What to Expect
Weather, warm fronts, climate changes, thunderstorms and cumulus clouds
are just a few of the things atmospheric science students study.
Atmospheric science students have a range of options when it comes to
choosing their path of study.
Undergraduate student Ava Dinges decided to pursue atmospheric science
at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, because the
program is small.
"Having the same classes with small groups of people allows everyone in
the major to become really close. We support each other through our difficult
courses," says Dinges.
"I had never really liked working in groups before I got to college. But
I have learned the benefits of collaboration, especially when it comes to
studying for exams."
Atmospheric science draws from many different subjects, including math,
physics, chemistry, statistics and analytical classes. Graduate students
come from a variety of undergraduate programs.
"The first few years involve a taste of everything, and once you get into
the upper years, you start to focus heavily on atmospheric science," says
Derek Gagnon. Gagnon is an undergraduate student, with a double major in atmospheric
science and astronomy.
Typically, students spend about 35 to 40 hours a week on their studies,
which includes lectures, classes, projects and labs.
But Dinges recommends balancing studies with other activities like intramural
sports, part-time work and socializing with friends.
"You really can have it all if you manage your time well, but you have
to love what you're studying," she says. "If not, you'll never find the energy
to get everything done."
Students should join atmospheric science organizations or societies during
university. It's a good way to make contacts for jobs or volunteer opportunities.
But it's also useful for keeping up with changes and innovations in the field.
Gagnon is president of his school's Atmospheric Science Club. He organizes
guest speakers in atmospheric sciences and arranges trips to local forecasting
"I find that these things remind us of why we originally enrolled in atmospheric
science," says Gagnon. "Because with the amount of work to do, it's easy to
How to Prepare
If there's one universal truth among atmospheric science students, it's
that math is very important. Taking advanced-level courses like calculus
will help students prepare for college.
Gagnon has one simple tip: do your homework, no matter what the subject!
"Homework questions can be simple or hard," says Gagnon. "But the most
important thing to get out of homework is the ability to think and be able
to apply knowledge in new situations."
Ken Harmon is an undergraduate student in atmospheric science at Creighton
University in Omaha, Nebraska. He recommends finding work or volunteering
in the field before entering college.
"For whatever career I choose, some kind of internship, whether paid or
unpaid, would come in very handy," says Harmon. "These opportunities are
generally few and far between, so I wish that I had gotten started on them
sooner rather than later."
Look into opportunities for job shadowing, interning or volunteering at
local universities or weather stations.
High school students should use their free time to explore atmospheric
science. Participate in science fairs, keep a weather journal, read science
magazines and join meteorology clubs.