KU Atmospheric Science Program / Meteorology job market

Blake Allen

I was wondering if anyone here has any thoughts on the University of Kansas' atmopheric science program. It seems like I remember seeing that a couple people here are currently students in the program.

I am currently a student at Pittsburg State University, but I have decided that I would like to go into atmospheric science, and I figure my best option (or only option, considering I'd be paying out of state tuition to go to some place like OU) for majoring in meteorology is to eventually transfer to KU. I've got an option of either just taking some more of my basic math / science classes at PSU and then transfering to KU, or going through a 3 year / 2 year coop program PSU has with KU where I would go to PSU for 3 years and then to KU for two years and end up with degrees in atmospheric science and physics. I'm not sure which of those options I would like to go with; I don't know how much value a BS in physics really has, and I imagine it would be easier to just go for the degree in atmospheric science.

Also, for any of you that work as meteorologists, what is the job market like? How hard is it to get a job in the field for someone coming out of college?
If I go ahead and follow this path, I don't want to get out of school with a fairly specialized degree and find there are hardly any jobs in the field...

Thanks for any info,
Blake Allen
That was my fear back in the 1980s, and I realize in hindsight it was kind of foolish. I think that in meteorology if you're talented, ambitious, and keep up with the latest in the field (and maintain good professional/academic contacts!), you'll likely have no problems getting a good job. You may also want to (1) plan to stay in and get your MS, and (2) brace yourself for taking a job someplace in North Dakota or Idaho if you plan to go the NWS track. Others I'm sure should be able to elaborate a little further.

Also if you can cultivate a love of math (or at least a tolerance for it!), you'll have a huge advantage.

You can always get student loans.... what you may not have considered is how a degree looks like paper. I honestly don't know much about KU's program, but I will say that being a recent grad of OU... employers like to hear you got a degree from this university. The work of many of OU's former students has gone a long way in the meteorology community. Do well in the OU undergrad program and have some specific interests and you have pretty much written yourself a ticket to any other college for a MS degree.

On an ironic note, I was thissss close from ending up at U. North Dakota for a MS so Tim speaks the truth ;) As far as the NWS track, being female helps... otherwise somewhere with typically boring weather. Here are the breakdowns of where people in my class (around 35 people) have ended up.

Grad School
NC State: 1
Wisconsin: 1
Iceland: 1
OU: 7
FSU: 2
A couple others I can't think of that the moment...we had one of the highest percentages in recent years of those going on to grad school.. near 40% I think.

WNI Norman: 6~
Couple places in Houston: 3
NWS: At least 3

I am sure there are a few other places, but these are what I can think of off the top of my head. Think of college as an investment. It may cost a bit more $$$ early on, but find a Metr program you feel comfortable at. A big program such as OU, Penn State, TAMU, Wisconsin, etc may not be up your alley, but there are also some pretty good smaller schools such as UND, ISU, etc.

What are your specific interests in meteorology? Find a program to fit your needs. OU is heavy on the theoretical/research oriented aspects of meteorology.

A few comments/suggestions.

Take a look at current open positions, and see what the qualifications are for the types of jobs that you might be interested in. Note the sub-fields that typically have openings - air quality, aviation forecasting, ag and private met companies often have open slots - as the jobs have long hours, shift work and crappy pay. With demonstrated experience, forecasters can make decent money, but it can take 3-5 years. The shift work is unavoidable, and expect to get called in on days when the weather is interesting. If you want to get into research - plan to spend a long while in school - as even an MS doesn't get you many opps in meteorology, and in the long run you'll make less money, so grad school is to have slightly more control over what you get to do work on. Finally, an Atmos. Science degree isn't the same thing as a meteorology degree - so this has some impact if you really want to be a meteorologist.

I agree with the above thoughts also that if you are serious about becoming a met - go to the best schools you can get yourself into to improve your chances of success. If KU is the best you can afford - I honestly think you'd be better off in physics and take the upper level atmos courses on the side. They only have two faculty buried in a larger department, and neither has tenure.


Mike Umscheid graduated from the University of Kansas a couple years ago and is currently a forecaster at NWSFO Dodge City. You might try contacting him for more information. His web site is here. E-mail is [email protected]. Make sure to remove the NOSPAM.

He used to post here on occasion, but not lately.
I just wanted to add that if you have any interest in climate...your ticket could easily be made. There seems to be tons of job oppurtunities out there for this area of interest. It seems like every time I check my email, we have another announcement for some sort of MS/PHD/post doc openings for people interested in climate change.


We have a couple of KU meteorology graduates at WeatherData. I can arrange for you to speak to them and I would be happy share my thoughts off line. You may call me at (316) 265-9127. I will be in tomorrow and Wednesday.


