One of the most frequent questions I am asked is, “Where should my high school student go to college? He/she is interested in weather.”
That question is often followed by “Which is the best school?”
Unfortunately, there is no one “correct” answer. It depends on the student’s interest and career goals.
First, some background. Meteorology seems to be a field where it is either feast or famine with regard to job openings. Throughout the ‘90’s there were more jobs than graduating students. Now, it is the opposite. There are jobs, but they are much less plentiful than they were ten years ago. I suspect that, in about five years, demand will pick up as the hiring bulge the National Weather Service experienced in the 1970’s (when I was graduating from college) becomes retirees. So, if your student is still in high school, there should be a reasonable number of jobs.
However, it is always good to have a minor: Communications (essential for work in private sector meteorology), computer science, or business are appropriate complementary skills.
The next question I ask is, “What do students think they want to do when they graduate?” Here are possible answers:
· Forecasting (Military, NWS, or private sector)
· Research (requires a PhD)
· Technology development
Note: There is, to my knowledge, no such thing as a full time job in storm chasing.
The traditional bachelor of science in meteorology requires several courses with calculus. This is the type of program at the University of Oklahoma, Florida State, Penn State, etc.
I am not a math “natural” and managed to get through it, but it took work. That math is useful, but not necessary to be a good forecaster.
If the student is confident he or she doesn’t want to have a research career or get an advanced degree in geoscience, much less math is required with the programs at Valparasio, South Alabama, DuPage, or Mississippi State (to give four examples). These are fine programs (South Alabama is especially good for private sector meteorology) but are not geared to research.
Finally, there is some truth to the value of going to a school that experiences the type of weather the student is most interested in. If, for example, you want to be a hurricane forecaster, Florida State or South Alabama are good choices.