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Not sure where to put this, but I'm considering going back to school to become a meteorologist. I'm almost 30.


The Iceman
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Mods feel free to move if this isn't in the right place but I'm just looking for some advice. Right now I'm in a pretty comfy job that is unfortunately very unfulfilling even though I have amazing benefits. I was a met major originally back in college but switched to environmental geography after about 40 credits because I admittedly was smoking too much pot/ doing other things and found that geography was easier and I didn't want to put in the work for meteorology. The only job I could find out of college was in a field completely unrelated to the environment or mapping. I'm actually in accounting now and it's just because it was the easiest/first job available. This has been the theme of my 20's and honestly I'm ready for a change. I was plagued by addiction until I was 25 and have been living sober for almost 5 years now. I just feel like I'm mature enough now to follow my passion this time and complete the major. My worries are how realistic would it be for a school to even take me now? And what would job prospects look like for someone just graduating with a met degree in their mid 30's? Can anyone here offer any guidance or other advice? I'm open to all suggestion even if it's against my goal.

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On 10/20/2020 at 1:14 PM, The Iceman said:

Mods feel free to move if this isn't in the right place but I'm just looking for some advice. Right now I'm in a pretty comfy job that is unfortunately very unfulfilling even though I have amazing benefits. I was a met major originally back in college but switched to environmental geography after about 40 credits because I admittedly was smoking too much pot/ doing other things and found that geography was easier and I didn't want to put in the work for meteorology. The only job I could find out of college was in a field completely unrelated to the environment or mapping. I'm actually in accounting now and it's just because it was the easiest/first job available. This has been the theme of my 20's and honestly I'm ready for a change. I was plagued by addiction until I was 25 and have been living sober for almost 5 years now. I just feel like I'm mature enough now to follow my passion this time and complete the major. My worries are how realistic would it be for a school to even take me now? And what would job prospects look like for someone just graduating with a met degree in their mid 30's? Can anyone here offer any guidance or other advice? I'm open to all suggestion even if it's against my goal.

I'm currently a sophomore met student at Millersville and it's a lot of math and physics I gotta say (especially if you are interested in Space Weather/Heliophysics like me haha). However, I'm almost 20 years old. I'm taking the "normal" route per say as a typical high school student going to college. I do know though that Millersville does have some older students walking around. I wouldn't fear stepping out and following your dreams man. Ask yourself some questions though: 1.) Am I financially in a feasible and stable state to go to college (It's alot of money without scholarships or funding) 2.) Do I want to dedicate the next few years to this 3.) Will I enjoy all of the school work involved including rigorous math and physics courses (right now I'm in ODE, it's not fun haha). Meteorology has been my dream since I was a kid. I've always wanted to do it. If that's the same for you, go for it. Start out at a local community college, grab some general education credits at a cheaper price. Then transfer in with those credits and you've already got a head start and can fully focus on the courses that matter. Perhaps you might be seen a bit "differently" in the classroom for being older. But what does it matter?

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  • 1 month later...

Haha, well, I DID go to school for Meteo, and hold a degree, and STILL don't work in the field. You'll encounter that a lot--there are way more METs than jobs. If you don't have a masters, or experience, don't expect to get into the NWS or similar (it isn't like it was in the 80s). Many other met jobs in the private sector don't involve forecasting and/or pay very poorly--even some in television. The fact is, computer tech has gotten REALLY GOOD, and you only need so many people to make the models, run the models, and forecasters to interpret the models for a given region and specific niche. Whether you're talking airlines, trading markets, forecasting companies, television, government--it is VERY competitive.

