Meteorologists study the earth's atmosphere, climate and weather systems. They interpret data collected by satellite, radar, and remote sensors on aircraft, ships and weather stations all over the world to make short- and long-term forecasts. The data is analysed using complex mathematical and computer models, and reports are produced for a variety of customers including the armed forces, the media, and industries such as agriculture, aviation, sea transport, communications and the oil industry.
There are many areas of specialism in meteorology, but the work can be separated into two main types:
Forecasting – taking variables such as air pressure, wind, temperature and humidity at various atmospheric levels, and applying principles of physics and mathematics to make predictions.
Research – this may include examining the causes and effects of weather patterns and global climate change, the development of instruments and theoretical and computer models to gather and interpret atmospheric data, and study transport and effects of pollutants.
Meteorologists may be consulted in the planning stages of projects such as the siting of rigs in the offshore oil industry, or in certain structural engineering schemes where their expertise is critical. They write technical reports and make presentations to other professionals engaged in the project, highlighting any potential problems and recommending appropriate action.
All work involves extensive use of computers and specialist software. Those in senior positions may have some managerial responsibilities.
Those engaged in research typically work 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday with occasional extra hours, while forecast work could involve rotating shifts to provide continuous cover.
Work is mainly office-based and involves use of technical equipment and computers, although some postings to isolated or remote areas may mean more basic conditions. There may be occasional travel to attend conferences, sometimes overseas, and some employers will post staff to different locations around the world.
To be a meteorologist you should:
The majority of Britain's meteorologists work for the Met Office at its headquarters in Exeter or one of 80 branch offices in the UK and abroad. Staff employed in the Mobile Met Unit are attached to the Royal Air Force and may be deployed around the world on military exercises and operations.
Other employers include the Natural Environment Research Council's oceanographic and hydrological institutes, the British Antarctic Survey, agricultural and fisheries institutes, and various United Nations technical aid programmes. Service industries supplying gas, electricity, oil and water employ small numbers of meteorologists, as do environmental consultancies, instrument manufacturers and broadcasters. Universities offer some positions in teaching and research.
Promotion is based on competence, and in some organisations may involve relocating. Employers such as the Met Office provide opportunities to work in roles varying from research, forecasting and teaching, to management, personnel and commercial posts.
Meteorologists are unlikely to be self-employed or engaged in freelance work, although this happens very occasionally at senior levels.
If you would like to know anything about Meteorologist that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.
The Royal Meteorological Society
104 Oxford Road
Institute of Physics
76 Portland Place