MSU Geosciences/Met. reception

Discussion in 'Introductory weather & chasing' started by J Daugherty, Apr 3, 2017.

  1. J Daugherty

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    Curious what the current professional feeling is towards Mississippi State's online Geosciences/meteorology program. I am considering pursuing the program. I have already gone to the effort to be admitted. I also have other non-meteorology options I am weighing. I am a degreed professional with a job in my field. I am very interested in the subject, have been for a long time, and see this as a way a 9-5 stiff could learn about the field while keeping my current job and location. Part of the reason I am going back to school is to challenge myself at this juncture, and I might pursue something interesting regardless of prospects, Weather I find very interesting. But at least one thing I am considering is whether each program I am looking at provides a potential career Plan B. Would this degree provide a legit career foothold if I wanted a change.

    In terms of where I want to head, I wouldn't mind being a traditional meteorologist, or some sort of similar analyst. I am willing to, whether through MSU or otherwise, take any science/math classes left out of MSU's class structure. I'm not sure I want to be on TV or if it suits my skills. So at this time do traditional meteorologist employers (NWS etc) employ MSU grads, or is it more of a broadcaster thing? [If it's a broadcaster thing, I don't have much of a journalism background (one semester on the school paper) nor is it probably suited to me.] Do meteorology grad schools accept MSU grads? Would taking MSU's MS degree at the end help, or is that just more down the same street with the same limits? Would a MS elsewhere help? Would anyone hire a MSU grad with advanced degrees beyond that to be an academic teaching the subject?

    Also, having already worked my way up through the "apprentice" type levels of my current profession, what type of work does a BS and/or MS grad typically get, what hours, what locations? Is it something where I'd likely end up night shift in Billings for modest salary, or can a good student with good grades get a job that pays pretty well in a big city? I don't mind working hard to break in but I already have a big city job that ays me x and am trying to get a sense of where I might stand if I pursued this and stepped out into this field's job market, and with a MSU degree.

    I kind of see myself as a life long learner. I might do it even if the prospects aren't great just to be learning about the weather. But to the extent career ends up a consideration, I wondered what y'all think.
     
  2. J Daugherty

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    Boiling down the wall of text, all I would like to know is a general idea how Mississippi State University's Geosciences/Meteorology degree is received by the industry, employers, and graduate school met programs; and whether it is really for broadcast journalists and not people interested in other parts of the industry. I have seen some older threads on these issues but I wondered what the current situation is.

    The rest is just my background in case people wanted some context.
     
  3. Sam Luthi

    Sam Luthi Noob

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    Just to preface my response: If anyone has more specific information than myself, or if I say something incorrect, please correct me.

    J, I'm currently a sophomore in meteorology at Iowa State, and feel that I should offer my perspective as a current student. So far I've completed Calc I, II, and III, along with Ordinary Diff Eqs, as well as Calc-Based Physics I and II. I'm currently in the first math/physics-heavy meteorology course offered (301).

    After gleaning through the MSU Geoscience Distance Learning Program (that's the one you want, correct?), I am pretty convinced that the program is mainly for broadcast journalists. Just looking at the degree requirements, I can't really get a good idea of how math/physics-based the meteorology coursework is, nor do I know how it will be presented/explained virtually. Because of this I'm not going to make any assumptions about the quality of education you'll receive in this program.

    However, I have had some experiences in the ISU program that lead me to believe that an online MSU degree would not be satisfactory for positions at the National Weather Service. So far I've been to 2 or 3 presentations given by NWS employees at the Des Moines office who have made a few points crystal clear:
    • The first point is that getting a position at the NWS is pretty difficult. An MS is almost a requirement, and previous experience is preferred. The pool of applicants is pretty large, and they have limited positions. I think 300 applicants for 10 open positions was a rough figure stated.
    • I have little doubt in saying that having a deep mathematical and physics-based understanding of meteorological processes is absolutely a requirement for an NWS position. Just based on my research for the Broadcast/Online program at MSU, I don't think you will receive the necessary in-depth knowledge that you would need.
    My second experience comes from a broadcast meteorologist at one of the Des Moines stations (can't remember which station and will not disclose which meteorologist). Based on his/her presentation, the MSU Broadcast program is for students that aren't so good at the math and physics part of meteorology. Since meteorology is just applied physics, this would lead me to believe that students without a solid foundation in these areas lack a thorough understanding of what's actually happening (or perhaps not as thorough an understanding as someone with that foundation).