I went to PSU--they have a very large program. Every year, they graduate many dozens of METs, just at PSU, every single year. There are lots of MET schools, multiply that out, then consider that a tv station may have 3-6 mets, NWS office may have 10-20. To reiterate--many mets don't work as mets. It is a very fun field, and when it WAS more of a niche major, getting a B.S was sufficient to get a good job either at the NWS or private sector. That is no longer the case. And this is not even accounting for the importance of connections--who you know matters as much as, and often more, than what you know. That's true in most competitive skilled fields, and meteo is no exception. When I was in HS, I volunteered at the Franklin Institute. My supervisor was a met grad--he didn't like talking about meteo though (I got the sense he was a bit upset at not working in meteo). Little did I realize then that that's the norm rather than exception. I've also run into many mets since graduating, who do not work in MET.

 

So, to get around all of that I tried to go to grad school, changed my focus from forecasting to climate change, etc etc. But, I wasn't as motivated because even though climate science is very important, I got into weather bc of severe weather forecasting/winter storms etc. So, I didn't do well there, had some issues of my own, and left. Over several years, I reoriented myself with completely unrelated work, while transitioning to pursuing a masters in comp sci. I miss meteo immensely, particularly doing research, and to this day, I wish I'd worked harder during my grad school stint--it is perhaps the single greatest regret of my life. But the fact remains that hobbies and passions have to intersect with job demand and money, to actually be worth it. I could re-apply to grad schools, retake the GRE, etc. But, I already got into another masters program in comp sci, and it makes more sense for me at this point. 

 

Therefore, when considering whether to go to school for meteo, or go back to school for meteo, your real first question should be, if you do that, what exactly do you want to do with it when you graduate? After you answer that, do some research and find out how many actual jobs entail that requirement. Perhaps you'll be in the top 20% of your class, and be part of the group that then does not want to go to grad school, but if not, you will have competition. You will also face competition from students who may attend other schools (which may hold higher reputations), from current mets that hold degrees and want to work in the field and have taken other jobs to hold them over while they look, etc. And some employers would indeed ask and scrutinize why you did not initially pursue meteo, why "now", even in holding a degree. Others would not. Also, as both a business manager, and a card carrying meteorologist, I can also tell you...in every profession, meteo included, we don't hire people solely based on their credentials. We look at your whole resume, your cover letter, we talk to you to see how you could fit in with our team, see what you actually know, how long you'd probably want to stay, and get a sense of your personality (aka, an interview). One thing you may be able to do NOW, is find a part time volunteer or paid job working with one of myriad online forecasting groups (see facebook, not a joke). Experience matters.

 

Now, the separate question to address is, would a school even accept you. On this matter, I have a very strong, and probably relatively unique opinion. If you go through the analysis of benefits and drawbacks, as I mentioned above, and determine meteo is a good choice for you--you should NOT let fear of being rejected stop you from trying. Apply. Reach out to the department head and ask them. YES, some schools WILL look negatively on trying to return to school after trying before and will reject you. Try anyway. The fact is, you don't need everyone to be on your team--you need one person/group/school to be on your team, that's it. When I read posts where people ask "can I do xyz if abc", then see posters explaining all the reasons why the answer is "no", it makes me cringe. Don't dissuade people from trying something they're passionate about if it's even remotely reasonable for them to do well with it. Fact is, if you don't give something a shot, you won't actually KNOW what said people will do. Humans are not machines--if you have a good essay that explains your background, why you want to do what you're applying for, links up your existing experience with how this new position/education could help you...that gets factored in. So do good letters of rec. Sometimes I think people get so hung up on wanting to go to, say, MIT, that they don't realize that the actual school, while important, is not as important as people think. Be judicious in explaining your past failures. I would personally, if I were you, emphasize how your work experience has allowed you to grow intellectually, become more mature, and improved your work ethic (be specific and use examples). Lot's of college kids do dumb things--you made mistakes, you fixed them.  Include a couple tidbits that highlight your existing meteorological knowledge and passions--try to specifically explain what in meteo makes you excited and get into the weeds a touch to show you know more than the first two sentences of a wikipedia article on the topic. Explain why you'd do well now--really think about this since it's important you give a good reason, and you yourself believe that reason. If you do explain your past switchover, it is reasonable to say that you were immature, didn't fully know what you wanted to do (understandable at that age), and made some mistakes, including not continuing with meteo.  Some people will give you a second chance, if you show them clearly why they should do so. You may also wish to consider applying to a graduate meteo program instead of ugrad. You've done ugrad, you have a degree in a semi-related field, you may be able to go straight to that level. Depends on how much math/physics etc you've done and what you still remember now. To sum this whole paragraph up though: If you decide, based on whatever reasoning, that you want to go to school for meteo, apply, reach out, and try. Do not sit here on the internet waiting for someone to give you a green light or strike you down. I really truly wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self that. If you try, and get rejected, find out why, find out how to fix it, and if you can't, be proud of yourself for making the effort. 

