Meteorology Advising Guide

Department of Earth Sciences

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What is Meteorology?

Meteorology is the study of atmospheric processes and weather phenomena, which are governed by scientific principles based in mathematics, physics, and chemistry. While meteorology may be most commonly associated with weather prediction and forecasting, the science of meteorology is much broader, including atmospheric research, computer programming, numerical modeling, meteorological instrumentation, broadcasting, climatology, climate change, remote sensing (such as satellite meteorology and radar meteorology), geographic information systems and mapping, and much more.

The USA Meteorology program began in 1991 and is part of the Department of Earth Sciences. Our curriculum provides students with a thorough understanding of the laws of atmospheric behavior and prepares students for employment in a wide variety of areas, including forecasting, research, and broadcast meteorology. All students are exposed to the latest techniques in weather forecasting and atmospheric remote sensing. Class sizes are small, which allows faculty to provide individual attention, and all classes are taught only by the faculty. After their freshman year, students are advised directly by USA Meteorology program faculty as they progress through the meteorology curriculum, and faculty provide guidance on obtaining employment which is available in many areas, as discussed in the Career Opportunities section.

USA Meteorology emphasizes operational meteorology and forecasting and is highly regarded by the National Weather Service and private weather companies for producing exceptional weather forecasters, as well as by the broadcast meteorology field for producing excellent television meteorologists. However, the USA meteorology curriculum also provides students interested in graduate school and research with the necessary foundation to pursue graduate degrees.

Operational meteorologists typically enter careers revolving around some aspect of weather forecasting and analysis, instrumentation, remote sensing, numerical modeling, or mapping. Broadcast meteorologists focus on clearly communicating the weather to the public and include mediums such as TV and radio. Research meteorologists typically pursue Masters and/or Doctoral degrees, with an added emphasis on computer programming skills as well as higher-level mathematics, physics, and chemistry.

 

Career Opportunities in Meteorology

An undergraduate degree in meteorology provides opportunities for numerous career paths. These careers can include work within the government (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Weather Service, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy), private weather services, private and government research centers, teaching, broadcasting/media, instrumentation, aviation, and many others. Generally speaking, a graduate degree is not a requirement to receive employment in many meteorology fields (although a graduate degree certainly can help in your job pursuit).

A recent study by Georgetown University found that graduates with a major in Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology had the 10th-highest employment rate of any college major at 98 percent.

Job opportunities include the following, among others:

  • Weather forecasting
  • Weather analysis
  • Broadcasting
  • Computer programming
  • Numerical modeling
  • Geographic information systems and mapping
  • Meteorological instrumentation
  • Teaching (note that teaching at the collegiate level requires a graduate-level degree)
  • Research
  • Insurance and reinsurance industries
  • Data analytics
  • Combat weather
  • Aviation meteorology

 

Salary Trends in Meteorology

Recent studies by Georgetown University, and by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, indicate that the median salary for Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology majors with a Bachelor’s degree is near $67,000 per year. Earnings at the 25th percentile are near $42,000. There can be significant variations in starting salary depending on the particular career path one chooses. For example, the starting salary for broadcast meteorologists typically is much lower than for research scientists. However, there usually is the potential for relatively quick salary increases in many Meteorology fields.

The same study by Georgetown University indicated that the percentage boost in career earnings from a graduate degree is only one percent, further emphasizing the fact that a graduate degree often is not required in the field. 

Unlike more vocationally-oriented majors, such as majors in business, engineering, or the health professions, A&S majors tend to study a greater range of topics outside of their immediate major area. This greater breadth provides an interdisciplinary perspective that complements the more linear education in the student’s major area and provides a wider range of areas   As a result, A&S majors are compatible with a wide-range of career options.

 

High School Preparation

Most high school students receive relatively little exposure to atmospheric science and meteorology outside of topics covered in basic geography and climatology courses. If you do not learn much about meteorology in high school, do not be scared of pursuing it in college! You will not be the only one in your class in your position, and you will not be behind!

