Choosing a Career in Atmospheric Sciences

What is Meteorology?

Meteorology is the science of the atmosphere. It offers the opportunity of investigating the forces that shape weather and climate and how human activities can affect climate through the introduction of pollutants into the atmosphere.


Most meteorologists in Canada work for the Meteorological Services of Environment Canada.   In the United States the largest employer is the United States Government through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. With the federal government in Canada withdrawing from many of its traditional meteorological functions, some weather services are being abandoned while others are being opened up for commercial development.

Go to Environment Canada's Careers page:

Despite the downturn in government services and employment, students interested in meteorology should view the future with a fair degree of optimism. A university degree in meteorology, combined with appropriate courses in environmental sciences, computer science and/or chemistry, opens the door to a number of careers, some within the government, others in industry. The atmosphere plays a major role in transporting pollutants from one region of the globe to another, and, as such, is a key component of our environment. The need for professionals who understand how the atmosphere behaves can be expected to grow in the years to come, as societies around the world become more and more industrialized and eject more and more pollution into the atmosphere.

Choosing a Career in Meteorology

High School

The first step for a student in considering a career in meteorology or atmospheric sciences is to opt in favour of physical science courses and mathematics.

An interest in the physical sciences and mathematics are the essential elements for a career in meteorology. Courses in earth sciences can also provide a valuable insight into the atmospheric environment. It goes without saying, nowadays, how important it is to become familiar with the use of computers and their application to problem-solving, writing and communication. In the simplest of terms, high school students should take every mathematics, physics and computer course that is available. They should also develop basic skills in written and spoken English and/or French to communicate scientific knowledge.

University Undergraduate Studies

On entry into university, students are well-advised to continue their studies in physical sciences and mathematics, adding when possible, courses in other sciences. They should also develop basic skills in written and spoken English and/or French to communicate scientific knowledge.

Elective courses provide an opportunity to gain additional knowledge and insight in other science fields; they may well have a bearing on the level and degree of specialization upon graduation or selection of a graduate school. Introductory or advanced courses in physical geography, oceanography, hydrology and chemistry are all subjects for consideration in choosing electives.

The most direct path to a career in meteorology is an undergraduate degree in meteorology or atmospheric sciences. A number of universities in Canada and the United States offer such programs with options varying from broad-based degrees to those with a focused specialty in agricultural or forest meteorology, for example.

A suggested program might include:

dynamic meteorology, physical meteorology, general meteorology, synoptic meteorology, plus courses in climatology, micro-meteorology, hydro-meteorology and other related disciplines;

general physics, mechanics, electricity and magnetism, plus one or more courses in fluid mechanics, optics, or advanced mechanics;

calculus, differential equations, linear algebra, statistics, computer science and at least one in numerical analysis, matrix algebra or computer systems.

University Graduate Studies

A master's program can usually be completed in one to two years after the bachelor's degree. The requirement for admission to this program is usually a strong undergraduate degree in meteorology, physics, engineering, or related disciplines. Students without a previous background in atmospheric sciences normally have to complete a few more courses at the master's level than their colleagues with an undergraduate degree in meteorology, but can still complete the program in one or two years. Holders of master's degrees can work as operational meteorologists in government and in the private sector, or as research assistants. Students who wish to become researchers should complete a doctoral degree.

Courses at the graduate level will be considerably more advanced than at the undergraduate level; some but not all will be slanted towards the specialities and research interests of the professors on staff at a particular university. However, in most universities students will be encouraged to explore different options and take advantage of other courses as well, such as those in oceanography, geophysics, biology or ecology.

A good insight into atmospheric research activities can be obtained from Atmosphere-Ocean - the Canadian journal on meteorology and oceanography published by the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society.

Certification of Meteorologists

The P. Met Certification program for meteorologists by ECO Canada  


Information concerning educational courses in atmospheric sciences, meteorology and related environmental sciences in Canada can be obtained from the following:

Alberta, University of

Edmonton, Alberta
T6G 2E3
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Degrees offered are Bachelor of Science, Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy.

The department has active research programs in areas ranging from micro-meteorology, severe storms, ocean, sea-ice and climate modeling, glacier and mountain processes, waves, geophysical fluid dynamics and geologic processes. Research projects can include observational, laboratory, theoretical and/or numerical modeling components. Modern facilities and instrumentation are available for research in all areas. Collaborative opportunities exist for research with Environment Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and large national/international research networks.


British Columbia, University of

Atmospheric Science Programme
Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences
6339 Stores Road
Vancouver, B.C. V6T 1Z4

The Atmospheric Science programme was established in 1988 and is co-sponsored by the Department of  Earth & Ocean Sciences and the Department of Geography.  It offers Majors and Honours degrees in Atmospheric Science, Honours Climatology, a Diploma in Meteorology, and Master's and Ph.D.degrees in Atmospheric Science.  There is also a co-op program for undergrads seeking work experience and income while working on their degree.  Included in the Atmospheric Science Programme are 14 professors from  Earth & Ocean Sciences, Geography, Soil Science and Chemistry, 20 graduate students, and about 35 undergrad and diploma students.

The faculty conducts fundamental research in atmospheric science and is linked into international research groups around the world.  The work involves laboratory and field measurements and observations, data analyses, interpretation and numerical modelling.  The department is well-equipped for sensing fluxes of energy budgets, probing boundary layer structure, and making numerical mesoscale research forecasts for Western Canada.


Dalhousie University

Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science
Halifax, Nova Scotia
B3H 3J5

The degrees offered are Bachelor of Science, Master of Science, and Doctor of Philosophy. We also offer a Diploma in Meteorology.

At the undergraduate level, atmospheric science courses may be taken as part of a degree in the Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science.