 

However--I really cannot stress this enough: Meteo is very fun; I still enjoy even the mathematical parts (I'm reviewing an old lecture about diagnosing vertical velocities using horizontal convergence and divergence right now). But, if I were in your shoes, I wouldn't be worried about my ability to get into school, I'd be worried about my ability to get a job after school. Not because of your age, just because, as I said--it's a very VERY competitive field, so if you've got something going that's good (e.g a good job with good benefits), be careful about throwing that away. The entire job market now is competitive--I've had masters graduates apply for roles at my company (in roles that required a HS diploma). Consider finding something that's MORE enjoyable in the field you're in, or one in which you have connections and some experience and existing knowledge. Going to school for 3-4 years to gain knowledge is fun, but don't throw away something good because you want something better. You don't have to work at a job that leaves you unfulfilled, but try to find ways to do meteo in a more limited way first before you jump the boat. 

 

Hope this helps.

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  • 1 month later...

I'm in the same boat as you - but I'm in my mid-forties!  I always loved weather, but pursued other closely aligned interests in Physics (and alcohol!).  I was accepted at Mississippi state and Arizona graduate schools and plan to attend this Fall (if funded).  My advice would be - to echo moderately unstable - to consider a graduate degree, since employment is more likely.  Many graduate programs don't even require (or just require 1, like Mississippi state) Meteo coursework.  They just want you to have completed 1 yr Physics, math through differential equations and maybe 1yr Chem.  Keep in touch!  

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  • 9 months later...
On 10/20/2020 at 1:14 PM, The Iceman said:

Mods feel free to move if this isn't in the right place but I'm just looking for some advice. Right now I'm in a pretty comfy job that is unfortunately very unfulfilling even though I have amazing benefits. I was a met major originally back in college but switched to environmental geography after about 40 credits because I admittedly was smoking too much pot/ doing other things and found that geography was easier and I didn't want to put in the work for meteorology. The only job I could find out of college was in a field completely unrelated to the environment or mapping. I'm actually in accounting now and it's just because it was the easiest/first job available. This has been the theme of my 20's and honestly I'm ready for a change. I was plagued by addiction until I was 25 and have been living sober for almost 5 years now. I just feel like I'm mature enough now to follow my passion this time and complete the major. My worries are how realistic would it be for a school to even take me now? And what would job prospects look like for someone just graduating with a met degree in their mid 30's? Can anyone here offer any guidance or other advice? I'm open to all suggestion even if it's against my goal.

Justin,

Long time no talk! I hope all is well. I know you posted this over a year ago but I was just surfing through this portion of the board.

Not sure what decision you have made or whether you're still deciding but do it man! The job prospects in the field are looking very positive, especially if you go a masters route and have a goal for the NWS. The private sector also has a ton of opportunities. Not sure if you're good at programming or have experience with GIS, but if you do that will help you big time. 

Anyways, I was 30 when I graduated with my degree in meteorology. I was extremely, extremely fortunate to have been presented with a job (which supposed to be an internship but it didn't qualify as an internship) before I even graduated. One of my professors told us a story of someone who was in his 40's who had gone there for meteorology looking for a career change and ended up getting a job. 

From what I remember you're a very smart individual. I struggled beyond belief with calculus and physics but grinded my way through. 

I'd be interested to know what your path has become in this past year.

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