Even if your school does not offer meteorology or atmospheric science courses, you will find that taking as much math, physics, and chemistry in high school as possible will help you in your pursuit of a Meteorology degree in college. In particular, a strong background in math is most important because the Bachelor of Science in Meteorology requires Calculus I, II, and III (12 total semester hours of calculus), calculus-based statistics, and ordinary differential equations. Computer skills and effective communication skills also are helpful, as are any courses that promote critical thinking, independent analysis, and problem solving.

 

How to Major in Meteorology

At USA, students will take a minimum of 47 semester hours in meteorology. All students must take a total of 32 semester hours of core meteorology courses – MET 140/140L, MET 341, MET 353, MET 354, MET 355, MET 356, MET 454, and MET 455. In addition to the 32 core meteorology credits, students must pick a track/concentration with an additional 15 semester hours. The track does not have to be picked upon arrival at USA. Students are encouraged to choose which track they would like to pursue by fall of their sophomore years so that the meteorology faculty advisors can begin to build the courses specific to the chosen track into individual student course schedules. All students also must take a minimum of 15 credit hours of mathematics at the Calculus I level and higher, 3 credit hours of calculus-based statistics, and 8 credit hours of calculus-based physics. Since Meteorology is a discipline that requires a strong background in mathematics, it is essential that students proceed as quickly as possible into calculus, as calculus represents the foundation for most meteorology and physics courses.

There are no prerequisites to be admitted into the Meteorology program at USA; that is, students do not have to meet a minimum university GPA or have taken a minimum number of credit hours to get into the MET program. Students are welcome to declare their majors in meteorology as early as desired.

A degree in Meteorology with honors also is available both through the USA Honors Program and through the Earth Sciences Department honors program. More information on the Honors Program at USA is available at http://www.southalabama.edu/colleges/honors/. For more information on departmental honors, please contact the Earth Sciences Department chair, Dr. Sytske Kimball, at skimball@southalabama.edu.

All Meteorology majors must declare a minor in another discipline. Most MET majors elect to pursue a Mathematics minor because the amount of math required for the Meteorology major leaves students only one 3-hour 300+ level math course shy of completing the Math minor. However, students also sometimes choose minors in Communications (particularly MET majors following the Broadcast Track), Geography, and Geographic Information Technology; some students also elect a double minor.

The minimum requirements for a B.S. in Meteorology are as follows:

B.S. in Meteorology -- Core Courses

  • MET 140/140L (4 cr.): Introduction to Meteorology and Lab
  • MET 341 (3 cr.): Climatology (W)
  • MET 353 (4 cr.): General Meteorology
  • MET 354 (3 cr.): Dynamic Meteorology I
  • MET 355 (3 cr.): Dynamic Meteorology II
  • MET 356 (3 cr.): Physical Meteorology
  • MET 454 (6 cr.): Synoptic Meteorology I
  • MET 455 (6 cr.): Synoptic Meteorology II

Professional Track – Additional Requirements

  • MET 357 (2 cr.): Meteorological Instrumentation
  • MET 358 (4 cr.): Radar Meteorology

-OR-

MET 370 (3 cr.): Satellite Meteorology

  • MET 420 (4 cr.): Computer Applications in Meteorology

-OR-

            GIT 460 (4 cr.): Introduction to Geographic Information Technology

  • 5-6 additional hours of electives from the list of meteorology electives provided below

Graduate School Track – Additional Requirements

  • MET 420 (4 cr.): Computer Applications in Meteorology
  • MET 358 (4 cr.): Radar Meteorology

-OR-

            MET 370 (3 cr.): Satellite Meteorology

  • 7-8 additional hours of electives from the list of meteorology electives provided below
    • Note that at least one of the electives chosen must be a 2+hr course at the 400 level or higher

Broadcast Meteorology Track—Additional Requirements

  • MET 342 (3 cr.): Severe Weather
  • MET 358 (4 cr.): Radar Meteorology
  • MET 359 (2 cr.): Introduction to Television Weather
  • MET 496 (1 cr.): Internship in Meteorology
  • MET 497 (3 cr.): Broadcast Meteorology Practicum I
  • 2 additional hours of electives from the list of meteorology electives provided below

Meteorology Electives (Additional electives beyond the list below may be approved on a case-by-case basis)

