A meteorologist observes and forecasts the weather.
There is a common misconception that meteorologists are just TV reporters presenting the weather. They are actually highly trained scientific professionals whose responsibilities encompass much more than explaining the weather to the public. For example, they have a crucial role in ensuring the safety of populations in case of weather-related hazards: they work closely with government agencies to track the path of weather systems such as hurricanes, storms, torrential rains, or to monitor a drought. They can help gas, electricity and water suppliers to determine a surge in demand for heating or air conditioning. They also play an important role in the understanding of climate change and the depletion of the ozone layer. Finally, they are used by the armed forces all over the world to provide forecasts before air and naval war operations.
Meteorologists use a vast array of sophisticated instruments to collect and interpret data on air pressure, wind speed, rainfall and temperatures. These include balloons, satellite imagery, radar, remote sensors, rain gauges and thermometers. Meteorologists input the collected numerical data into computer and mathematical models to develop accurate predictions of how weather conditions will develop in the atmosphere.
The Met Office is the largest employer of meteorologists. In addition, a great number of public and private sector companies recruit these scientists: the armed forces, sea and air transport companies, insurance companies, agricultural bodies, utility companies and government services.
Some meteorologists go down the academic route, becoming lecturers and research scientists in universities or government research centres such as the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Environment Agency (EA), the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, the Climatic Research Unit or the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.
At the Met Office, meteorologists start their career with a salary ranging between £21,000 and £27,000 per year.
With experience, meteorologists can expect to earn up to £35,000 per year.
Meteorologists in the most senior and managerial positions get between £38,000 and £60,000 per year.
Typical activities include:
- Collecting quantitative data from satellite images, radar, remote sensors and weather stations
- Observing and predicting short and long-term weather
- Studying the chemical and physical properties of the atmosphere
- Measuring changes in air pressure, temperature and humidity
- Studying the formation of clouds
- Monitoring and advising government on climate change issues
- Preparing and presenting weather forecasts for broadcast media
- Developing computer models to improve the accuracy of forecasts
- Writing scientific reports
- Issuing severe weather warnings
- Planning research trips
- Lecturing students at university
- Undertaking continuing professional development
Meteorologists hold at least an undergraduate degree in meteorology, mathematics, physics, biology, geography, oceanography, engineering or computer science. You can find a list of meteorology degree courses in the UK on MetLink.
If you plan to become an academic researcher, a research degree such as an MSc or a Ph.D. in the relevant subject will be required.
After your studies, you should undertake continuing professional development (CPD) to maintain a high level of knowledge and advance your career. The Met Office College in Exeter and the Flag Officer Sea Training of the Royal Navy run many CPD courses.
- Interest in the environment
- Excellent scientific skills
- Strong IT skills
- Excellent observation and recording skills
- Problem-solving and analytical skills
- Attention to detail
- Good team working skills
- Excellent spoken and written communication skills
At the Met office, hours can be long and unsociable as meteorologists typically work in shifts of 12 hours, and this can include weekend work.
If you are in post with the Royal Navy or Air Force, you must be prepared to travel around the world and work in basic and sometimes dangerous conditions.
If you have a position as an academic researcher, you will normally work normal office hours but may be required to travel to distant and isolated areas for field trips, for example in the Arctic.
Widen your network by becoming a member of the Royal Meteorological Society. This society also gives the possibility to professionals in the field of weather and climate to become accredited. To earn the title of Chartered Meteorologist (CMet), you will need to prove a high level of experience and at least five years of practice.
If you work at the Met Office, you will find it easy to move between functions in the various departments, for example research, engineering, educational work and business.
With experience, you can apply for a managerial position, leading a team of meteorologists and training staff.
If you are a university researcher and have several years of experience, you can become a Ph.D. and postdoctoral supervisor. You can also be involved in the administration of a department of physical sciences.
Dr Bharathi Boppana, 33, works at the Aerodynamics and Flight Mechanics Group of the University of Southampton.
What is your job title?
My job title is Research Fellow in Urban Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). In other words, the research is about understanding the flow of the wind and transport of material (e.g. pollutants) by the flow through and above urban areas, using computations based on the principles of fluid dynamics.
How is your work related to meteorology?
A short answer is that if we understand the atmospheric dynamics on a street scale (between 100 and 200 m) and neighbourhood scale (up to 1 or 2 km), we will be able to provide better parameterisation to city (up to 10 or 20 km) and regional scale (up to 100 or 200 km) in numerical weather prediction models. My research focuses on street and neighbourhood scales.
How long have you been in this particular job and how did you find it?
I have been doing this job for about five years. I found the advertisement on the jobs.ac.uk website.
What was your first job as a meteorologist and how did you end up doing it?
This is my first job as a meteorologist. My first project in this job was to simulate the transport of material (e.g. pollutants) by the flow in urban-like areas and compare the computational results with wind tunnel experiments. As it is extremely challenging to include all the details of a typical urban area in a computational model, we simplified its representation and hence we say ‘urban-like’. The objectives of this project were mainly to validate the computational results with the experiments, and to provide detailed distribution of the pollutant fluxes which otherwise would be challenging to obtain from wind tunnel or field experiments.
During my Ph.D., I gained experience in numerical coding in the subject of fluid dynamics. This background helped me to take up this interesting project.
What academic qualifications do you have?
I have a BE Civil Engineering, an M.Sc. Hydromechanics and Water Resources and a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics.
Do you think that university prepared you for the way the work gets done in the real world?
Yes. Without the knowledge and experience I gained throughout my studies and the support of the professors, lecturers and colleagues, it wouldn’t have been possible for me to do such good research.
What do you do in a typical working day?
A typical working day will be spent on doing numerical simulations on supercomputers, data analysis, discussions with the supervisors and sometimes going through the journal publications to keep up to date in this research area.
What are the most important qualities an applicant must and should possess?
The applicant must be keen on science, maths and/or engineering. Excellent analytical, communication and scientific writing skills will be very useful in career progression and rewarding too.
Do you get to travel a lot for your work, and if yes, which parts of the world have you been to?
I don’t need to travel for my work. However, conferences, meetings and/or workshops happen at least once every year and so far I have attended those that were hosted in Europe.
Do you belong to any professional body, and if yes, what are the benefits?
I am a member of the UK Wind Engineering Society. The benefits are that I get to attend fascinating talks, participate in the conferences, and meet scientists from all over the UK as well as abroad.
What has been your best experience on the job?
Doing research in one of the best aerodynamics group in the UK!
What was the worst experience?
Since the meteorology subject is quite vast, I sometimes get lost with the scientific terminology in the meetings that cover all aspects of the weather and climate research.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of doing this job?
Just go for it, if you are interested in doing science, maths or engineering! There are always new things to learn and attempting to answer every single scientific challenge, however big or small, is a journey in itself. More importantly, this is one way of contributing to the betterment of our society.
If you left this position, what else would you consider or enjoy doing?
If I weren't in this position, I might be doing research elsewhere!
Do you mind us publishing your salary / rate per hour - this is very helpful for job seekers?
I prefer not to, but the starting salary will be £25,000 per year and will increase with experience.