MadSci Network: Earth Sciences

Re: What kind of training is required to be a meteorologist?

Date: Wed Mar 8 12:14:50 2000
Posted By: Carl Morgan, Forecaster, Meteorology, National Weather Service
Area of science: Earth Sciences
ID: 952439828.Es


I can't give you an exact percentage of women meteorologists, however based on my experience in the National Weather Service, I would say that the number falls between 10-20%. However there are many other places of employment for meteorologists outside of the National Weather Service. For instance, private consulting firms and weather vendors, television stations, and environmental agencies all employ meteorologists.

There are specialty fields in meteorology. Weather forecasting, air pollution, severe storms, winter weather, and tropical weather just to name a few.

As for your next question..."are weather forecasters on tv real meteorologists?"...the answer varies from station to station, and from forecaster to forecaster. Some are professional meteorologists with at least a 4-year degree in meteorology or atmospheric science, some have only completed a correspondence course, while others have little or no education in the science of weather. But remember this...Just because a station calls their forecaster a "meteorologist" doesn't mean that he/she has a degree in meteorology. I don't think it's fair to the science of meteorology when stations do this. If I presented myself to you as a lawyer, for example, would it matter if I had actually been to law school? Of course it would. The same should apply to meteorology, as it does most other professions.

Hiring policies vary from station to station. Some want only the best educated and trained forecasters, others want the cheapest alternative (which might mean turning their sportscaster into a weekend weatherperson), while others are interested in getting a good television personality. Sometimes stations can get a combination of all of these.

Most television forecasters have access to National Weather Service products, such as forecasts, discussions, severe weather warnings, and other statements. Some stations have contracts with private weather vendors, who in turn supply them with forecasts (which is good if you're trying to turn your sportscaster into your weather forecaster!) However the tv weather forecaster usually has the ultimate say in whatever goes into his/her forecast. It may or may not agree with the National Weather Service forecast.

To become a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, here are the requirements. It may sound intimidating, but it's not that bad, and most colleges or universities that offer a degree in meteorology require all of these courses before you graduate.

    Applicants must show successful completion of a 4-year                 
    bachelor's degree in an accredited college or university, with         
    a major in meteorology, atmospheric science, or other natural          
    science major that included:                                           
    1.   At least 24 semester (36 quarter) hours of credit in              
         meteorology/atmospheric science including a minimum of:           
     a.  Six semester hours of atmospheric dynamics and                  
     b.  Six semester hours of analysis and prediction of                
         weather systems (synoptic/mesoscale);                             
     c.  Three semester hours of physical meteorology; and               
     d.  Two semester hours of remote sensing of the                     
         atmosphere and/or instrumentation.                                
    2.   Six semester hours of physics, with at least one course           
         that includes laboratory sessions.*                               
    3.   Three semester hours of ordinary differential equations.          
         (If your class is not entitled  Ordinary Differential             
         Equations', you will need to provide a course description         
         to show how the content of the course satisfies this              
    4.   At least nine semester hours of course work appropriate           
         for a physical science major in any combination of three          
         or more of the following: physical hydrology, statistics,         
         chemistry, physical oceanography, physical climatology,           
         radiative transfer, aeronomy, advanced thermodynamics,            
         advanced electricity and magnetism, light and optics,             
         computer science.                                                 
        *There is a prerequisite or co-requisite of calculus for course    
         work in atmospheric dynamics and thermodynamics, physics, and     
         differential equations.  Calculus courses must be appropriate     
         for a physical science major.     
    B.   An equivalent combination of education and experience which       
         included all of the required courses as shown in "A" above        
         (i.e., satisfactory completion of all of the specific course      
         requirements specified in A, items 1-4 above), plus appropriate   
         experience or additional education.  This combination must have   
         provided knowledge comparable to that normally acquired through   
         the successful completion of the 4-year course of study           
         described in "A" above.  (In crediting undergraduate education,   
         one academic year of education is 30 semester hours or 45         
         quarter hours of course work).

Another link that can provide you with lots of information on the topic of women in weather, is none other than the "Women in Weather" webpage!

Another thing to keep in mind...computers are playing a bigger role in understanding and forecasting weather every day. The more computer-related courses that you can take, the better off you will be. A double major in Meteorology and Computer Science is an excellent option.

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