Top 5 Universities for Operational Forecasters in Meteorology

14   Nov ,  2011 | 57

I have seen plenty of universities that are biased towards research and development in meteorology.   In fact, some of the “top rated” universities in Meteorology (or Atmospheric Science) like Cornell and MIT are very much research oriented.   And that’s not a bad thing…but if you want to be an operational forecaster in meteorology…it would be nice to know which universities are top rated for operational forecasting.

And if you want to know what I mean by “Operational”, read my earlier post, “Can operational meteorologists make a six figure salary?”.  Also, my focus here is on the “undergraduate” B.S. programs, not the masters or PHD which are slated to be in another post.

I went on the look out for the top 5 operational forecasting schools in meteorology and judged them by the following factors:  How many operational forecasting courses do they offer?  Are there are a lot of private companies/operational forecasters in close vicinity to the school?  Do they offer broadcast meteorology courses?  And just the overall ranking and location of the school….and here’s what I found:

The Top 5 Universities for Operational Forecasters in Meteorology are:

#5  University of Miami—it’s pretty hard to complain about location here…you get to attend a meteorology school by the beach with warm weather…there’s not many  schools out there where you can brag about that!  But, I picked University of Miami in my top 5 because of the various courses they offer in general forecasting, hurricane forecasting, and oceanography.   Plus they tend to emphasize how important communication is in forecasting the weather.  (See why looks do matter in TV weather)

With hurricanes continuing to cost billions of dollars in damage in the US, private consultants continue to hire meteorologists who are excellent hurricane and severe weather forecasters.  Just being in Miami offers a wealth of experience right there!  And it doesn’t hurt that Miami is the headquarters of the National Hurricane center and has the most “lightning” than any other state.  Plus there are private employers down the road in Juno Beach, FL like “NextEra Energy” who’s subsidiary is Florida Power and Light…who has the largest presence of wind farms in the US.  (See why wind meteorologists are valuable).

#4:  University of Washington—I’d call this the feeder school to a meteorology job in renewable energy.  Many of University of Washington’s graduates are pouring into wind meteorology jobs that are spread across the Portland/Seattle areas…and parts of the San Francisco Bay Area.  I’ve mentioned a few of these companies in (Top 5 cities to hire Energy Meteorologists).

In addition, University of Washington offers a beautiful campus in Seattle, and after you’ve completed 4 years here…you’ll be an expert in forecasting Pacific jet streams, wind, and especially “Rain”!

#3: University of Oklahoma—it’s definitely been called one of the “top meteorology institutions in the country”.  OU I’d say is the severe weather university capital of the US.   The campus is even connected to  NOAA’s NWS Norman office….how cool is that!  You get to witness first hand some of the top severe weather forecasters in the country.   OU has a great variety of operational forecasting courses and many of the graduates move into the private sector and TV. (Read the top 10 steps on how to get a weather internship at a TV station”

If you’ve ever wanted to get into storm chasing…I’d say OU and Texas A&M can’t be beat!

#2: Texas A&M—I’d call Texas A&M one of the top feeders of grads to meteorology employment in Houston.  As you know from my previous post in “Top 5 Cities that hire Energy meteorologists”, Houston is #1.  Houston also hires aviation meteorologists, private weather consultants, TV meteorologists, and many more.  I’d say Houston has more meteorologists than any other large metropolitan city over 1 million people.

College Station, TX (where Texas A&M is located) is less than an hour and a half away from Houston.   What is great about A&M is its proximity to severe weather….mesoscale thunderstorms, tornadoes and hurricanes!  A lot of A&M grads are known to be excellent storm chasers and severe weather experts.  It’s been consistently rated as a top school in meteorology and has an excellent set of forecasting courses.

And the winner is….

#1:  Penn State University

Penn State has the best operational meteorology school in the country…hands down!  Penn State offers a dynamic course schedule filled with lots of options for the Operational Forecaster in Meteorology.   You can even enter a core concentration within Atmospheric Science…and some of the operational concentrations include “Weather Forecasting and Communications”, “Weather Risk Management”, and “Environmental Meteorology”.

Some of the courses that stand out are as following, “Weather Communications 1”, “Map Analysis”, “Advanced Forecasting”, “Computer Methods of Meteorological Analysis and Forecasting”, to name a few.  They even have an online forecasting course you can do for some credit which may be ideal for TV broadcasters who don’t truly understanding meteorology and forecasting.

And guess what…the Penn State meteorology program feeds into a variety of companies.  AccuWeather employs many Penn State graduates including Penn State’s current students through internships.  Accuweather is located within close proximity to Penn State University.   And just for kicks…I looked at all the weather channel personalities and where they went to school…and a majority of them came from Penn State!  Penn State even has a beautifully designed weather center where students can practice on the green screen.  You can see a photo of it up top.  It’s the real deal! (Read about my experience on the “Green Screen”)

Is there anything that you’d like to add about your school above? Or do you feel that your school should be in the top 5?  Let me know by putting your comments below!


Posted by AJ on November 14, 2011

  • Weathersfuori

    Good work here- I’d have to agree with the top 5, though for those interested in TV AND a solid met education, FSU is right up there if not on top of PSU for that particular niche. Not a lot of weather industry around Tallahassee like other schools on your list, other than NWS and state climo office, but there are many small-medium size TV markets around there good for recent grads. And a lot of top dollar TV mets were FSU grads including Janice Huff of WNBC in New York, and Stephanie Abrams at TWC.

    • Anonymous

      Hi, thanks for the comment! Absolutely! I was actually going back and forth between Miami and FSU for the #5 spot for the very same reasons you’ve mentioned above…but chose Miami due to the proximity of more companies and government organizations in the area. How about FSU at #6?? :)

  • Matt

    Thanks for breaking this down for me AJ. I think it’s great you’ve singled out operational forecasting versus research. Nice job!

  • Suzanne

    I’m curious – do you think the problems at Penn State are going to have a negative affect on its meteorology program, as far as how employers may view a candidate with PSU on his resume in a few years? Or that some of the faculty may be thinking of finding other jobs to dissociate themselves from the place?

    • PSU2012

      Not at all. I graduated from the program this year and can tell you that none of the faculty, or students for that matter, think that way at all. I actually had several job offers before I even graduated, so that should tell you something about the program. They really do things right up there, and the student/teacher interaction is second to none! Employers don’t shy away from PSU Meteo grads, because they know and respect the name and are smart enough to realize that academics and athletics are two separate entities. (And, as I learned, many of them are Penn State grads also!)

      • Suzanne

        Thanks you PSU2012, for the perspective.

  • Sean H

    I’m going to be a senior in high school this fall and have been looking at meteorology colleges extensively. Living in Colorado, it is kind of a strange college wise. The colleges with certified undergraduate degrees are University of Northern Colorado and Metropolitan State College of Denver (?). Both of the major colleges only offer graduate, so I assume they are very research oriented. I’ve also been looking at University of Utah and Oklahoma University as possible better options despite being out-of-state, because I am leaning towards operational meteorology. Lately I’ve heard that basically all meteorology undergraduate degrees are the same, no matter where you go, but when I see lists come out like this, it makes me thing twice about that statement. Oh, and one more thing. I’d personally rather go to University of Utah over Oklahoma University, but I never see anyone talking about their program, which is discouraging. Is it a respected program? Any advice? Thank you!

    • Anonymous

      Hey Sean…thanks for reaching out. Yea since you want to be an operational meteorologist…those Colorado schools are a little tough since they do offer grad degrees only.

      Like you said, most other met schools are the same…but I’d say there are some that more “forecasting courses” that you can take as an elective.

      If you attend OU, that would be fantastic. I have not heard much of University of Utah…but I would go to their meteorology program websites (and others)…start looking at the alumni pages (or call the administrators) and try emailing the alumni of various universities. They will give you a good sense of what they liked, disliked, etc. And if they do not have alumni pages there…just go to good ole Linkedin and search profiles there.

      I hope that helps!


      • bc

        Hey AJ about the correspondance programs offered like MSU? DO YOU FEEL THE the on-line programs are great.There is a junior college in my area that offers wind energy technology (Western Texas College in Snyder,Texas) they have a 2 year program with some meteorology courses offered great school and program

  • Macstep1

    I’m 12…… and I love learning about the U.S., I know all the capitals of the U.S. states as well as the major cities. For instance, the major cities in Florida are Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa, Orlando, and Pensacola. Tallahassee is the largest city. I watch the Weather Channel like it is my favorite TV show. I might like going to Penn State

    • Macstep1

      I mean Tallahassee is the capital

    • freshAJ

      That’s fantastic Macstep1. Keep up the good work!


  • Megan

    My daughter is in high school and is a math and science whiz – and also very interested in communications/broadcasting. She has been considering a meteorology career. As a Florida State graduate myself, I’ve encouraged her to look at their program, but she is more interested in University of Miami. We are Florida residents and obviously there is a HUGE tuition difference between the private U of M and the public FSU. Is the Miami program that much better to warrant the increased tuition and subsequent debt she’ll graduate with? Thanks for your input.

    • freshAJ

      Hi Megan, thanks for your question. I know a lot of FSU grads in Meteorology…and they all tell me how much they loved the program. But to each it’s own. U of M is a great school too. But if it were up to me in your situation, I’d pick FSU given the lower tuition for you and excellent broadcast meteorology program.
      If she were to go into the private sector in meteorology…I do not think it would make much of a difference if she graduated from U of M vs FSU. Personally, I don’t think it warrants the huge increased tuition/extra debt.
      Also, if she wants to be an on-air meteorologist…it definitely does not matter these days. I definitely like the U of M program for hurricane/severe weather forecasting….given the NHC is in the vicinity. But overall, I’d say FSU is a fantastic school if your daughter is considering a meteorology career. Good luck with the decision!

  • Spencer

    I would just like to add that the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign is a very good school, especially if you live in Illinois. Their undergraduate atmospheric science program is excellent if anyone wants the opinion of a graduating senior.

  • Transcending

    Also, look into St Cloud State University in St Cloud, MN. We have an Emmy-winning college television station with meteorology students in every single news show. Most of us are minoring in Mass Communication also.

  • Trey

    What do you think of Purdue’s atmospheric science program?

    • freshAJ

      Hi Trey, I am not as familiar with their program. I’m sure it’s great though. Thanks!

  • Antonio

    what about of colleges in south america?

  • TTUgrad

    Hey AJ,

    I’m a military wife with a Bachelors degree in Early Childhood Education that LOVES weather. I took an Atmospheric Science class (at Texas Tech University) and really loved it. Now, I’m considering going back to school and becoming a meteorologist but I’m not really sure how to get started. I know Texas Tech University offers a Masters degree (and Bachelors degree) in Atmospheric Science and they also do a lot of really interesting tornado research. I’m mainly just curious about my first steps and what to do? My husband will be getting out of the military soon and we will either be heading to Texas or Oklahoma. Thanks!

    • freshAJ

      Hey TTUgrad, congratulations on deciding on your next path! I’d love to ask what type of meteorologist do you want to be? Energy? Aviation? TV? Government/NWS? Something else?

      As much as I would want to inspire you to become a meteorologist and follow your passion, I’d also want to provide some realistic expectations so you’re not surprised.

      The job market is terrible right now. Too many mets on the sidelines with bachelors/masters/ and even experience. It’s tough to get in anywhere.

      Secondly, you would probably need to go into an undergrad program because you’d need to take a lot of prereq courses like calculus, physics, chem, programming, stats, etc. I’m not sure if you took those in undergrad?

      But if you’re up for the challenge and willing to take the risk….then I would complete your bachelors in meteorology at either OU or Texas Tech or A&M. They are all great schools in that region and focus on severe weather given you’re in the heart of it.

      If you want to be competitive, then I’d get a masters while at the same time try to get any sort of experience through internship or consulting on your own.

      I hope that helps somewhat.

      I wish you the best of luck…and please thank your husband for his service. Holler if you have any further questions.



      • WxAg

        Hey guys, just wanted to bring up that TTU does NOT have a Bachelor’s Atmospheric Science program. Their website does indicate a Master’s and a minor in Atmospheric Science and a PhD in Geosciences.

  • mohamed essam

    i am confused about choosing the university as i am an international student and i can’t afford these 5 universities,but the university of oklahoma still near to my financial but i am’t sure yet.

    can i join the (university of south alabama), it’s suitable to my financial and it has agreat program but no body notice there university.

    is it needful to enter one of these 5 universities ???

    • freshAJ

      Hi Mohamed, the university of Oklahoma is just fine. It honestly depends on what you plan on doing with meteorology. Find the program that fits what you want to do. Hope that helps!

  • Becca

    Hello, i currently go to a psu branch campus for meteorology and recently got accepted into NC state university meteorology program. Ive only completed one year of Gen Eds and wont be able to take meteo classes at psu until my junior year. Would you recommend staying at psu even though all my major classes will be my last two years or going to ncsu? I also plan on getting my masters degree. im not exactly sure which part of meteorology i want to focus on which kind of makes me nervous to wait until my last two years to get into the classes but if the degree from psu is that much better i could get over it hah. Thank you for any advice you can give.

  • Sayuri

    hi~I´m already graduated in meteorology, and work as operational forecaster. However, i wanted to improve my abilities. Do you know, if some of these top universities have some summer/winter class for international students? Thanks for replying~

    • freshAJ

      Great question. I’m not sure. You should call around and find out. I’m not sure going back to class will “improve abilities” in my opinion. I think you should find some strong mentors in the space and learn from folks in the field. Just my 2 cents.

  • Allison

    a couple general questions about meteorology: what kind of internships are offered at these universities? do weathermen (or women in my case) require the same degree? and what are the career opportunities that a degree would lead to? thanks!

    • freshAJ

      Usually no internships are offered at universities. You generally have to go outside to a company but some of the top schools may have options. In regards to the TV weather degree…the answer is no they do not “require” the same degree. Anyone can go on TV and be their weather person. Career opps…my entire blog and categories discuss this. Check them out :)

  • jk

    Show some love for my school. SJSU!! Go Spartans!

  • Alyssa Kunkle

    I am going into my senior year in high school and have been trying to figure out what to do about college. I really want to be a forecaster, I was wondering how much of a difference it makes whether I major in meteorology or atmospheric science.

    • freshAJ

      I think it would make no difference.

  • Nicole

    Did you even look at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, FL? They have a great Operatoinal Forecasting Weather Program there. When I got a job and had to take on the job training on how to forecast weather I was light years ahead of the graduates from the majority of the univierties you have listed above.

    • Nicole

      Correction: Sorry I wrote this post fast.

      Operational* universities*

  • Dakota

    You may have already done this but it would be good to get the top 5 universities for a TV meteorology job. I assume you need the broadcasting experience as well. I always notice a lot of TV people graduating from Mississippi St. I know Syracuse has a well known broadcasting program but dont know if they have meteorology as well. Id think youd have a leg up if you know the TV business as well, especially since smaller markets would probably be just as happy to hire a pretty weather girl or guy without the professional degrees

    • freshAJ

      Penn State, Florida State, Syracuse are a few that come to mind. Bottom line, it’s all about your tape (presentation, looks, etc) and connections in getting your first job in the TV industry. In my opinion, the degree is becoming less and less important for TV meteorology. They need strong ratings to survive…a pretty face usually helps :)

  • Sonja Uthoff-Whitaker

    AJ, our 10 y/o son is fixed on energy meteorology – we are active duty Navy family currently located in Pensacola, FL, and soon moving to New Orleans. Are there any opportunities for electives/ extracurricular activities for him in this area at his age that you know of? Very respectfully, Chad & Sonja

    • freshAJ

      Hi Chad and Sonya, wow that’s quite impressive your 10 year old son has narrowed down energy meteorology. Extra curricular activities as a 10 year old…my opinion would be have fun being a kid.

      He’ll have plenty of time to get internships…but if he wants to dig a little deeper…he may want to go meet mentors in person to further motivate him (or dissuade) him from sticking to a niche field. Thanks and best of luck!

  • Maria

    Hi AJ. My son is a sophomore in high school & has wanted to be a meteorologist since third grade. He’s stuck between FSU & Penn State.Any ssuggestions? Thank you!

    • freshAJ

      That’s great. They are both great schools. Do you know what type of meteorologist he wants to be? Does he like severe weather, or is he interested in TV? Would love to hear more to give you a recommendation..but you can’t go wrong with either one.


      • Maria

        He said he likes them both. He wants to be like Jim Cantore. He wants to storm chase as well as be on tv.

  • emp5044

    emp5044: I am a current student in highschool as a senior and have loved to study meteorology ever since I saw a tornado on my television when i was six. It has always been a passion of mine and I truly want to succeed in the major. I live in Pennsylvania and want to go into the side of severe weather in my major. Not being on television, but being behind the scenes of research. I am picking between Penn State, Ohio State, Florida State, Colorado State, and University of Oklahoma. I was wondering what school I should be more towards with the fact of the severe weather research major side.

  • Gale

    Hi. My son wants to attend psu for meteorology. Has been interested in weather since very young. Unfortunately he is blind. Wondering if you think he could somehow use the technology to predict weather or is he wasting time. Thank you!

    • Jerry Korrell

      As a Penn State grad, BS/MS, I can say that they work hard for the success of the visually impaired. Not sure how it would work for your son, but you should contact them and possibly arrange an on-campus interview. If there is any way they can make it work for him, they will! Best wishes for his future endeavors!!!

  • Austin Wright

    Hello – I live in Olympia, Washington, which is about 65 miles south of Seattle. I have heard that University of Washington does have one of the best meteorology programs in the world. One of the main reason is that the weather here is quite diverse. It rains on average 250/365 days of the year. Every storm is the same. You hear the weatherman on TV say “Storms coming in on Friday night”, and it means that We get about an inch of rain in 12 hours, winds between 25-30 mph, and don’t forget the occasional lightning strike. When it does snow here, it is. mediocre. (Since I am a major Seattle Seahawks fan I know that word very well) It snows here about 3 times a winter, and usually is about 3 inches. It is always the same around here.

  • Jenny

    I really wanted to go to Penn State and now I can! Penn State is my dream university!

  • Al May

    My guidance counselor recommended Embry riddle aeronautical university

  • yash

    Hello Aj,
    I am Yash and a COnsultant by proffession. ( Engineer ( Electronics), MBA ( Marketing & Finance) with 5 years of work experience. Although late, but i want to pursue my hobby to study meteorology( Phd).
    I have no idea how to strengthen my application to get admit in these universities. I have also particiapted in couple of reserach papers to hone my analytical skills.Plese suggest.

  • Southern Quaker

    I am trying to advise an undergraduate student who wishes to go into meteorology and forecasting. He has a background in math and science (2 semesters of physics and math through differential equations, plus 2 semesters of programming). What graduate programs do you recommend?

  • Gelare

    Hi A.J I have 37 years old and untill 10 years ago i have been working in meterology organization, this year i have been accepted in meterology ( master degree) do you have any suggestion for me? unfortunatlly i dont have a good c.v , do you think it is too late for me to apply for it ?after getting master ?

  • Tamra

    My son Evan iş gong to Lydon state college. Has anyone had a hard time in calculcus 2 class? He has been, his teacher does not have the time to help him out or other boys out. He is going to drop the class. Does effect him getting a job , when he gladiator 2017?
    Does anyone know a good site to go on to take a class for calculcus İl?


  • Ashwini

    Hi AJ, I am a mother of 15 year old, who is studying in 10th in India, He wants to become a meteorologist. He is passionate about weather as he spent his childhood years in Midwest.
    It will be great if you could guide me on taking admission in USA either for udnergrad or graduate courses. In India there are no undergrad course for meteorology.

  • Melanie Glennon Williams

    My son wants to go into meteorology however he does not want to be the weatherman on tv. He wants to be behind the scene. Which schools are best for that?

    • Katie

      Millersville University in Pennsylvania is highly respected, also Penn State is an excellent choice as well as probably the most respected meteorology degree in the country. I attend their weather camp every year, so I know the the facility is AMAZING, and perfect for behind the scenes action (forecasting)

  • A.F.C

    Wait how much do these cost and what are the majors because I can not find it. It would also be much easier if you included the location. Thx

  • Al May

    I hear that Embry riddle aeronautical university is also good

  • Brent Bennett

    HI AJ I was wondering if you could tell me by chance what the best Degree(s) to have to be a Successful Meteorologist are? I plan on going to Penn State I’m just wondering what the best Degrees are in order to be a high paid Meteorologist. This is my Passion I just want to be able to not have to worry about living poorly again and my Future family won’t have to either.