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What's the best path towards a weather degree?

(We got this E-mail today and it's perfect for this board)

Our 18 year old son would like to become a meteorologist. We are looking for recommendations of courses he should take at the local community college and then to a university. Of course, money is an issue – he will need school loans and, hopefully, scholarships. We don’t qualify for grants as we make too much money but we have 4 boys to put through college. Your thoughts and ideas would be a great help to us.
The Military Route -- I will add that the military is a good way to get your weather education paid for. There are two paths you can take: enlisted or officer. Both have distinct pluses and minuses.

Go to the Air Force recruiter and schedule your ASVAB test. Meteorology has one of the highest ASVAB requirements in the military, but if you can get past the 1000s on your SATs you'll likely have no trouble at all. You apply for a reserved job in meteorology, which is not a problem since there is an chronic shortage. In the months before Basic Training, get all the references you can attesting to your weather experience. Then at Basic Training, hand those over on the day that you go to personnel assignments. You'll likely be confirmed in that career field within a couple of weeks. For the rest of your military experience you'll accumulate solid weather experience, but don't neglect your degree. You'll get college benefits that pay a huge chunk of your tuition (most notably the optional Montgomery G.I. Bill, which you want), plus free CLEP. Also I should add that the Navy also has meteorologists, though many may find the ship duty and lifestyle to be less desirable.
Positives: More hands-on forecasting than you can shake a stick at; all your observer and forecast training gives you about 2 years of accredited coursework.
Negatives: Lower pay.

If you do phenomenally in high school, you can probably head right to the Air Force Academy. But most likely, if you have good high school grades, you'll sign up with Air Force ROTC (Reserve Officer's Training Corps). The military pays your tuition and room & board. You stay in a dorm at that college with other ROTC cadets, and participate in whatever activities they have going on. Once you graduate, you go to Officer's Training School for a couple of months and begin your military career. Once you graduate, you are a fresh young lieutenant. From there, with a meteorology degree, you'll most likely begin working as a staff weather officer at a weather station. At least when I was in during the 1990s, officers were more wrapped up with custom assignments and high-profile forecasts rather than day-to-day forecasting, and they also did a fair share of paper-pushing. After about ten years of service, you'll likely get commands and be more of a management personality. That might be a plus for some, a minus for others. But officers are well-paid and get good retirement benefits.
Positives: Higher pay, and college almost completely paid for.
Negatives: Lots of paper-pushing, more stress, possibility your management skills may land you non-meteorological jobs.

Pay for a typical person with 7 years in doing forecasting work, married and drawing BAQ (living on-base reduces this), before taxes, works out to about $35,000 for an enlisted and $60,000 for an officer.

I may not be 100% accurate on the info, since it's been awhile. Hopefully others will fill this in.

Tim Vasquez
Originally posted by mikegeukes
Computer Science Courses, example FORTRAN, C languages, UNIX, etc

In this day and age, I'd start straight away with C++. This is the standard programming language and method (object oriented) out there today (for example, development folks at NSSL and NWSHQ are using C++ in many applications). Your programming paradigm should begin with object-oriented design.
Also I should add that the Navy also has meteorologists, though many may find the ship duty and lifestyle to be less desirable.

The third alternative is the Marine Corps. The overall ups and downs will pretty much parallel the Navy's, but you have a better chance for inland overseas deployment's.

Another big downside for severe convective weather enthusiasts/chasers who take the Navy or Marine Corps path is the lack of active duty bases that are not near the coasts. While this bodes well for anyone who would like a good in-depth experience in working tropical and midlatitude oceanic regimes, the AF would be a better choice in getting experience in forecasting severe convective storms.


Your programming paradigm should begin with object-oriented design.


The CS course required at OU for meteorologists is a breeze, and it's taught in C. It's a good class for those who have NEVER programmed before because it introduces the basic concept of programming. However, it is non-object oriented.

I went on to take the object-oriented introductory class, and the whole idea of it is a lot different than just basic programming. The class was tough since I'm not one of those people who has been programming since I was 7 or anything like that, but once I finished it, I thought that it would be a very useful tool for all meteorology majors to know how to do object-oriented programming.
One thing to remember about the military if you're considering getting a meteorological education through the military: if you have (or have had) any sort of health issue that requires medicinal treatment , or you've been in trouble with the law any, don't plan on qualifying for military service. I looked into the Air Force when I was in high school (mainly because my grandfather was a Colonel) and hit a brick wall over a really minor medical issue I had several years prior. It was kinda disappointing at the time (though it all worked out for the best because I love OU).
As mentioned before, this is a VERY math intensive degree, at least when attending a bonafide program such as that offered at OU. Most universities make their transfer equivalencies available on the Web so you can investigate that to see what classes, if any, will transfer to your eventual destination. High school credits such as those earned from AP or CLEP exams can also help if money is an issue, as they can take out some of your freshman classes (i.e. the crap like English and Political Science which are not of ANY value whatsoever in my opinion, but just another way for the school to suck money from those of us who actually have a degree in mind). Most important is a positive attitude. I just completed what is widely regarded as the hardest semester in my undergraduate program, and i about flipped ---- when i made a 69 on my first Measurements test. I ended up with an A in the class though.

