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Thread: Options for Atmospheric Science

  1. #1 Options for Atmospheric Science 
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    Hello, I am new to this forum. I'm a senior in high school quite set on getting into the Meteorology field particularly for the FAA or NOAA. My college choices do have atmospheric science as a graduate major, however; I was wondering if it is strictly necessary to get a graduate degree in the field to enter the career. I understand that for a research position in nearly any science a PhD is required but I'm more interested in the forecast aspects of the field. If it is not necessary to get a masters degree, then are there alternative undergrad majors such as chemistry or mathematics that would open that career path for me? Thank you very much!
    Austin


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  3. #2  
    Life-Size Nanoputian Flick Montana's Avatar
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    A PhD is not required for research. You can do research with a BS. An MS will probably get you into a higher pay grade. A PhD would be for teaching or starting your own business/consulting agency.

    You may want to check with the college you plan to attend, but many offer options for student work and internships. You can learn a lot more by speaking to sponsors from the agency where you would like to work. I spent a lot of time with people from USGS and local Indiana firms. Our campus also offers an undergrad/masters program where you start your masters in the final year of your undergrad. That's what I did.

    Best bet, talk to the school of science advisor at your college of choice.


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    If I were you I'd go to the middle of this page for the Education and Training Requirements heading. Meteorologist Job Description, Career as a Meteorologist, Salary, Employment - Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job - StateUniversity.com

    If you mean by 'entering the field' actually working in a meteorology department or facility, I don't think you've got much choice. You must have a relevant qualification.

    More importantly, think about who you will be competing against when such jobs are advertised. If a panel has to shortlist from 20 applications for one job vacancy they need to find an easy way to do it - dropping out all the less directly qualified people is a simple and entirely reasonable step. The only people listed for interview will be those with atmospheric science/meteorology degrees.
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    I was wondering if it is strictly necessary to get a graduate degree in the field to enter the career. I understand that for a research position in nearly any science a PhD is required but I'm more interested in the forecast aspects of the field. If it is not necessary to get a masters degree, then are there alternative undergrad majors such as chemistry or mathematics that would open that career path for me? Thank you very much!


    No, it's not required to do research, but you'll be on the hands-on side of things and have fewer jobs available. By hands on I mean the data collection, forecasting, and data collection side of conducting research--things like sending up weather balloons, driving across the plains to check an evaporation pan, operating a weather radar (after a tech course), being a flight observer for the research aircraft (many are going to be unmanned in a few years), transcribing or converting reams of data from one format into another etc.

    An MS will get you much more involved with experimental planning, analysis and publishing the research as well as more jobs in general.

    Also most US research is centered in a few locations--the majority of jobs in Silver Springs MD, Norman OK, Miami FL, Kansas City KS, Boulder CO.

    Forecasters are used just about everywhere--the National Weather Service has dozens of regional stations for example, all of which use BS level forecasters to produce most of their products. The biggest complaints are the inflexible product based timelines and rotating shift schedules that some people find darn hard to get used to. The schedules get better at the management levels.
    There is seasonal forecasting work as well such as for fire forecasting during the summer and ski condition forecasting in the winters.

    The NAVY and AIRFORCE use quite a few meteorologist as well.

    As you pick a school, you might want to think about the balance of requirements the school offers. Meteorology is almost split field between broadcasting or research side--most of the programs have a mix of both but emphasize one or the other side. A surprising number of TV weather folks don't even have degrees in meteorology and few do any forecasting--they pull from others or models and package it for the media. Twenty five years ago, I would have predicted it split into two distinct fields but it hasn't happened yet.

    If it is not necessary to get a masters degree, then are there alternative undergrad majors such as chemistry or mathematics that would open that career path for me?
    Not for forecasting. It is however quite possible to get into grad school programs with strong credentials in their supporting sciences such as a BS in physics, chemistry or math. If you compare the requirement you'll often find so much overlap that a course or two will get you a minor in them, or one more semester for a duel BS. Also, if you're worried about money for grad school----don't. Most grad programs are begging for qualified Americans--few grad student end up paying for their grad education--grant money for teaching or research assistants (usually tied to your thesis) are abundant. (like many hard sciences).


    --
    Also don't rule out non-government jobs. Quite a few private firms do forecasting and broadcasting or more specialized aspects of the field. A friend of mine works for a Denver firm that produce pollution dispersion models. Another friend (who I need to look up) went into forensic meteorology often giving expert testimony about existing weather conditions during civil law suits related to accidents. (e.g., was their ice on that bridge that night?)

    --
    You may want to check with the college you plan to attend, but many offer options for student work and internships.
    That's an excellent recommendation--regardless of what you decide.

    If you haven't done so already I strongly suggest you visit a NWS office for a quick visit or even for a shift to see what they do and talk to folks there.
    Last edited by Lynx_Fox; September 13th, 2012 at 01:54 PM.
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    If I can just add one thing about going to college and building yourself up for a career in the sciences; Make. Lots. Of. Contacts.

    Seriously, get a phone number from everyone you can who works at the agencies you like. Call them often and ask what's coming down the pipe. I just recently found out through my contacts at USGS that they have a slew of retirements coming up and some positions will be opening in my area. Nobody knows that unless they also have these people as contacts. If you get on good terms, they may even call YOU to let you know they'd like you to apply for a position that is opening up. That little recommendation from an employee can be huge. It can give you a serious leg up to get friendly with the people working where you want to work some day.
    "Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." -Calvin
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