Being a meteorology student at KU I thought I would let you know how I feel about the program. We currently have 85 undergrads this fall which makes us pretty small compared to say OU's program. The advantage to this is that everyone pretty much knows everyone and were a pretty close group. We have good faculty for the most part (5 profs compared to OU's twenty some). This means that there is a lot more one on one learning with the profs. because you get to know them a lot better. I have learned a lot outside the classroom because of this. Also there is talk of reinstating our graduate program in a couple of years.

I was in your position a couple of years ago when trying to pick a school and it came down to OU and KU. The in-state tuition factor came into play and I chose KU. I could not be happier with my decision.

Outside of school it's the perfect location for chasing also. In a few hours you can be in Oklahoma, Nebraska, Missouri or pretty much anywhere else you need to be. You should come to Lawrence and check it out sometime because thats really the only way to find out for sure.

Thanks for the replies...

To address some of my more specific interests in meteorology:
I mostly would like to work in an area like general forecasting (something like what the local NWS offices do), but I wouldn't mind doing some research oriented work. Of course, I don't doubt that my interests may change some as I get deeper into the coursework. I'm interested in various types of weather -- all manner of severe storms, snow (especially convective snow), tropical storms / hurricanes -- generally anything out of the ordinary. Right now I feel like going on to work on an MS would probably be something I'd like to eventually do, but then again, I'm just a freshman right now and its hard to say for sure if I'll still feel like that after a few more years of undergrad work.

I'll have to look deeper into both KU's and OU's programs -- I'd prefer to do my undergrad work at one of those two schools, although I would consider others as well. I figured if I went on for an MS it would be nice to go to OU, but I don't know how difficult it is to get into graduate programs -- and I assume that OU's would be more competative than most in meteorology. Of course, there may be other schools that would be a better fit, too. How much of an impact does the school a person does their undergrad work at have on getting into graduate school?

Finally, I might like the close-knit atmosphere of a smaller program better than a program the size of OU's, but I do worry that KU's program may be a little too small.

Blake Allen

P.S. - In response to what Tim said about math, I can say that right now I definately like math, but I'm just finishing Calculus 1 -- I guess I can just hope I'll feel the same when I'm finishing Differential Equations.
I found this information from the University of South Alabama
web site, does not specify what year the data is from.
Undergraduate Meteorology Majors Count
1. Oklahoma (340)
2. Penn State (277)
3. Florida State (190)
4. Texas A&M (138)
5. Millersville (132)
6. Iowa State (127)
7. Kansas (112)
8. Lyndon State (109)
T-9. South Alabama (101)
T-9. NC State (101)

Meteorology Programs (Undergraduate and Graduate)
Great Plains Region and Surrounding States:

Colorado: Colorado State U, Metropolitan State C, U of Colorado, U of Northern Colorado
Iowa: Iowa State U
Kansas: U of Kansas
Louisiana: U of Louisiana-Monroe
Minnesota: St. Cloud State U
Missouri: Saint Louis U, U of Missouri
Nebraska: Creighton U, U of Nebraska
North Dakota: U of North Dakota
Oklahoma: U of Oklahoma
South Dakota: South Dakota School of Mines & Technology
Texas: Texas A&M U, Texas Tech U
Wyoming: U of Wyoming

Meteorology Programs (Undergraduate and Graduate)
Great Lakes Region:

Illinois: College of Du Page (2yr), Northern Illinois U, U of Illinois, Western Illinois U
Indiana: Ball State U, Indiana U, Purdue U, Valparaiso U
Michigan: Central Michigan U, U of Michigan
Ohio: Ohio State U, Ohio U
Wisconsin: Northland C, U of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, U of Wisconsin

Originally posted by Jeff Lawson

Mike Umscheid graduated from the University of Kansas a couple years ago and is currently a forecaster at NWSFO Dodge City. You might try contacting him for more information. His web site is here. E-mail is [email protected]. Make sure to remove the NOSPAM.

He used to post here on occasion, but not lately.

Yeah, I've purposely been in hibernation mode... gotta take a break from this chasing stuff sometimes!!

I graduated from the KU Atmo program in May '02. It really depends on what you are looking to get out of your education, and what your learning style is. I was a very independent learner when it came to meteorology, and it is a passion of mine. While I learned much at KU, a lot of what I learned of meteorology, the careers, the interaction with the meteorological community through the internet and storm chasing... came from outside of the classroom. It is *very* important to become active in the meteorological community any way you can. It's great to get that piece of paper saying you are a degreed meteorologist, but that alone does not get you a job in a fairly competitive market when there's not a whole lot of openings. I'll tell you one thing, if you have passion for the science and continue to grow and learn beyond the 4 year degree, it will show. This helped me very much in my post-graduation period when searching for a job. But then again, I knew from Day 1 what I wanted to do (NWS), and strived to succeed at everything I could to accomplish that goal.

KU is an intimate program with only a few professors. I basically have a degree in Mr. Hall and Prof Bratten :) As far as the interaction goes at KU, it depends on the class. My class was largely interested in the media side of meteorology, and I was one of only a couple that were interested in a NWS career. Other classes have been different, more NWS oriented or the private sector. If research is your top interest, KU might not be the best school for you... and I would look to a school like OU of course, or UNL, Iowa State, among others that have better research facilities/programs.

