Royal Meteorological Society (RMetS) produce a list of relevant undergraduate and postgraduate courses, see RMetS university degree courses. However, if you'd like to study for a meteorology degree there are a number of Bachelors programmes on offer.

One such course is the Meteorology and Climate Change BSc at the University of Reading. The programme takes three years to complete full time and you'll need ABB-BBB at A-level, including grade B in both maths and physics, to gain entry.

'As well as learning all about the weather, we teach our students the fundamental maths and physics they need to understand how the atmosphere and oceans work,' says Dr Quaife. 'For example, students take classes in fluid dynamics and atmospheric physics. There are also classes on forecasting, which include presentation practice using green screen technology. Laboratory classes and fieldwork are also an important part of our degree programme, these include our annual field trip to the Isle of Arran in Scotland, and computer programming is embedded throughout our degree programmes.'

In 2019/20 the course will cost UK and European Union (EU) students £9,250.

Other relevant Bachelors programmes, as identified by RMetS, include:

  • BSc Environmental Science University of Lancaster
  • BSc Mathematics with Ocean and Climate Studies University of Liverpool
  • BSc Oceanography and Coastal Processes University of Plymouth
  • BSc Physics Imperial College London.

While a Masters degree is a requirement for research posts, not all meteorological jobs need one. However, a postgraduate qualification can significantly further your knowledge and help you make contacts in industry. Studying for a Masters also demonstrates your passion and commitment to a particular field, and when competition for jobs is tough this can go a long way.

The one year Applied Meteorology and Climatology MSc at the University of Birmingham provides comprehensive training in understanding, modelling and prediction of atmospheric processes. You'll need a 2:1 honours degree in a relevant subject to be accepted onto the course. Compulsory modules include 'Theoretical meteorology: Atmospheric composition and physics', 'Weather forecasting and climate modelling', 'Atmospheric data processing and statistics' and 'Meteorological applications and services.'

UK and EU students in 2019 will pay £9,250 in tuition fees. Learn more about postgraduate loans and funding postgraduate study.

According to RMetS, the following Masters degrees are also relevant:

  • MRes Climate and Atmospheric Science University of Leeds,
  • MPhys Physics University of Manchester and
  • MSc Climate Change University College London.

Search for postgraduate courses in meteorology.

Can I study a short course?

There are currently no accredited short courses available in the UK. However, there are a variety of vocational qualifications available for observers, forecasters and broadcasters working in the industry, and for those with a general interest in the weather and climate.

Short, vocational courses include those provided by the:

  • Open University - run two introductory weather courses, Science: The weather and Watching the weather.
  • Future Learn - provide two courses. A free, introductory course called Come rain or shine and a Met Office course titled Learn about the weather.

The Royal Meteorological Society also awards both Registered Meteorologist and Chartered Meteorologist professional accreditation to individuals who can demonstrate appropriate academic qualifications, knowledge, skills and expertise.

What skills do I need?

According to Dr Quaife, a solid grasp of physics and maths, as well as an understanding of the basic principles behind the weather are all essential. You'll also need a high level of computer literacy, as meteorologists work with a number of computer programmes.

To build up necessary skills join your university's meteorological society and try to gain relevant work experience where possible. For example, the Met Office runs three-month summer placements for students and graduates to gain hands-on experience in the industry.

What jobs can I do with a meteorology degree?

When it comes to looking for a job a meteorology degree opens a variety of doors. Far from being restricted in your options, Dr Quaife explains that there is a surprisingly wide range of jobs available.

'Naturally, many of our graduates go on to work as forecasters and scientists in institutions such as the UK Met Office, or the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. Some go on to be TV weather presenters, while many work in environmental consultancies or the energy or food sectors. But it is even more diverse than that; a degree in Meteorology equips you with sufficient science skills that you can slot into any graduate job that requires numeracy or scientific literacy.'

Graduates of the Applied Meteorology and Climatology MSc at the University of Birmingham now work for the UK Met Office, MeteoGroup, Weathernews UK and Weather Services International. Others have gone on to pursue a PhD.

Find out more