    Just based on your first post, I'm assuming that the major problem for you is the fact that you already have a job, and can't really just drop what you're doing for four years to go to an out-of-state school. I don't know how to remedy that problem. That sounds like something you'll have to figure out.

    I would really appreciate if someone could check me on this. Not an area of expertise, and should definitely be corrected if need be.
    On the point of salaries and job prospects. From what I've heard, you have quite a few options. Aviation, agricultural, you name it. I've talked to people who have worked at Rockwell Collins who now do aviation stuff in Chicago. I don't think I ever realized how many industries really depend on meteorologists. Pay is variable, with beginning broadcasters earning next to nothing, up to $50k starting I believe. I would not recommend quoting me on this.

    However, and take this from a guy who struggled heavily with math in high school, all of the math and physics you go through is worth it, once you get to the "real" classes. It's like getting to peak behind the curtain and see what's actually happening in the atmosphere. It's incredible, and mesmerizing, and at times, absolutely insane, and it feels like class is never long enough to know what I want to know. The physics equations you derive and use are more descriptive than any language besides math could be. And it's really crazy to know I've just barely scratched the surface. If you find out a way to go to a 4-year university (which may or may not be possible given whatever circumstances you have), it really is a field of unending amazement (and frustration).

    I guess what it really comes down to is your current situation. I wouldn't recommend ditching a good job to pursue something you might not end up enjoying, but I also wouldn't recommend aborting the whole idea. If I had to recommend something right now, I'd recommend grabbing Tim Vasquez's books. They're fantastic and pretty easy to understand (I was a freshmen in high school when I started them, and they made sense). See if you like what you're reading, and go from there. But really think it through and don't be afraid to ask any questions.

    I'm done for now (embarrassed that I've practically written a book), but would appreciate if someone could check me on this information to see if I've made any mistakes.

    Best of luck to you J!

    Respectfully,
    Sam Luthi
     
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  4. Randy Jennings

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    You might find the info in the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook helpful - https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physic...heric-scientists-including-meteorologists.htm . Make sure you click on the pay tab. Take it with a grain of salt. I have heard lots of knowledgeable folks say the stats are overstated.

    You might also find this page at AMS helpful (it includes a link NWS minimum requirements): https://www.ametsoc.org/ams/index.cfm/education-careers/career-guides-tools/

    There was a June 1996 BMAS article "Are We Graduating Too Many Atmospheric Scientists?" written by Cliff Mass that you should read: http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/1520-0477(1996)077<1255:EA>2.0.CO;2

    A follow-up was done by in the June 2008 BAMS by John Knox: http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/2008BAMS2375.1 . There is a slide deck Knox did on that at: https://www.ucar.edu/governance/meetings/oct08/followup/head_and_chairs/john_knox.pdf

    Spoiler alert: Knox says the supply of new grads outpaced the demand by 4x. He also said the 2006 entry level salary in Meteorology was $35k.

    It is important to note that Knox's report is now almost a decade old. Maybe someone else has newer info. Having said that there is value in doing something you love that can't be measured in money.
     
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  5. Alex Elmore

    Alex Elmore Member

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    I received my MS in geoscience (professional meteorology) at MSU this past spring, so hopefully I can give you a good answer.

    I earned a BS in meteorology from Saint Louis University and am currently back there working on my PhD in meteorology. Why did I choose MSU for my MS? It was one of the only programs where I was accepted and it worked out for me to attend. As with any program, there are pros and cons. They do tend to be on the lighter side in terms of requirements and classes offered across all degree levels when compared to other programs. When it came time to apply to programs for my PhD, I did not strongly consider MSU, mostly because there were not many more meteorological-based classes I could take over the next 3 years and I wanted to really strengthen my meteorological knowledge. It was noted by another program that I had applied to for my PhD that there were some key classes they felt I should have already taken as a MS student, but hadn't. Thus, I would have to spend time catching up. I came close, but was not accepted into this program, and I have no idea if that was the reason or not. However, it worked out that I could come back to SLU.

