Meteorologists study and forecast the weather and climate by interpreting observations of the Earth's surface, oceans and upper atmosphere. They do this using specialist computer programmes and mathematical techniques.
Weather measurements come in from ground-based weather stations, weather ships, weather balloons, satellites, aircraft, radar stations and remote sensors all over the world. Some of this information is collected by automated systems, and some by expert observers. It all needs expert interpretation so it can be combined to form a single, global picture of our weather.
There are many specialist areas in meteorology, but the work can be broadly divided into the two main areas of forecasting and research. Television weather presenters are just the public face of all those involved in collecting, collating and interpreting data about the weather.
A forecaster's job involves:
Research meteorologists may be involved with:
Meteorologists liaise with colleagues from other centres, both in the UK and abroad, and with clients. They often work in a multidisciplinary team and may need to present their work to clients.
More junior staff are involved in observing, coding weather reports for transmission over the international networks, and providing general assistance to forecasters and research scientists.
Starting salaries for graduates may be around £18,500 a year.
The Met Office is the largest employer of meteorologists in the UK and has more than 2,000 staff, many at its headquarters and operations centre in Exeter. It is an international centre of excellence for advice on the weather and the natural environment.
Around 900 forecasters and support staff work in 80 smaller offices in the UK and abroad. The Met Office operates a network of observation sites around the UK, but automated systems are increasingly being used in remote areas.
The Met Office's Hadley Centre employs around 100 people researching advanced climate modelling and monitoring, focusing on climate change.
Staff employed in the Mobile Met Unit are attached to the Royal Air Force and may be deployed across the world on military exercises and operations.
Other organisations employing smaller numbers of meteorologists include:
Most entrants into meteorology have degrees and postgraduate qualifications. The Met Office may prefer these to be in meteorology, maths or physics, or subjects with a strong element of these, such as computer science, physical chemistry, physical environmental science or oceanography.
The Royal Meteorological Society can give advice about suitable courses.
Entry to the Met Office is very competitive, and people generally need to gain a first or 2.1 degree, especially for research posts. Candidates for research posts sometimes need a relevant postgraduate qualification.
For a degree course, students need at least two A levels/three H grades and five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including English and maths, or equivalent qualifications. However, most universities require more than these minimum requirements so candidates should check specific entry qualifications.
Candidates should try to gain relevant work experience while they are at school or college, or through summer and industrial placement schemes at university. Contact the Met Office and other meteorological companies for further details.
A few junior positions are open to people without degrees, but competition is very strong. Applicants are likely to need at least A levels/H grades, an HNC/HND or equivalent qualifications in maths or a physical science.
Most meteorologists in the UK start their careers in the Met Office, which has its own training college. Training includes forecasting, specialist information technology, media presentation, commercial training and management.
There are also NVQ's/SVQ's in Meteorological Observing at Level 3 and Meteorological Weather Forecasting at Level 4.
The Royal Meteorological Society is the professional body for meteorologists in the UK. It runs a chartered meteorologist programme for people with a high level of specialist knowledge and wide experience in the profession. This is the highest professional qualification available within meteorology and is equivalent to chartered status in other professions such as engineering, surveying or accountancy.
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
Meteorologists may move between research, forecasting and teaching. They may also take up positions overseas.
Forecasters may find work elsewhere with organisations, such as the BBC, environmental consultancies or utility companies.
British Antarctic Survey, High Cross,
Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET
Tel: 01223 221400
Institute of Physics (IoP),
76 Portland Place, London W1B 1NT
Tel: 020 7470 4800
Met Office, Fitzroy Road, Exeter EX1 3PB
Tel: 0870 900 0100
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC),
Polaris House, North Star Avenue,
Swindon SN2 1EU
Tel: 01793 411500
Royal Meteorological Society,
104 Oxford Road, Reading RG1 7LL
Tel: 0118 956 8500
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.