Understanding climate change and extreme weather events has never been more important and the work you'll do as a meteorologist is vital to a range of job sectors. Find out how to qualify and where careers in the field can lead
What is meteorology?
Meteorology is a branch of science concerned with the processes and phenomena of the atmosphere, particularly as a means of forecasting the weather.
'Weather is something that affects everyone’s daily lives,' explains Chris Holloway, associate professor, department of meteorology at the University of Reading. 'As we can increasingly see the effects of climate change on extreme weather events, ecosystems and natural resources, a degree in this field is becoming more relevant than ever in a variety of fields and meteorologists and climate scientists are increasingly in demand.'
Chris points out that meteorologists help governments and industries understand and prepare for changing risks of floods, fires and windstorms, in turn helping sectors that are directly impacted by climate and the weather such as environment and agriculture, energy and utilities, property and construction and transport and logistics.
What do undergraduate courses involve?
To become a meteorologist 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 specifically like to study a meteorology degree there are a number of Bachelors programmes on offer.
To study the three-year BSc Environmental Science at The University of Manchester you'll need ABB at A-level. You'll gain an understanding of how the world works and will be able to tailor your degree by choosing one of three pathways - Pollution and environmental processes, Ecology, evolution and conservation biology and Atmospheric and climate science - the latter being most related to meteorology. On this pathway you'll learn about environmental issues, including weather forecasting, urban air quality, pollutant transport and climate change. Tuition fees for 2023/24 stand at £9,250.
Other relevant Bachelors programmes, as identified by RMetS, include:
- BSc Climate Change - Liverpool John Moores University
- BSc Climate Science - Durham University
- BSc Environmental Science - University of Lancaster
- BSc Meteorology and Climate - University of Reading
- BSc Oceanography and Coastal Processes - University of Plymouth
- BSc Physics with Meteorology - University of Edinburgh.
Should I study a Masters in meteorology?
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 industry contacts. 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.
'For all students, even those who have some previous background in this subject, postgraduate study provides a more rigorous exposure to the science and a higher level of theory, application and research experience,' says Chris.
The one-year MSc Applied Meteorology at the University of Reading will prepare you for a career in the field. You'll need a good Bachelors degree (2:2 or above) in a mathematical, physical science or closely related subject to gain a place on the course. Compulsory modules include Measurements and instrumentation, Introduction to computing, Forecasting systems and applications, Weather and climate discussion and Atmospheric physics. You can also choose from a range of optional modules from Climate change and Tropical eather systems to Preparing for floods and Hazardous weather analysis.
'The course prepares students for a career in meteorology-related science and research,' adds Chris. 'It offers modules ranging from weather forecasting to space weather to climate change, and there is also a field course that guides students in taking their own measurements and collecting their own data. Towards the end of the course, students will conduct research under the supervision of a staff member and write a dissertation.'
UK students in 2023/24 will pay £12,100 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
- MSc Climate Change - University College London.
- MSc Geographic Information and Climate Change - University of Swansea.
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 - an introductory weather course Watching the weather.
- FutureLearn - a free, introductory course called Come rain or shine; Understanding the weather and a Met Office course titled Learn about weather.
- Met Office Learning Portal - courses cover understanding the weather and climate, operational meteorology training and aviation training.
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?
A solid grasp of physics and maths, as well as an understanding of the basic principles behind the weather are essential. You'll also need a high level of computer literacy, as meteorologists work with a number of computer programmes.
'The ability to communicate science to colleagues and to a wider audience is increasingly important to employers,' advises Chris.
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.
Learn more about the soft skills that employers look for.
What jobs can I do with a meteorology degree?
When it comes to jobs, a meteorology degree opens a variety of doors. Far from being restricted in your options there is a surprisingly wide range of jobs available.
'Many of the graduates from the MSc at Reading find jobs as weather forecasters or research scientists in operational forecasting agencies such as the Met Office or the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF),' explains Chris.
'Some become TV weather presenters or go to work for internet weather forecasting companies. Our graduates also find opportunities in private industry, for instance as forecasters or consultants for finance, insurance or energy companies, or advising NGOs on sustainability and climate. A degree in meteorology will give students enough scientific skills to do most graduate-level jobs that require quantitative reasoning or scientific literacy.'
Learn more about graduate jobs in science and pharmaceuticals.
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