For students who already have a B. Sc., our senior level courses may be taken as part of the Diploma in Meteorology. The D. Met. may also be obtained concurrently with a B. Sc.

Graduate degrees may be obtained through either the Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science or Oceanography. Our research areas cover experiment, theory and modelling. We have particular interests in climate processes, clouds, aerosols, fluid dynamics, tropical convection, chemistry, the Arctic and remote sensing.

Atmospheric Science Programme:

Diploma in Meteorology:

Guelph, University of

Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1
Department of Land Resource Science

The degrees offered are Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy

The Department specializes in agrometeorological research and has two large laboratories available. Research is focused on various aspects of micrometeorology and climatology applied to vegetated surfaces. Conventional instrumentation is available but much work is done on the design of new measuring devices. A large, flat field site is available for micrometeorological studies at the Elora Research Station. Additional research sites are available for studies on field crops, forest, and horticultural areas.


Manitoba, University of

Department of Environment and Geography
212 Isbister Building
Winnipeg, MB
R3T 2N2

The degrees offered are Bachelor of Science (with a co-op option), Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy.

The Department has a program that covers the essential elements of atmospheric and climate sciences which provides for a wide range of career opportunities. The co-op option in the B. Sc. program allows students the opportunity to work with the local Environment Canada weather office and other weather/climate local and national employers. Faculty members associated with the program have expertise in severe storms (winter and summer), extremes in the weather and climate system, operational/applied meteorology, surface-atmosphere interactions, water & carbon cycle dynamics, and atmosphere-sea ice-biosphere interactions. A well-balanced blend of observations, remote sensing and modeling are part of the graduate and undergraduate programs. The Department has particularly strong linkages with the local Prairie and Arctic Storm Prediction Centre (PASPC) and Department of Fisheries and Oceans / Fresh Water Institute who are actively engaged in instructing and advising graduate and undergraduate students in the program.

Tel: 204-474-9667
Fax: 204-474-7699

McGill University

805 Sherbrooke St. W.
Montreal, Quebec H3A 2K6
Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

The degrees offered are Bachelor of Science, Diploma, Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy.

The Department has a broad-based program in atmospheric sciences which provides for a wide range of research opportunities on climate and atmospheric systems, radiation budgets, storm development, precipitation, cloud physics, planetary waves and modelling. The University has its own Radar Observatory.

Tel: 514-398-3764
Fax: 514-398-6115
Undergraduate Studies - email:
Graduate Studies - email:


McMaster University

Hamilton, Ontario L8S 4K1
Department of Geography

The degrees offered are Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy. The Department is strongly oriented in climatological studies with specialization in high latitude research.


Saskatchewan, University of

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7N 5E2
Institute of Space and Atmospheric Studies

The degrees offered are Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy and are awarded through the Department of Physics and Engineering Physics.

Courses and research include studies of planetary atmospheres; the chemical and physical aeronomy of the "middle atmosphere" (20-110 km); the dynamics of the upper middle atmosphere (60-110 km); the auroral E and F regions (100-300 km), focusing on plasma instabilities and waves, and the coupling with the magnetosphere; theoretical studies of terrestrial plasmas. The Institute operates a number of radar and optical instruments as well as observatories which house sophisticated MF, HF and VHF radars. These radars (MLT, SuperDARN, SAPPHIRE) are part of global networks studying the full range of small-scale and planetary-scale interactions.

The Institute is closely associated with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and has been significantly involved with all phases of satellite systems such as FREJA, and WINDII (on UARS). ISAS scientists are now playing key roles in new systems, ODIN-OSIRIS (1997 launch) for middle atmosphere aeronomy and structure, and MOPITT (1998) for tropospheric pollution studies.

The research at ISAS is collaborative with Canadian, U.S. and International Scientists; and is co-ordinated with global programs such as CEDAR and STEP.

Dr. A.H. Manson, ISAS Chair

ISAS Homepage

Toronto, University of

Toronto, Ontario, M5S 1A7
Department of Physics

Degrees offered are Bachelor of Science, Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy.

Laboratory facilities include an icing tunnel to study hailstone growth and melting, a doppler radar system to observe precipitation and a remote sensing laboratory. A ground station receives real time data from polar orbiting meteorological satellites.


Université du Québec, Montréal (UQAM)

Département des Sciences de la Terre et de l'atmosphère
Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM)
C. P. 8888, Succursale Centre-ville
Montréal, Québec H3C 3P8


York University

4700 Keele Street
Downsview, Ontario M3J 1P3
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Science

The Department offers a Bachelor of Science for a number of programs calling for an Honours Program, Specialized Honours and combined Honours in various atmospheric, mathematical and space fields. The Centre for Research in Earth and Space Science awards a Master Degree in Science and a Doctor of Philosophy.

The Department is noted for its research and specialization in atmospheric chemistry. The Canadian Institute for Research in Atmospheric Chemistry is located on the campus. Faculty for the Departments of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Earth and Atmospheric Science are affiliated with this Centre.

Tel: 416-736-5245
Fax: 416-736-5817


Victoria, University of

P.O. Box 1700
Victoria, B.C. V8W 2Y2
School of Earth and Ocean Sciences

The School of Earth and Ocean Sciences and the Centre for Earth and Ocean Research both offer courses in atmospheric and ocean sciences.

Tel: 604-472-4001
Fax: 604-472-4004


Additional Information

For additional information on colleges and universities offering undergraduate and graduate programs in meteorology or atmospheric science, refer to Curricula in the Atmospheric, Oceanic, Hydrologic and Related Sciences, published by the American Meteorological Society and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. It contains information on the courses, faculties, programs and facilities of about 100 universities and colleges in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.