Meteorology Degrees: Bachelor's, Master's & Online Course Info

About this article
What will you learn in a meteorology degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a bachelor's degree and master's degree and potential careers.
View available schools

Studying Meteorology: Degrees at a Glance

If you're talented in the physical sciences and interested in natural phenomena, you might consider a career in meteorology, which is the study of weather. While weatherpersons on TV may be meteorologists (not all are), the largest employer of meteorologists is the federal government, including the National Weather Service and the US Navy. Your job options include weather broadcaster and research scientist. You could also work as a forecaster for private companies or start a consulting business. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for atmospheric scientists were expected to increase by 11%, an average rate, from 2010-2020.

Bachelor's Master's
Who Is This Degree for? Individuals interested in working as scientists, predicting weather patterns and developing technologies for better prediction People who want to work as meteorological scientists or researchers, or who choose to move into the meteorological field after completing a bachelor's degree in another scientific field
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Meteorologist ($90,000 - salary group includes all atmospheric scientists)*
- Broadcast meteorologist ($56,000 - salary group includes all broadcast news analysts)*
Same as bachelor's degree, but also:
- Atmospheric researcher ($90,000 - salary group includes all atmospheric scientists)*
Time to Completion 4 years full-time 1-2 years full time after the bachelor's degree
Common Graduation Requirements - Approximately 40-42 undergraduate level courses
- General education, core curriculum and concentration coursework
- Research project or internship
- Roughly 7-15 graduate level courses
-Research experience
-Teaching experience
- Comprehensive exams
-Thesis
Prerequisites - High school diploma
- ACT, SAT or equivalent test scores
- Bachelor's degree in meteorology or related field heavy in physics and math coursework
- GRE scores
Online Availability Rare None found at this time

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Bachelor's Degrees in Meteorology

Earning this degree opens a range of possible entry-level careers, like weather forecaster, weather broadcaster, navy meteorologist and research assistant. You'll gain a foundational understanding of atmospheric science and learn to make weather predictions, with the help of satellites, weather balloons, radar systems, sensors and computer modeling programs. Experiential learning is often a part of the curriculum; you might take part in research projects, complete an internship or practice live weathercasting.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • This scientific field requires only bachelor's-level education for many entry-level positions.
  • The federal government employs many meteorologists, providing clear pathways of career development and advancement.
  • A bachelor's program in meteorology provides an excellent background in a range of physical sciences topics.

Cons

  • More advanced and research-related positions typically require further education.
  • Funding availability may influence job availability with the federal government.
  • Some risks associated with studying storms during fieldwork.

Common Courses and Requirements

Bachelor's-level studies in meteorology combine coursework from a number of disciplines in the physical sciences, like chemistry, and you're expected to attain proficiency in physics and high-level mathematics in order to understand and develop models. General education courses that contribute to intellectual and career development are also mandatory. Some meteorology-specific course subjects include atmospheric thermodynamics, oceanography, weather forecasting, climatology and geophysical hydrodynamics.

Online Course Info

As of July 2012, distance-learning courses in meteorology are rare. However, at least one online program (a bachelor's degree completion program designed for military personnel) exists; therefore, all those classes are fully online. You would gain necessary skills to seek entry-level employment upon graduation from this online program.

Stand Out with This Degree

Universities with meteorology programs advise that you take elective courses in other physical sciences, like oceanography or geography, to help you pinpoint a specialization area. Also, consider elective communications courses to teach you to report scientific information more effectively; this would be especially helpful if you'd like to work in television or radio weather broadcasting. Looking into paid or volunteer student work programs related to meteorology could also provide valuable experience.

Master's Degrees in Meteorology

Master's degree programs in meteorology attract students looking to gain additional research skills as well as those with different education backgrounds looking to transfer into the field. Concentration areas may include satellite meteorology, computer applications and advanced forecasting. You'll attain a high-level understanding of the atmosphere's physical properties and be trained to perform scientific research on weather systems and the atmosphere.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • You can apply even if you've completed a bachelor's program in another scientific field.
  • These programs may advantage meteorologists looking to grow in their careers.
  • Master's degree programs with thesis options can prepare you to engage in scientific research without the lengthy commitment of a doctoral program.

Cons

  • These programs do not generally prepare you to work as a researcher at the highest levels (for which a PhD is typically required).
  • These master's programs draw on multiple fields for research and analysis, which may be challenging for some students.
  • If you're moving into the meteorology field after completing a bachelor's program in another discipline, you may need to take extra classes to build your foundational knowledge.

Common Courses and Requirements

Master's degree coursework could cover dynamic meteorology, synoptic meteorology, cloud physics and air-water border physics. Some classes focus on different tools for researching atmospheric behavior, such as radar interpretation machines, satellite imagery equipment and sensors. Other courses examine different types of weather specific to certain geographical areas, like tropical zones.

In addition to coursework, you'll probably need to take part in research projects; you might study ocean modeling or pollution patterns. Teaching an undergraduate class or two, writing a thesis and passing comprehensive examinations are also typical graduation requirements.

Online Course Info

Master's degree programs and courses in meteorology are not currently available online. At this level, hands-on research and teaching requirements as well as close collaboration with faculty advisors makes on-campus learning preferable.

Stand Out with This Degree

As is true at the undergraduate level, tailor your elective choices to your specialization interests and career goals. You'll also want to align your thesis topic with your interests. Per the BLS, if you're considering a job as a research scientist, computer programming electives could be beneficial so you can learn to write and improve weather forecasting software. Furthermore, take advantage of chances to work directly in the field during semester breaks and the summer.

Popular Schools

Featured Schools

Excelsior College

  • BS in Natural Sciences (Biology)
  • BS in Natural Sciences [Without Concentration]

What is your highest level of education completed?

University of the Incarnate Word