    It really comes down to what you want to do with your degree and how much effort you want to/can put in. To get a BS at MSU, you could do the bare minimum in terms of classes. This is mostly the students who struggle with the math and physics. This type of approach would be ok if you're looking to be a broadcaster or maybe an entry level forecaster-type in the private sector.

    However, if you want to go on for a graduate degree or work for NOAA or the NWS, you need to make sure not to skimp out on the math and physics. I honestly can't say much in terms of what the online degree offers and how it is received in the community, but I feel if you want to pursue the two latter lines of work I mentioned, it's probably best you physically attend the program, regardless of where.

    Bottom line, it's what you want to put into it. MSU is regarded as a broadcast program, but all of the professors do credible work in both operations and research. They have students graduate and go off into many different areas, such as the NWS, research, teaching, etc., but a majority do become broadcasters. Those who prefer the operational and research side of meteorology earn a BS/MS in professional meteorology, and those that want to be broadcasters earn a BS/MS in broadcast meteorology. Both paths have different course requirements.

    While it maybe hard to narrow down now, I would try sooner than later to figure out what you would like to do with your degree. Meteorology degrees at any university are not one size fits all. At some point, you begin tailoring the classes you're taking to where you want to go with your degree. I'm sure there are some sources out there that offer more detail, but here are some links that may direct you down the right path:

    AMS Professional Certification Programs: https://www.ametsoc.org/ams/index.cfm/education-careers/ams-professional-certification-programs/

    NWA Broadcaster's Seal of Approval: http://nwas.org/seal-of-approval/

    NWS: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/jetstream/nws/careers.html

    AMS career info: https://www.ametsoc.org/ams/index.c...uides-tools/all-about-careers-in-meteorology/

    Regards,
    Alex
     
  6. J Daugherty

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    thanks for the feedback, i'm still on the fence on what to do but this will help
     
  7. Ken Reynolds

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    Just throwing what I know out there in order to help with your decision. Note, I have not actually been admitted to or attended any classes at MSU. A couple of years ago, I sent an email to the lady who oversees the program, inquiring about whether the online B.S. degree program was NWS-approved. She confirmed that, with a couple of course changes/additions, that the B.S. degree is indeed NWS-approved for an entry-level forecaster position. In looking at the course requirements for the degree, I can only assume that you will be required to take some extra math courses in order to be "NWS Ready", so to speak. Beyond that, I cannot personally speak to the quality of the program itself. Hope this helps!
     
  8. Seth Price

    Seth Price Noob

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    I earned a BS through Mississippi State University's meteorology program.

    While I enjoyed the flexibility of the online courses (I earned part of the degree while working two full-time jobs, 100 miles apart), some of the mathematical depth was not there in the base courses. However, there were some courses that did have the depth (dynamics comes to mind), though they were electives.

    My understanding is that there used to be two tracks at Mississippi State: Operational Meteorology and Broadcast Meteorology, where Operational Meteorology was reserved for military personnel. Eventually, these merged, and while a broadcast meteorologist did not need four semesters of calculus, I know that the NWS requires some.

    In terms of mathematical rigor, I am glad that I already had a BS and MS in engineering. I don't think I would have the same understanding of dynamics and fluids using just the Mississippi State program. Having said that, I can safely say that I've never had to calculate a single derivative or integral while storm chasing.

    At the Albuquerque NWS office, we had one MS State grad, though they also had an master's from another school. I was a student volunteer at that office, but was unable to find NWS employment (even for a summer) given the engineering degrees and the BS from Mississippi State.

    Bottom line: I'm glad I got my degree, for my own storm chasing and edification. I don't know if it alone yields many NWS jobs.

    Hope this helps!
     

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