How to Be a Climatologist
Unlike meteorologists, who study weather in the short term, climatologists study long-term climate trends. Climatologists analyze weather patterns and their causes using data on wind, precipitation, and temperature.Training to become a climatologist involves a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a related field, and numerous internships and fellowships are available to help you make the transition between academic and professional work. Climatologists do important research and consulting in sectors ranging from climate change science and renewable energy to the military and academia.
Preparing in High School
Emphasize math and science in high school.To be well-prepared for university studies in climatology, you’ll need to have a strong background in math and science subjects.In high school, sign up for and do your best to excel in the most advanced courses in chemistry, biology, physics, calculus, geography, and computer science.
Meet with your high school counselor.Counselors are excellent resources to help you decide what to study and what universities to apply to according to your interests. Set up a meeting to discuss a plan of study with your assigned counselor. Discuss how best to prepare for the rigorous math and science demands of climatology coursework at the university level.
- For example, ask your counselor something like, “To be accepted to a climatology program, how much math, science, and computing coursework do I need?”
Take part in extracurricular groups.Look into after-school clubs and organizations that focus on science, math, and computing activities. In addition to improving your chances for college acceptance, taking part in these groups can expose you to ways in which your studies can be used outside the classroom.
- Ask your counselor about joining a local club sponsored by 4-H,which is an organization that provides after-school professional development programs to middle- and high-school students.
Choosing a University
Consider possible career paths.Before choosing a course of study, think about what type of job you would like to have. Much climatology work done today focuses on climate change science, and involves developing models to predict future climate trends.
- One area of specialization, paleoclimatology, studies how climates have changed over time, which helps us to better understand current climate trends.
- If you’d prefer to do research, plan to stay in school long enough to get a doctorate.
Select a course of study.Courses related to climatology are offered through a variety of academic departments. Most of these fall under the heading of the atmospheric sciences, of which climatology is a branch.
- University academic departments that offer studies in climatology-related subjects include departments of Earth System Science,Environmental Science,Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences,and Meteorology and Atmospheric Science.
- Other areas of study that can prepare you for work as a climatologist include physics, geology, chemistry,computer science, and geography.
Match departments with careers.Before you choose a school, it will be necessary to find a course of study that can train you for the field you want to work in. Call academic departments to ask whether the coursework offered through their majors is meant to train students for particular types of work.
Choose a school.When deciding where to pursue studies in atmospheric science, take into account the department’s reputation,and whether it offers courses related to the branch of climatology you’d like to work in. On the department’s website, look for information on internships as well, since this will be an important part of your professional development.
- Use the following resources to search for an academic department in the atmospheric sciences: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Hurricane Library,and the American Meteorological Society's Colleges and Universities Index.
- To get a sense of a department’s strengths and emphases, call the department to ask about where recent graduates have found work.
Setting a Career Course
Talk regularly with an academic advisor.Once you enroll at a university, get in touch with the department that offers the climatology-related major you intend to pursue. Ask to speak with the department’s undergraduate advisor, who should be able to help you arrange the first quarter’s or semester’s coursework in line with your career interests.
- As you progress in your studies, your professional interests may change. Meet with your advisor at least before each registration period to discuss adapting your coursework to other careers.
Apply for an internship.It's never too early to start looking for an internship once you've begun your university studies. Be sure to ask your academic advisor about the internships offered through the department in sectors of professional climatology that interest you.
- Many internships are available through the same government-supported agencies that employ about one-quarter of climatologists nationally, such as NOAA,the EPA, NASA,and NCAR/UCAR.
Apply for fellowships.A fellowship can provide partial or full funding for your undergraduate or graduate studies, offer placement in a government agency, or link up postdoctoral scientists with research positions.Talk to a professor or advisor about how you can take advantage of fellowships to advance your career in the field.
- The EPA offers a range of fellowships that undergraduate, graduate, or post-doctoral job-seekers can take advantage of.
Pursue an advanced degree.Jobs in climatology are more widely available for people with a graduate degree. A master's degree is required for many positions, and a Ph.D. is typically necessary in order to do research.
- Job competition for climatology positions is expected to increase, as graduates will increasingly outnumber job openings. Holding an M.A. or Ph.D. will significantly improve your job prospects.
Navigating the Job Market
Consider government jobs.About one-fourth of atmospheric scientists are employed by government agencies--primarily by the National Weather Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Armed Forces.Many of these jobs involve research, for which you'll need an advanced degree. These agencies offer a number of internships that can give you an employment advantage once you've received your degree.
Look at working in private industry.In the near future, the most jobs in the atmospheric sciences will be offered by private companies.Taking basic courses in business administration and economics can help strengthen your resume for job possibilities in the private sector.
- Companies are hiring climate forecasting and modeling teams to help them prepare for the severe weather that is increasingly disrupting business.
- Also, as utilities companies use more solar and wind power, they are hiring climatologists to help them forecast when they can sell their excess power, and when they'll need to buy power.
Join a professional organization.There are several associations of people working in the atmospheric sciences. These groups mainly promote climate- and weather-related research, and they are also an excellent way to form a professional network with scientists in your field. The more fellow climatologists you know, the more likely you’ll find out about a job possibility through them.
- Consider becoming a member of organizations such as the World Meteorological Organization,the American Meteorological Society,the Royal Meteorological Society,the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society,the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society,and the American Association of State Climatologists.
Be prepared for your interview.Once you’ve been offered an interview for a position, learn as much as you can about the company, organization, or other institution offering the job. Get a good sense of the job duties as well, since you’ll likely be asked about your knowledge of and experience with specific tasks.
- Ask a friend or colleague to help you do a mock interview. Have them ask you questions such as, “Why would you like to work for our company?”, “How did you become interested in climatology?”, and “Explain how your background has prepared you for this job.”
Maintain IT skills.Taking refresher courses to brush up on the computer science skills you learn as an undergraduate can be a valuable asset for your job search. Consider enrolling in the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research program called COMET, which offers students and professionals online courses for keeping up-to-date on the latest technology developments in the atmospheric sciences.
QuestionIs there a university in South Africa that offers climatology?Community AnswerYes, there are 11 universities in South Africa that offer climatology. They are the University of Pretoria, University of Western Cape, University of Zululand, University of Stellenbosch, Walter Sisulu University, University of Johannesburg, University of the Free State, University of Cape Town, University of Limpopo, University of South Africa, and North West University.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I transition to becoming a climatologist after taking geography classes in high school?Community AnswerYou can go to a college/university that offers a climatology program.Thanks!
QuestionHow long will I be at the university?Community AnswerYou spend four years doing regular university studies, and then you will spend 3 more years studying.Thanks!
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What universities in India offer undergraduate climatology courses and what subjects do I need in 11th and 12th CBSE?
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What subjects do I need to study to become a climatologist?
- Good oral and written communication skills are important in most careers, and climatology is no exception. Composition, literature, and communications courses can aid in these skills.
Video: Why study Meteorology & Climatology? We asked Dan Leathers.
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