The Opportunity Cost to get a Masters or PHD in Meteorology05 Dec , 2011 | 24
This is a question that comes up a lot in Meteorology. What is the opportunity cost to get a Masters or PHD in meteorology? Does work experience matter more versus a higher education in Meteorology? Here’s my honest answer…work experience! This post will specifically focus on the operational forecasting sector in Meteorology. And it is generally geared towards entry-level candidates to mid level career professionals.
I personally only have a Bachelors degree in Meteorology. So I can only speak from my own experience of hiring meteorologists and seeing others being hired in the weather space.
In my opinion, employers usually weigh work experience more versus having a Masters or PHD in meteorology for operational forecasting jobs. If it were research or modeling-focused positions in meteorology, I would probably say a Masters or PHD is a much bigger factor. However, one sector that may be unique is within the Energy industry. I’ve noticed a lot of Senior level energy trade floor meteorologists have Masters or PHD’s with lots of relevant work experience too (see what the World of Energy Trade Floor meteorology is all about). I was one of the lucky few that only had a BS degree.
Most employers “prefer” (not require) a Masters or PHD meteorology degree for operational meteorology jobs. Ideally they want the best of both worlds… they want you to be super smart, have tons of forecasting experience, and communicate well so they can spend less time training you.
But the honest truth is…you can get any job in operational forecasting (in any sector) you want with a Bachelors degree in meteorology. You just have to deliver the goods. In TV weather, you can generally walk on the job without a degree as long as you can talk the talk and walk the walk. (See my thoughts on this, here).
And for those seeking a Masters degree in meteorology, I’ve seen this particular scenario play out not just in meteorology, but in many fields: A BS graduate in meteorology will try and find a job. They’ll search and search and (in this job market) could very well come up empty handed. So they think it’s best to go back to school (wait out the job market) and get a Masters degree. And when they graduate, they see the job market hasn’t improved (but is now worse).
I’ve seen a lot of people get burned this way because they became disconnected from the job market. Plus they were out more cash and time with less operational forecasting experience.
My advice is…if you are planning on getting a Masters degree in Meteorology (or PHD) in Meteorology, specifically for getting a job in the operational forecasting sector, you need to focus on two things:
1) Getting into the right school: Don’t waste your time applying (or attending) highly “research-focused” schools. Focus on schools that will give you the tools necessary to help make you a better operational forecaster and also stand out from the competition. You can view the Top 5 operational forecasting schools in meteorology, here.
2) Make sure you stay connected to the job world. Keep developing contacts, crashing weather conferences, and possibly even interning/working part time at local companies that you are genuinely interested in. You should stay connected with market players and when you’re ready to apply for jobs…you wont just “Send a Resume”.
And just so you’re clear…I’m not against anyone getting their masters or PHD in Meteorology. I’m just making the case that in today’s economic climate work experience seems to matter more than a higher level degree for operational forecasting. And I can definitely understand the frustration of why you would go get a Masters when there’s a limited amount of meteorology jobs and so many applicants.
What’s also interesting is there is definitely an internal struggle that goes on even within degreed meteorologists. I’ve personally witnessed PHD meteorology graduates apply to entry-level operational forecasting positions. I’ve also witnessed folks who were laid off and have a good amount of experience apply to the same positions. And many times the employer will hire either the PHD grad (or more likely the experienced candidate) which unfortunately leaves many entry-level meteorology graduates in the dust!
Think about the deal for the employer right…you get to pay experienced and/or highly educated folks at an entry-level salary! The employer also doesn’t want to spend time training folks for a long period of time. That’s why entry-level folks really need to step up their game and compete. That means get all the experience you can with internships and relevant work experience (while you’re in school).
Unfortunately, that’s the job market we’re in right now! And its not just meteorologists that are affected either. For example, I’ve heard that Ivy-league educated lawyers who have passed the Bar exam are applying to paralegal positions. It’s a mess everywhere.
Bottom line, in this economy, I believe having relevant work experience seems to matter more than a Masters or PHD degree in meteorology (for operational forecasting). If you can swing a Masters/PHD degree AND relevant work experience in meteorology…you’re definitely standing out. And of course there is another very important factor other than just education and experience that matter to your employer: personality, personality, and personality. People want to work with people they like to be around. I’ll discuss personality in detail in another post.
Until then, would love to get your experience and perspective when you applied (or are applying) for operational forecasting meteorology jobs…especially in today’s economic climate. What are employers focusing on these days? (Photo credit: d-god)