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What Kind of Classes Do Meteorologists Take in College?

by Dr. Kelly S. Meier

Meteorologists are critical to forecasting and analyzing weather patterns. If you would like to study weather, climate trends and other variables impacting the atmosphere, consider majoring in meteorology. In 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated the median annual pay for meteorologists to be $87,780, with an expected job growth of 11 percent through 2020. The course curriculum for meteorologists is rigorous, so start preparing in high school to pursue the necessary college education.

High School Prep

Take four years of science and math in high school. If you can choose electives, select additional science classes to provide enhanced fundamental knowledge. Enrolling in advanced-placement exams will provide academic challenge and, potentially, college credit for basic college science courses. Meteorologists must have excellent oral and written communication skills, so English and speech classes are also helpful.

Undergraduate Studies

Most meteorology programs begin with general studies course work. General education provides you with an overview of the basic college curriculum. This will help you become a well-rounded student. As you progress through your major courses, you will take classes specific to meteorology like weather forecasting and analysis. A continued focus on science will include physics and courses on electricity and magnetism. You will also delve into atmospheric dynamics, oceanic studies and climate variables. Finally, a mastery of math and computer science skills will involve calculus, algebra and statistics. This plan of study will prepare you for graduate work in meteorology and climatology.

Graduate Studies

Once you have completed an undergraduate program in meteorology or science and math, you can apply for an M.S. or Ph.D. in meteorology. Colleges have varying admission requirements but most require a minimum grade-point average and GRE score. Course work will include physical and dynamic meteorology, satellite and radar fundamentals, geophysical applications and synoptic areas such as weather prediction. Advanced degrees require research and a dissertation. In most cases, you will have to pass a comprehensive exam to graduate.

Practical Experience

It is critical to seek opportunities for hands-on experience during your educational journey. Many programs encourage students to do internships at college or local radio and television stations. You can also work with faculty on research projects. Engaging in experiential education will help you apply classroom learning and provide valuable training that will serve you well in your first full-time job. You will also cultivate relationships with professionals in the field that can serve as references when you start your job search.

About the Author

Dr. Kelly S. Meier is a professor and college administrator for a large public institution in Minnesota. She received her undergraduate degree from Western Illinois University and her master's degree and doctorate from Minnesota State University, Mankato. She has published more than 15 books on education, group development and diversity.

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