  • MET 191 (1 cr.): Tropical Weather Discussion
  • MET 342 (3 cr.): Severe Weather
  • MET 357 (2 cr.): Meteorological Instrumentation
  • MET 358 (4 cr.): Radar Meteorology
  • MET 359 (2 cr.): Introduction to Television Weather
  • MET 360 (1 cr.): Atmospheric Analysis
  • MET 370 (3 cr.): Satellite Meteorology
  • MET 410 (3 cr.): Meteorological Phenomenology (W)
  • MET 420 (4 cr.): Computer Applications in Meteorology
  • MET 440 (2 cr.): Air Pollution Meteorology
  • MET 442 (2 cr.): Tropical Meteorology
  • MET 456 (3 cr.): Applied Climatology (W)
  • MET 490 (1-3 cr.): Special Topics in Meteorology
  • MET 492 (1-3 cr.): Seminar in Meteorology
  • MET 495 (1-2 cr.): Mesonet Internship
  • MET 496 (1-3 cr.): Internship in Meteorology
  • MET 497 (3 cr.): Broadcast Meteorology Practicum I
  • GY 425 (4 cr.): Hydrology
  • GIT 460 (4 cr.): Introduction to Geographic Information Technology
  • MGT 300 (3 cr.): Management Theory and Practice
  • MKT 320 (3 cr.): Principles of Marketing

Minor in Meteorology

To minor in Meteorology, a student must take a total of 20 credit hours of meteorology. All MET minors must take MET 140/140L, MET 353, and MET 341. Students then should complete 9 additional credit hours of meteorology coursework. Students interested in the MET minor should contact a meteorology faculty member for a short advising session since many of the meteorology courses are offered only once per year rather than every semester. Additionally, the meteorology program has arranged specific sets of courses that are best-suited for particular majors. For example, Communications majors likely would be advised to take different courses than Geography majors. If you are interested in the Meteorology minor, please contact the Coastal Weather Research Center at weathercenter@southalabama.edu, and one of our staff meteorologists will ensure that you get in touch with the proper faculty member.

 

Special Programs, Co-ops, Internships

Opportunities abound for meteorology students at the University of South Alabama. The Mobile National Weather Service office is located no more than 10 minutes away from campus; the NWS typically selects 2 students per academic year to hold an internship at its office. Students also have the ability to intern at the Red Cross and the recently-built state-of-the-art NOAA Gulf of Mexico Disaster Response Center (DRC). The DRC exists to provide services before, during, and after extreme events, and assists in the delivery of information to emergency managers and others as they make decisions to protect and restore the Gulf Coast’s resources. The Meteorology program’s proximity to the Keesler Air Force Base and the Hurricane Hunters provides yet another chance for a summer internship for students interested in tropical meteorology. Students also have performed internships at Stennis Space Center on the Mississippi coast and through the NASA DEVELOP national program in Mobile. Research opportunities with USA faculty and NWS meteorologists also exist, in addition to directed studies.

Local broadcast television stations work closely with USA broadcast meteorology majors; in fact, the two primary broadcast meteorology courses are taught by the chief meteorologist and the morning meteorologist at the local CBS affiliate (WKRG-5). The nearby stations also provide numerous internship opportunities, both on-air and producing/reporting, for USA MET students. All broadcast meteorology majors are required to complete at least one 1-credit internship at a broadcast news station.

The University of South Alabama also is home to two unique opportunities for meteorology students -- the Coastal Weather Research Center (CWRC) and the USA Mesonet. The Coastal Weather Research Center was established in January 1988 to promote meteorological education and research through the following:

1) Meteorology workshops and seminars

2) A climatological and hurricane data archive

3) Research on the interaction of coastal and oceanic environments

4) The operation of a weather laboratory and information center.

The most visible aspect of CWRC’s operation is the daily activity that occurs in the Weather Center. CWRC is a fully-operational weather forecast center, providing daily mid-latitude weather forecasts, tropical forecasts, winter weather forecasts, and severe weather warnings (among other specialized products) to clients across the Gulf Coast and surrounding states. The Weather Center is a truly unique facility in that it is housed on-campus (the only such facility with an on-campus presence in the country) and promotes accessibility to the Meteorology program student body. CWRC is always open to USA Meteorology students during normal daytime hours of operation. Students are able to intern with the staff meteorologists at CWRC, which gives meteorology students a unique perspective of how private weather companies serve their clients, along with the opportunity to combine classroom theory with actual weather forecasting applications. CWRC also provides academic-based scholarships to upper-level USA Meteorology students and contributes substantial amounts of money to host an annual weather conference on-campus (Southeastern Coastal and Atmospheric Processes Symposium, or SeCAPS http://www.southalabama.edu/meteorologyclub/secaps/).

