Choosing a Career in Atmospheric Science
Atmospheric science is the study of the physics and chemistry of clouds, gases, and aerosols (airborne particles) that surround the planetary bodies of the solar system. Research in atmospheric science includes such varied areas of interest as:
Most atmospheric scientists study the atmosphere of the Earth, while others study the atmospheres of the planets and moons in our solar system.
Types of Jobs
In the Atmospheric Sciences research group at NASAs Langley Research Center, researchers focus their work in three main areas:
The majority of atmospheric scientists in the United States work for the Federal Government. The largest number of civilian atmospheric scientists work for the National Weather Service and other branches of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as well as NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Forest Service, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Energy. Atmospheric scientists may also be found working for private weather services, television and radio stations, commercial airlines, state governments, colleges and universities, public utilities, consulting firms, and aircraft and instrument manufacturing companies.
Atmospheric scientists may work in the following areas: field research, laboratory studies and/or computer analysis and modeling. Good communication skills (oral and written) are necessary as atmospheric scientists attend conferences and workshops where they share their results with other researchers. They write papers and technical reports detailing the results of their research, give progress reports, and disseminate information to the public.
Atmospheric scientists often work in groups where their different skills and backgrounds can be combined to study specific scientific questions such as the effects of aircraft emissions on the atmosphere. These multidisciplinary teams usually include people in other related careers such as aerospace engineers, electronics engineers, computer and communications technicians, photographers, science writers, data systems analysts, astronauts, pilots, astronomers, physicists, geologists, oceanographers, and biologists.
Preparation and Training
One way to begin a career in atmospheric science is to earn a bachelors degree in meteorology, physics, chemistry, geography, mathematics, or computer science. Some researchers in atmospheric sciences have earned their bachelors degrees in related fields such as astronomy, oceanography, geophysics, or engineering. Research leadership positions usually require graduate degrees, such as a masters degree or doctorate. Research teams also include technicians who hold two-year associate's degrees or have graduated from an approved apprentice program.
Work-study programs for college students majoring in meteorology or related fields are available through NASA and NOAA. These agencies also provide grants and fellowships for graduate study. The U.S. Armed Forces also provide training in meteorology for officers and enlisted personnel.
Where to Study
There are many colleges and universities in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada that offer degree programs in meteorology, atmospheric science, and related fields. A complete list may be obtained from the American Meteorological Society.
Most atmospheric scientists are members of the American Meteorological Society and/or the American Geophysical Union. These organizations are excellent sources of information on careers and educational programs in atmospheric science.
Other Information Sources
NASA Education Division, Mail Code FE
NASA Earth Science Enterprise, Code Y
National Weather Service, NOAA
American Meteorological Society
American Geophysical Union
For more information about Atmospheric Sciences at NASA Langley,
Or see the Atmospheric Sciences Competency Home Page: