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Schools that Offer Climatology Programs: How to Choose

Climatology is the scientific and mathematical study of the Earth's atmosphere, weather and climate. Weather forecasting and climate change research are both involved in the study of climatology. Many schools around the nation offer undergraduate and graduate programs in climatology and atmospheric science.

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How to Select a Climatology Program

According to the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics, there are over 60 colleges and universities around the nation that have programs in climatology or atmospheric science (www.nces.ed.gov). Most programs are housed within the academic department of geography, but some schools have atmospheric science programs in specialized departments, often coupled with other environmental sciences. Other schools offer climatology courses in meteorology programs that focus on science applications, such as weather forecasting.

List of Considerations

  • Focus of study
  • Research facilities and funding

Focus of Study

Those interested in an undergraduate climatology program may want to select a program that is devoted to atmospheric science rather than one that offers climatology courses in conjunction with another specialty. These specialized programs offer instruction in all areas of atmospheric science, including air pollution, weather analysis and climate management, in addition to core courses in mathematics, computer science and physical sciences that prepare the student for graduate climate research. Some undergraduate programs also qualify students for employment with the National Weather Service.

Research Facilities and Funding

Another important consideration, especially regarding graduate-level programs, is whether the school has access to adequate climate research facilities and faculty with climatology expertise. Selecting a program that provides funding to graduate students from professional or scientific organizations also may be beneficial.

Climatology Program Overviews

Bachelor's Degree in Atmospheric Science, Meteorology or Geography

Baccalaureate degree programs in areas related to climatology are designed to prepare students for employment as meteorologists, climatologists, air quality analysts or storm chasers. The varied curriculum also prepares students for graduate study in climatology. Areas of study include:

  • Advanced calculus
  • Statistics
  • Computer science
  • Atmospheric studies

Master of Science Degree in Atmospheric Science

Master of Science degree programs can take at least two years of full-time study to complete, which may include time spent working on an original research thesis. Graduate climatology courses can include:

  • Atmospheric thermodynamics
  • Dynamic meteorology
  • Advanced forecasting

Doctoral (Ph.D.) Degree in Atmospheric Science

Relevant Ph.D. programs can take upwards of three years of full-time resident study to complete. Initial coursework is often the same as the master's degree track coursework. However, after passing qualifying exams, the candidate must complete and defend a comprehensive doctoral dissertation in climatology. The curriculum may include introductory coursework in:

  • Dynamics of the Earth's systems
  • Ocean science
  • Atmospheric physics
  • Solar-terrestrial physics
  • Atmospheric and ocean fluid
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