CAREER DEVELOPMENT / MAY. 01, 2014
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How to Become a Meteorologist

A professional role suited to individuals with strong math and computing skills; meteorology involves the study and monitoring of weather systems and the wider environment. Acting to keep tabs on the earth’s atmosphere, climate and weather – meteorologists collect and interpret data in order to predict the weather. They compile forecast and deliver their findings not only to the general public, but to the agricultural/aviation industries as well as the armed forces.

Requiring a methodical character-type, the typical meteorologist has an enquiring mind and is a natural problem solver. A role which requires the management and clarification of extensive amounts of data, professional meteorology combines scientific aptitude and the ability to think analytically.

The Work

The professional field of meteorology is typically divided into two main areas of focus- namely research and forecasting. Essentially; the former involves collecting and processing much of the information necessary for the latter. Typical researching duties include:

  • The investigation of weather patterns and climate change
  • The development and improvement of computer-based forecasting models
  • The application of research to practical problems, i.e. predicting floods, storms or even issues such as the role of weather in global ecological issues such as the spreading of disease.

Duties synonymous with the forecasting end of the spectrum are:

  • The collection of data from satellite images, radar, remote sensors and weather stations world-over
  •  The supplying of weather data and reports to customers
  •  The  measuring of air pressure, temperature, humidity and wind
  •  The application of computer models to make short and long range weather forecasts

Schedule and Pay Rates

Generally speaking, the working schedule of a meteorologist varies depending on the particular area they work in. As a forecaster, shifts often centre upon providing total coverage for consistent 24-hour long periods. As a researcher on the other hand, it is more likely that you will encounter standard Monday – Friday office hours.

As for pay, meteorology is like most other professional fields in that it increases with time and experience. Typical expectations are as follows:

Level of Experience

Salary Expectations

Junior

Approx. £20,000

Experienced

£25,000 - £35,000

Senior/Management Level

£50,000+

What Qualifications are needed to become a Meteorologist?

Starting from the top of the educational pile and working down the way; an individual hoping to work in meteorology will need a first class (or at least upper second class) bachelor’s degree in the subject or one that is closely related (maths, computer science). In order to gain entry onto a relevant undergraduate course, A-C grade A levels in maths and/or physics will be required. And, in order to study for A levels- at least five A-C grade GCSE’s (including English) will be needed.

For the majority of researching jobs within the field, a postgraduate degree will also be required. Whether in meteorology, climatology or even atmospheric sciences- course requirements are best sourced through each institution’s own website or prospectus. For a list of accredited courses available in the UK, simply visit the Royal Meteorological Society’s website.

Furthermore, for those lacking the requirements necessary in order to gain the undergraduate qualifications noted above, you’ll be pleased to know that the Met Office are known providers of ‘support’ roles. These jobs provide people with just the GCSE/A level- educational requirements the opportunity to work actively within the field of meteorology. 

Career Trajectory

Following on from graduation, would-be forecasters begin their career with the Forecaster Foundation Training Programme (usually conducted from the Met Office college in Devon). The programme itself involves the following:

  • Six week full-time initial training course
  • Three months practical training at an active and operation weather station
  • Supplementing 14 week training course
  • 20 weeks closely monitored ‘on the job’ training
  • Final assessment

Individuals are open to a number of exciting routes once qualified in this field. Strictly speaking there is no end to the amount of training a meteorologist can undertake in order to hone their skillset. As well as taking on further postgraduate qualifications such as MSc’s or PhD’s, the Met Office college offers its own development courses. Meteorologists with at least five years-worth of experience in the field can become chartered under the Royal Meteorological Society.

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