Ask Jack: College Advice

By Jack Williams ©2015

Q: As a young, soon-to-be meteorologist, I am wondering what would be a good college for me to go to?

A: I  hate to try to recommend any particular college because the one that’s best for you might be one that I don’t know about.

If you know what kind of meteorologist you want to be, that will help. For example, if you think you want to be a research meteorologist you might want to think of majoring in mathematics or physics as an undergraduate and then going to a university with a strong research program to earn your PhD. If you are interested in particular topics, such as hurricanes, you should look for a college with faculty members who conduct research in the topics that fascinate you.

Over the years I’ve met  students on hurricane flights, on tornado chases,  and working with scientists in Antarctica. All of them were in these places because they studied with professors doing research in hurricanes, tornadoes, or polar science.

Reading the profiles of two dozen scientists in the The AMS Weather Book will show you the many different educational and career paths men and women have followed.

A good place to begin looking for the right college is the American Meteorological Society’s (AMS) Web page that lists colleges and universities with degree programs in the atmospheric and closely related oceanic, hydrologic, and other sciences. You should also check out the AMS listing of Scholarships and Fellowships.

Also, the AMS has local chapters around the United States, which welcome students to their meetings. Several even offer scholarships. Many also offer prizes for meteorology-related science fair projects. You can find the nearest chapter to your home by going to the AMS chapters page on the Web.

Another option for any young man or woman who is interested in meteorology is military service. The profile of Nicole Mitchell on Page 126 of The AMS Weather Book tells how enlisting in the Air National Guard after graduating from high school was the start of  her career. She is now a Weather Channel on-air meteorologist and also Air Force Reserve officer who flies with the hurricane hunters. As an Air National Guard enlisted woman she received an eduction equivalent to an undergraduate meteorology major. Education aid that’s available to members of the military helped her earn a  bachelor’s degree in speech-communications and begin her television career.

No mater which path you hope to take, you should be taking all of the mathematics and science courses you can while you are in high school. Meteorology is very much a physical science.

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