Can we finally define who a “Meteorologist” is?!28 Nov , 2011 | 114
I think we need to have a serious discussion in this country about defining who a meteorologist is and why anyone can blindly use the term. This post is probably going to offend a few people…including some of my friends who are ‘meteorologists’ in the TV business. This conversation happens all the time in the meteorology community…many times behind closed doors. I have seen this topic bounce around the Internet a couple of times…but it’s time to set the record straight…once and for all.
Many of the “meteorologists” that you see on TV have an online degree (or certificate) from Mississippi State University. The TV business defines this as having “meteorological certification”. Mississippi state University offers an online broadcast meteorology course (ie certificate) to any high school graduate over a 3 year period.
Let’s be honest…this is not Mississippi State’s fault. They are catering to a niche market. Let’s also state a fact:
1) Mississippi State does have an on-campus 4 year B.S. and M.S. degree in Meteorology.
And it’s fine (although not recommended) for many TV professionals that need a quick and dirty way to gain some credibility in weather by completing an online meteorology course.
But here’s what is not fine: TV professionals who receive an online broadcast meteorology certificate from Mississippi State should not be allowed to call themselves a “meteorologist”…period.
Why? Mississippi State’s broadcast meteorology certificate is not even remotely close to the level of rigorous coursework required at a 4 year accredited university for Atmospheric Science or Meteorology. At these accredited universities, meteorologists are required to take calculus, physics, atmospheric dynamics, thermodynamics, etc etc. Only after the completion of this program, they can call themselves a meteorologist.
This is the only loophole I can think of on the planet where you can call yourself the same professional name by taking an accelerated online course that does not have the same rigorous coursework as an accredited university. Can you think of any other examples?
It’s quite a shame, actually. I think there are 2 main problems here:
1) There is no enforcement of who can use the term “meteorologist’ and
2) The TV industry is dying for ratings…so they’ll put whoever looks good to attract attention…and that includes many non-meteorologists.
And the NWA (National Weather Association) actually gives a TV seal of approval to these folks…I think it’s wrong! Thankfully, the AMS (American Meteorological Society) has changed their rules to give their seal of approval only to folks who have taken more rigorous coursework. I think the NWA should do the same. Meteorologists are real scientists. We are putting scientists in the same league with folks who generally regurgitate the NWS forecasts, for the most part do not understand how to analyze weather models, and have a 3 year online certificate. It’s wrong, and this needs to change!
Weather affects people’s lives and is a serious business. We need to clearly separate by name who has a professional degree in meteorology and who doesn’t. There are some of you TV weather folks with a broadcast certificate that are actually great at communicating the weather…but it’s unfair to put a label on something that you are not.
So let’s talk about solutions….
Let’s define a meteorologist: A meteorologist is one who graduates from a 4 year accredited university that has completed all coursework in Atmospheric Science or Meteorology. Another way to define it could be a combination of pertinent meteorological education+experience. The AMS does a better job explaining this…so I’ll leave that in the hands of the experts.
Let’s define the Broadcast Meteorology Certificate: Anyone who completes the Mississippi State online broadcast meteorology course (or any other distance learning online meteorology course) should refer to themselves as a “Weathercaster” on-air. Give credit where credit is due. I think it would also be beneficial if Mississippi State stated in their program that their broadcast meteorology certificate is an online “weathercaster” program. If they want to become a meteorologist, they can complete the BS degree on their campus.
Let’s talk about Enforcement: My friends at the AMS need to write some rules, and enforce them. I’ve read that legally anyone can call themselves a meteorologist. If the AMS cannot legally enforce this..then how do we make meteorologist a “legal” definition like a “lawyer” or “doctor”? Someone please enlighten me. Why are we not taking our degree seriously?
Would you want your police officer to have had their training online…or would you rather they have proper training at the Police Academy. Maybe it’s not the best analogy…but meteorologists should be held to the same standard. Weather affects people’s lives and meteorologists can save and protect people too.
I’m not blaming all TV weathercasters…there are a good portion of you out there that do have a 4 year degree and you have the right to call yourself a meteorologist. I just think it makes sense to give credit where credit is due. Everyday viewers and the scientific community have a right to know who is a “meteorologist” and who is a “weathercaster”.
Bottom line, if we want meteorology to be taken seriously, we should take the term “meteorologist” seriously too.
Please let your voice be heard…Am I being too harsh? Or is this justified? (Photo credit: 123rf)