The private sector, in general, focuses on creating value for its clients. Communication skills, written and oral, are extremely important. This applies whether wanting to work in television, forecasting, air pollution or any of the other aspects of private sector meteorology.

If you are interested in forecasting or television, it is not necessary to receive a math intensive degree (although mathematics is valuable as a methodology for problem solving). Anything beyond basic calculus will rarely, if ever, be used in your day-to-day work.

We look for bright, motivated people who get their professional satisfaction from pleasing customers and getting things right.
or you've been in trouble with the law any

Actually, it depends on the nature and circumstance of the conviction. If you have a high enough AFQT and GT score to qualify for an MOS like weather and you tell the truth about any criminal acts in your past, a waiver can be obtained.

The important thing is not to lie about any previous convictions. Not only will you be denied entry, you may be charged with purgery (and false enlistment if the convictions are discovered after you enlist; it does happen, saw it firsthand at P.I.)


I stand corrected when it comes to the military and the law.

In response to what Michael said, he is right; you have to have a positive attitude and believe in yourself, especially in programs with low retention rates due to the difficult coursework. I don't know about other schools, but I think part of the reason that a lot of people quit before they get to their upper division courses is because they hear about the difficulty, get intimidated, and give up. I know some very intelligent, hard-working people who gave up earlier than they probably should have for this reason.

There is a difference, though, between coming in confident and coming in arrogant. I see a lot of people (many times those with some sort of chaser or weather-related experience) who automatically think that they are going to be at the cream of the crop and the best at everything. Then, when they see that their classmates (who may not necessarily be the most experienced with whatever) do just as well or better in classes, it can be a rude awakening for some. It's best to be positive about yourself, but at the same time humble, because you can learn a whole lot more that way.
math, students evening parties, integrals, beer...

Hi all,

I was VERY excited when I started my university education. I like the weather since a small boy.

The problems started at the first month of my university education - the math was hard for me. My high school education is in fine arts and we were painting all day so my math skills was pretty bad:( Well.... I started to study hard the math and the physics so with tons of work I became better. I found tutors and they helped me a lot! This worked best for me. The exam for Vector Calculus is the hardest exam in the entire four years education cuz the teacher is very strict. I read 3 months about tensors equations, Levi Chevita, nablas, integration and differentiation of vector and tensor fields, Stokes, Gauss, Green...etc... and finaly I took this exam from the first time while many other students are not taken it or this is the only exam which have to take to finish them Bachelaor (vector calculus is in the 3-rd semester). My colleagues told me that I'm *genius* when they found that I'm passed this exam. Well I'm not genius. Many times I thought to stop my education but the passion about the weather drove me to continue.

About the coding - c++/fortran/unix can be useful for solving of problems related to the meteorology. The weather is tight connected with the computers.

Tim, I am also looking into becoming a meteorologist this coming fall. I have enrolled in Iowa State University for my college. The best way I think to decide on which courses to take would be to look at the college he is planning on attending for his meteorology courses. The best plan would be to get his English/Math/Science core classes that he needs to have done before earning a degree at the university of his choice. Usually from what I have seen, he will have to take 2 semesters of English, a speech class (or something close to that.) If he is ready to take Calc then he can go straight into Calc I, and will have to go all the way to Calc III. If he isn't ready for Calc then he will probably have to take some lower math courses in order to be ready for Calc. Physics, he will have too have two semesters of that most likely, as well as another couple semesters of science, such as an chemistry. Every college has different graduation requirements that you are going to want to look into before deciding.

What university is he looking at to recieve his degree from??
Hope this helped a bit ;)
i plan to enroll at ou in meteorology when i graduate next year and i'm horrible in math but i love the weather so i'm going to have alot of hard work and im going to have to find a tutor lol
Is it feasible to attempt to transfer from one university (University of Hawaii at Manoa) to OU to study meteorology, especially since OU has a better program? Or should I just wait for Grad school?

Is it feasible to attempt to transfer from one university (University of Hawaii at Manoa) to OU to study meteorology, especially since OU has a better program? Or should I just wait for Grad school?


While I'd certainly praise going to OU, you want to be very careful if you consider a transfer before getting the B.S. degree. A lot of things can with credits in transfer that are obviously avoided if you complete an undergraduate degree first. If you visit, you might want to make an appointment to discuss such issues with an academic counselor in the College of Geosciences office to make sure there won't be issues that cause you to spend much more time finishing than you otherwise thought.