What is climate science and meteorology?
Climate scientists and meteorologists study the atmosphere and the different processes that occur within it. They use a variety of tools to obtain information that helps forecast the weather and predict long-term climatic changes.
With climate change being one of the primary topics of discussion around the world, the work of climate scientists and meteorologists is more important than ever.
They also play a vital role in predicting the occurrence of extreme weather events - such as hurricanes and extreme drought - helping affected populations to prepare and avoid a natural disaster.
Your educational route to a career in climate science and meteorology
One of the ways to start your career is to study physics. It is recommended to look at the course content at each institution before applying, so that you know whether there are modules offered on the programme that allow you to specialise in climate science and meteorology.
However, studying physics is not the only pathway to a career in the field. You can study a range of other subjects to become an expert in this area, including geography and environmental science. You may also consider enrolling on a field-specific climate science undergraduate course.
Nonetheless, a physics qualification demonstrates your ability to problem-solve and your command of a range of analytical skills.
The mathematical equations you learn and the theoretical knowledge you gain on your physics course are relevant to climate science and meteorology, meaning you will have no problem in fitting in and succeeding at the workplace.
Unlike with other careers linked to physics, you do not necessarily need to do a master’s or a PhD to begin your career in climate science and meteorology.
However, a master’s degree will enable you to specialise in and find out more about a given topic that you are interested in, besides helping you stand out as an applicant when applying for jobs.
Despite not needing to do a PhD to work in the field, you may find yourself doing one if you are interested in doing research and working in academia.
Keep in mind that a degree isn’t the only way to secure a career within the field. Completing an apprenticeship is a great way to gain work experience, receive a qualification and earn money while training. The Met Office and the Environmental Agency are just two organisations who offer apprenticeships.
Where will you work and what will you do?
There are a wide variety of opportunities within climate science and meteorology, meaning your day-to-day tasks will depend on what kind of role you end up pursuing.
The most conventional pathway is to work at a university, research organisation or government department.
Universities and research organisations do a lot of work that involves finding out about past climates and how they have changed over time.
Depending on what aspect of climate science your work concentrates on, you may carry out a range of tasks in the field, including monitoring how the levels of seas and lakes change, as well as collecting climate data at weather observation points and centres – perfect if you want something more than a traditional 9-to-5 office job and are keen on working outdoors.
As a scientist working in the area of climate science and meteorology, you analyse the data collected and create models to recognise climatic trends that help explain how weather patterns may change in the future. A background in physics gives you a strong foundation to carry out these responsibilities.
If you end up working for a government organisation or department - in addition to choosing a career in policy - you will use the research conducted by scientists to give advice to policy makers.
As a climate science specialist, you are also in a good position to have a career in consulting, where you advise businesses, governments and organisations on how to adapt to climatic changes.
Whether you end up becoming a researcher or taking on an advisory position, the role of climate scientists and meteorologists in modern society is more important than ever as we aim to tackle and adapt to climate change.