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What you need to know if you’re thinking about pursuing a degree in meteorology

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Meteorologist and NOAA Weather Partners Outreach Coordinator

Daphne Thompson is a meteorologist and the NOAA Weather Partners Outreach Coordinator.

Daphne: Welcome to another edition of That Weather Show.  I’m Daphne Thompson, a meteorologist working at the National Weather Center. Part of my job involves educational outreach.  I’ve talked to lots of students who are interested in weather and becoming meteorologists.

Today, I have some special guests with me who can give us some insight on what it’s like to be a meteorology student.

Let’s start by going around the table and introducing everyone.

Sean Waugh, an undergrad at OU, plans to pursue a research position with a focus on weather instrumentation.

Sean: Hi, my name is Sean Waugh and I am currently an undergrad in the school of meteorology here at the University of Oklahoma.

Angelyn: My name is Angelyn Kolodziej and I just finished my first year of grad school here at the University of Oklahoma.

Patrick: My name is Patrick Burke.  I am a meteorologist and general forecaster here at the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Norman, Oklahoma.

Daphne: So Patrick, you’re also a recent grad student.  What advice would you give someone who is interested in weather and getting a meteorology degree?

Patrick: Probably, first and foremost, the thing that’s always mentioned is you need to have strong math skills.  Strong science skills.  Any additional math you can do in high school.  If you can get into advanced classes, you certainly want to pursue that.  But I think it’s also important – some of the other things that aren’t mentioned quite as frequently are communication skills, good written and verbal skills, English… good computing skills.

Daphne: I know when I was getting my meteorology degree that I thought it was a pretty tough program.  What was your experience?

Patrick Burke works as a general forecaster at the NWS Forecast Office in Norman. He also speaks to the public at storm spotter training sessions.

Patrick: It certainly was a very difficult and demanding field of study.  A lot of late nights, all of weekends spent studying.  I was good at math and science but those things didn’t come real naturally.  I had to work for them.  It’s certainly a demanding field.

Daphne: Sean, you’re finishing up your degree and have a lot of friends doing the same.  Is there anything you’ve noticed about why some students make it through the program and some don’t?

Sean: I think what really separates people is how interested in the field they are.  If it’s kind of shaky, if they’re not real hardcore “I want to be a meteorologist major and I don’t want to do anything else with my life”, then if they run into some difficulties, maybe they drop out, maybe the switch majors, maybe they don’t.  But from what I’ve seen, the people that really die-hard meteorology majors, even if they run into some bad classes, whether it be a math class or meteorology class, even if they fail it and have to get held back a year, they just keep going after it.

Daphne: Angelyn, is there anything you found unique about the program?  Maybe something you weren’t expecting?

Angelyn Kolodzieg, a grad student at OU, works as a research assistant at NSSL. She also gives public tours at the National Weather Center.

Angelyn: If there was one thing I really enjoyed, it was the fact that because of all the hard work you become kind of like a family with all your peers.  Really the close-knit group that you get out of graduating here at OU in a small class – maybe thirty people – you really get to know people well and it really does feel like a family.  So that was something different that I wasn’t expecting.

Daphne: That’s pretty cool!

Well, that’s all the time we have today.  I want to thank my guests for being here and giving some really good advice.  I hope those of you listening and thinking about going into meteorology have gained some good insight into what it takes to become a meteorology student.

Next time on That Weather Show, we’ll be talking about careers in meteorology.  I hope you can join us again.