The University of South Alabama Mesonet, or USA Mesonet, is a network of 26 weather stations spanning 13 Gulf Coast counties across 3 states. The Mesonet is nationally recognized, as evidenced by its participation in the Digital Hurricane Consortium (a group of university researchers engaged in hurricane landfall research) and the National Mesonet Pilot Program (to promote the establishment of a National Mesonet). The Mobile, Alabama, National Weather Service, the Coastal Weather Research Center, and local TV meteorologists use data from the USA Mesonet on a daily basis to enhance their forecasting capabilities and to assist with the issuance of precise severe weather warnings. The USA Mesonet data also is routinely used in classroom settings. USA Meteorology students have the ability to complete an internship at the USA Mesonet, where they can further develop meteorological instrumentation skills as they assist with the care and maintenance of instruments at the USA Mesonet locations. For more information see http://chiliweb.southalabama.edu/

In summary, internship and/or volunteer opportunities for USA Meteorology students are available in the following areas, among others:

    • National Weather Service
    • American Red Cross
    • NOAA Gulf of Mexico Disaster Response Center
    • Keesler Air Force Base Hurricane Hunters
    • TV stations – broadcast, production, and reporting
    • Coastal Weather Research Center
    • USA Mesonet
    • USA faculty and NWS meteorologist research
    • Stennis Space Center
    • NASA DEVELOP

 

Meteorology Highlights 

Below are a few examples of what makes the USA Meteorology program unique.

  • Acquire extensive real-world meteorology experience by discussing current active weather situations in almost every class, beginning with MET 140.
  • Learn operational forecasting skills in Synoptic Meteorology as you make daily weather forecasts and present real-time weather briefings to your professor and classmates.
  • Compete as a senior in the annual Synoptic Meteorology forecast contest.
  • Attend small classes and receive individual attention. Most class sizes average 10-15 students, allowing for ample one-on-one time with professors.
  • Receive course and career advice directly from your USA MET faculty rather than from a general department or college advisor.
  • Experience the virtual weather laboratory that is the Alabama Gulf Coast. Mobile, Alabama, is the wettest major city in the United States with one of the highest thunderstorm frequencies in the nation. Tropical cyclones and mid-latitude severe weather certainly are no strangers to the region!
  • Participate in the Meteorology program’s annual Southeastern Coastal and Atmospheric Processes Symposium (SeCAPS). Our MET students play an extensive role in contacting speakers and organizing the conference. Take advantage of this fantastic opportunity to develop contacts with potential future employers!
  • Interact (and even intern) with the staff meteorologists at the Coastal Weather Research Center to see how private weather companies serve the individual needs of their clients.
  • Provide a sales pitch for a private meteorology company to potential clients. What better way can there be to see the inner workings of a real private weather service?
  • Participate in our active USA Meteorology Club, attending social, athletic, academic, volunteer, and fundraising events.
  • Attend guest lectures at USA Meteorology Club “Weather Wednesdays,” at which local meteorologists come to speak to our students about how to obtain jobs in the field and what day-to-day meteorology work is really like.
  • Conduct research in directed studies and internships with USA faculty, NWS meteorologists, and NASA DEVELOP, among others.
  • Volunteer and/or intern at the National Weather Service, American Red Cross, NOAA Disaster Response Center, Stennis Space Center, or with the Hurricane Hunters at Keesler Air Force Base.
  • Attend broadcast meteorology classes taught by local TV meteorologists.
  • Volunteer and/or intern at local TV stations to gain additional experience with TV weathercasting, reporting, and producing.
  • Volunteer and/or intern with the USA Mesonet to gain invaluable hands-on experience with maintaining and calibrating meteorological instruments.

 

Study Abroad Opportunities 

Studying abroad is an exciting and meaningful experience that will contribute to your academic and personal development.  Participating on a study abroad program can be one of the most profound decisions of your college life, and can lead to many new and interesting opportunities.  It can help develop your critical thinking skills, sense of independence, and confidence.  When you depart on your study abroad program, you will go with excitement, trepidation, and uncertainty about the world and your place in it.  When you return home, your deep connection and affection for your host culture will be overwhelming, and will only be matched by a newfound respect and appreciation for your home.

Study abroad is the opportunity for USA students to spend time in a different country while earning credit towards your degree through taking classes, interning, volunteering, and more.  There are many different types of study abroad available to you at USA. They include faculty-led programs, international exchange programs, and direct-enroll and affiliate programs. 

Students on faculty-led programs will travel as a group led by USA professors and take classes in various locations. All courses taken on these programs are USA courses and offer USA credits that will apply to your degree. International Exchange programs are partnerships with specific universities around the world with which USA has a special, reciprocal relationship. Students enroll directly at the host university, and students from the host university attend USA. USA affiliate programs allow students to enroll at a partner university or program through a third-party provider. GPA requirements vary by program.

You should think of the Study Abroad Office as a one-stop shop for information related to your study abroad experience. The Study Abroad (http://www.southalabama.edu/studyabroad/) team is excited to assist you as you navigate through the process of choosing a program, and will help you from the advising stage until you return from your program.  You can get started by coming to meet with an advisor during Walk-In Advising hours. During an advising session, you can gain general information about the many programs available, how the application process works at USA and general guidance on where to begin.

Be sure to visit the OIE Study Abroad website at http://www.southalabama.edu/studyabroad/ to begin your research.  The website contains information on how to get started, financing your program, and a comprehensive list of pre-approved study abroad programs and partners. While researching a passport or visa programs, consider the following: eligibility requirements, location, course offerings, and costs.  You should also meet with your faculty advisor for assistance in selecting a program based on courses related to your degree.

Studying abroad can be one of the highlights of your university career, giving you wonderful and challenging experiences that will allow you to grow both academically and professionally. Where will you study abroad?

 

Academic Plan

Following an academic plan is essential to staying on track and graduating within four years. In accordance with university policy, during your freshman year, university advisors through the College of Arts and Sciences First-Year Advising Center will assist you with academic plans. The Meteorology program faculty also welcomes freshmen to stop by our offices to discuss academic and career aspirations. After your freshman year, all advising is done directly by the USA Meteorology faculty. The Meteorology faculty will strive to keep you on a solid academic plan and on track to graduate within 4 years.

The math course in which you start at USA will determine if you take MET 140 immediately during the first semester of your freshman year, or if you wait one semester until the spring semester of your freshman year. Students entering the program in at least MA 115 will take MET 140 right away; students entering in math courses below MA 115 will wait until spring. This arrangement is to better ensure that large gaps are not introduced between introductory and upper-level meteorology coursework. Delaying taking MET 140 by one semester will not affect your ability to graduate within four years in any way.

Degree plans are intended to be suggestions only. Make sure to meet with your academic advisor (either through the Meteorology program or through the First Year Advising Center) to create the schedule that is right for you.

Meteorology Broadcast Track 

Meteorology Graduate Track 

Meteorology Professional Track

For additional degree information, visit the undergraduate bulletin.

 

For More Information

If you have any questions about our program or would like additional information, please contact the Coastal Weather Research Center at weathercenter@southalabama.edu, and one of our staff meteorologists will ensure that you get in touch promptly with the proper faculty member.

You can find us on campus at either of the locations listed below.

Coastal Weather Research Center                          
5950 Old Shell Road
Mitchell Center 1623
(251) 460-6915    

Department of Earth Sciences
5871 USA Dr. N.
Life Sciences Building 136
Mobile, AL 36688
(251) 460-6381

                                                                                                         

Website: http://www.southalabama.edu/colleges/artsandsci/earthsci/meteorology/index.html

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/University-of-South-Alabama-Meteorology-107143680991/

 

* The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on the Meteorology program, please refer to the USA bulletin or contact the Coastal Weather Research Center. *