How Do I Become a Climate Scientist?

K. Kinsella

A Climate scientist or climatologist studies long-term atmospheric changes and weather. Someone wishing to become a climate scientist must complete an undergraduate science related degree program and in some cases, completion of an advanced degree may also be necessary. Additionally, people employed in this field may have to complete courses that are offered by industry associations or government-backed entities.

Tropical storm viewed from space.
Tropical storm viewed from space.

Many employers prefer applicants for climatology roles to have studied meteorology, atmospheric sciences or related topics while in college although some entities accept applications from students whose main topic of study was another branch of mathematics or science. To be accepted into one of these undergraduate programs, someone wishing to become a climate scientist must typically achieve above average scores in subjects such as physics, chemistry and mathematics while at high school. People involved in this field generate weather maps and create forecasts with computer software in which case someone wishing to become a climate scientist may benefit from taking a college level class in computer science or technology.

Some climate scientists research the causes and impacts of drought.
Some climate scientists research the causes and impacts of drought.

Government entities and educational establishments employ large numbers of climatologists and these individuals are responsible for studying climate change and weather systems that could impact crops, coastal communities and other industries and communities over the course of time. Many employers prefer to hire individuals who have completed Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or doctorate programs to fill these research roles. While some employers accept applicants who have completed PhD programs in meteorology, others seek out applicants whose postgraduate course concerned a particular component of the science such as hydrometeorology or oceanography. In some instances, a college graduate may be able to work as an assistant climate scientist while studying for a doctorate degree.

Professional meteorology associations exist in many countries and these entities run courses and certification programs that are designed to equip people to work in this field. In many instances, someone wishing to become a climate scientist must gain some on-the-job experience in the meteorology field before enrolling in one of these sessions. Additionally, many certification courses are reserved for those who have completed postgraduate degree programs in climatology or a related topic. Having completed the certification process, an individual may have to periodically attend continuing education classes in order for the certificate to remain active.

Prior to completing college, some students take part in internship programs during which they are able to shadow professionals who work in this field. Typically, interns are unpaid; these sessions usually coincide with breaks between academic semesters. In many instances, students who perform well as interns are given conditional job offers that are contingent upon these individuals completing their college degrees.

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