That's my two cents. For what I wanted to do with my degree, KU worked out very well for me, plus it was close to home (I grew up in Overland Park), and I loved Jayhawk basketball as a kid, so being a hawk was something I was destined to be anyway ;-)

Best of luck to you!

Mike U
Hey! Nice to see you are considering KU in Lawrence. The program, as Darin said, is close knit. I am in the intro class for meteorology at KU as I am a freshman, the class is ATMO 105, taught by Mr. Hall, who is a very great professor, only one of my teachers for all my classes that knows how to teach!

But I do remember one thing a while back that might dimple this program a little, when I was a student in the 2002-2003 school year as a Business Major, I remember reading an article in the University Daily Kansan about the Atmospheric Science program losing accrediation, you might want to look up more on that before making any decision, but I know now that we do have accrediation back and the program is a + for the University. I do recommend going to KU for atmospheric sciences, the close-knit student body in the program, the quality of the faculty, and the smaller environment is a very good reason to head up to Mount Oread! Hope to see you!
Very important point Ben. Make sure whichever school you go to contains the classes you need. The NWS ****requires*** certain core classes such as dynamics. Make sure the program you go to gets you the hours needed that it allows you to pursue a job in the NWS if that is your goal.

NOAA Meteorologist Requirements (GS-1340)
Basic Requirements:

1. Degree: meteorology, atmospheric science, or other natural science major that included:
1. At least 24 semester (36 quarter) hours of credit in meteorology/atmospheric science including a minimum of:
1. Six semester hours of atmospheric dynamics and thermodynamics;*
2. Six semester hours of analysis and prediction of weather systems (synoptic/mesoscale);
3. Three semester hours of physical meteorology; and
4. Two semester hours of remote sensing of the atmosphere and/or instrumentation.
2. Six semester hours of physics, with at least one course that includes laboratory sessions.*
3. Three semester hours of ordinary differential equations.*
4. At least nine semester hours of course work appropriate for a physical science major in any combination of three or more of the following: physical hydrology, statistics, chemistry, physical oceanography, physical climatology, radiative transfer, aeronomy, advanced thermodynamics, advanced electricity and magnetism, light and optics, and computer science.

*There is a prerequisite or corequisite of calculus for course work in atmospheric dynamics and thermodynamics, physics, and differential equations. Calculus courses must be appropriate for a physical science major.
Originally posted by Aaron Kennedy
I just wanted to add that if you have any interest in climate...your ticket could easily be made. There seems to be tons of job oppurtunities out there for this area of interest. It seems like every time I check my email, we have another announcement for some sort of MS/PHD/post doc openings for people interested in climate change.


My alma mater, Purdue University, is opening a new Global Climate Change Research Center very soon. I'm concerned this new focus on climate change will be to the detriment of the synoptic area of focus, but perhaps not. Something to keep in mind if you're interested in climate.
Originally posted by mikegeukes
Meteorology Programs (Undergraduate and Graduate)
Great Lakes Region:
Indiana: Ball State U, Indiana U, Purdue U, Valparaiso U

Ball State's program recently was overhauled to come up to NWS standards. Indiana does not have a program to my knowledge. I believe they have a geography degree with an emphasis on atmospheric science, but it is nowhere near enough for NWS employment, if I remember correctly.

Purdue is a good program, but I'm biased, of course. ;)
Well, Blake it looks like a big decision lies ahead of you. Before you make that decision you need to factor in a few things.

You need to make sure that meteorology is what you really want to study. I have seen it all to many times when people want to major in storm chasing or being a weatherman on TV and they don't care about other aspects of meteorology. I myself was a little guilty of that my freshman year but then became fascinated with all aspects of this field of study and couldn't be happier. For a lot of people that isn't true though.

Another decision that you of course will have to make is where you want to study. I could sit here all day and try to convince you to come to KU but when it all comes down to it almost any school that you get your degree in will teach you what you need to know. It's your passion to learn that will make you a good meteorologist and not a piece of paper. Theoretically if their was a "best meteorology school in the universe" if you attend this place but don't apply and soak in the things that you learn then it wouldn't mean jack.

Third, for your undergraduate degree. Research should not be a big concern of yours(thats what grad school is for) especially if you are wanting to work for the NWS. Although, their are more undergrad assistantship opportunities at the larger universities if thats what your interested in and as Mike U. said and KU is probably not the place for that. KU has good internship programs with the two NWS offices around Lawrence though and this is great experience and a great way to get your name out there.

When it all comes down to it though you need to visit the places that you are considering and pick the one thats the best fit for you(even if it is out of state). If you pick an environment that you are not comfortable in then it will be even harder for you to succeed in whatever degree you choose to pursue.

I hope this has helped!