How to Become a Climate Scientist

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Scientists who study the climate are called atmospheric scientists. They look at the physical characteristics of the atmosphere to forecast the weather. Atmospheric scientists identify climate trends and weather, and apply what they learn to such areas as agriculture and defense. In addition, atmospheric scientists use their expertise to help solve problems like air pollution, ozone layer depletion and global warming.

Visit your high school guidance counselor in your freshman year to find out your options for a rigorous course of studies. Take algebra and geometry early in your high school career, and enroll in advanced math courses like algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus to prepare for a college-level curriculum. Take science courses like biology, chemistry and physics, as well as earth and space science. Use remaining credits in high school to take courses like advanced chemistry and physics. Honor classes and advanced placement courses give you an advantage in college admission and prepare you for college-level work.

Find a four-year college or university, such as Valparaiso University in Indiana, with an undergraduate program in atmospheric science leading to bachelor’s degree in meteorology or a related field. Look at the facilities at the weather center of the college or university when making your selection. Some college weather centers have instrument towers, Doppler radar, observation decks and launch areas for weather balloon launches.

Take courses that provide to a strong background in atmospheric science. Investigate the course of studies that will lead to a degree. At the minimum, you will need 24 hours of meteorology or atmospheric science courses. Be sure to take six hours of atmospheric dynamics, three hours of physical meteorology and two hours of instrumentation. You will also need three hours of differential equations, six hours of physics and nine hours of courses relating to a major in physical science such as oceanography and hydrology. Computer science courses are also helpful.

Gain hands-on experience by participating in activities including internships that provide an understanding of weather. Students may find learning experiences at the local National Weather Association chapter, the Skywarn program of the National Weather Service, and the FAA.


The American Meteorological Society offers certification for climate scientists.

Consider an undergraduate degree in math, physics or engineering to prepare for graduate study.

A college located in a geographic area with varied weather can be an advantage.


Make sure the courses the National Weather Service requires are offered by the college you are considering.