An atmospheric sciences degree is an academic program that focuses on the scientific study of the Earth’s atmosphere, weather patterns, climate systems, and related processes. It provides students with a comprehensive understanding of the physical, chemical, and dynamic aspects of the atmosphere and prepares them for careers in atmospheric research, weather forecasting, climate science, air quality assessment, environmental consulting, and more. Here are some key components and aspects of an atmospheric sciences degree:

  • Core Coursework: The curriculum typically includes a range of core courses covering fundamental concepts in atmospheric science. These courses may include atmospheric dynamics, meteorology, atmospheric thermodynamics, atmospheric chemistry, climate science, atmospheric data analysis, and remote sensing. The coursework provides a solid foundation in the principles and theories that underpin the study of the atmosphere.
  • Laboratory and Fieldwork: Many atmospheric sciences programs incorporate laboratory sessions and fieldwork to provide students with hands-on experience. Laboratory work may involve analyzing atmospheric data, conducting experiments, or using computer models to simulate atmospheric processes. Fieldwork may involve conducting atmospheric measurements, deploying weather instruments, or participating in research campaigns to gather data directly from the atmosphere.
  • Mathematics and Physics: Strong mathematical and physical foundations are crucial in understanding atmospheric processes. Therefore, atmospheric sciences degrees often require coursework in calculus, differential equations, physics, and fluid dynamics. These courses provide the necessary mathematical and physical tools for analyzing and modeling atmospheric phenomena.
  • Computer Skills and Data Analysis: Proficiency in computer skills and data analysis is essential for atmospheric scientists. Students are typically introduced to programming languages such as Python, MATLAB, or R, which are widely used for data analysis, numerical modeling, and statistical analysis. Students learn to process and interpret large atmospheric datasets, use software tools specific to atmospheric science (e.g., climate models, GIS), and visualize and present their findings effectively.
  • Research Opportunities: Many programs offer research opportunities for students to engage in scientific inquiry and gain practical research experience. Students may collaborate with faculty members on ongoing research projects, participate in data analysis, or conduct their own research under the guidance of experienced researchers. These research experiences allow students to apply their knowledge, develop critical thinking skills, and contribute to advancing the field of atmospheric science.
  • Electives and Specializations: Atmospheric sciences programs often offer a range of elective courses that allow students to tailor their studies to their specific interests and career goals. Students may choose to specialize in areas such as climate modeling, severe weather, air quality, atmospheric chemistry, or remote sensing. These specializations provide in-depth knowledge and expertise in specific subfields of atmospheric science.
  • Internships and Cooperative Education: Many programs encourage or require students to complete internships or cooperative education experiences with organizations such as weather forecasting agencies, research institutions, government agencies, or private companies. These opportunities provide valuable real-world experience, networking opportunities, and a chance to apply classroom knowledge to practical situations.
  • Professional Development: Atmospheric sciences programs often emphasize professional development to prepare students for successful careers. This may include workshops on scientific writing, presentation skills, and effective communication. Students may also be encouraged to present their research at conferences, participate in professional organizations such as the American Meteorological Society (AMS), and engage with the broader atmospheric science community.

Completing an atmospheric sciences degree equips students with a deep understanding of the Earth’s atmosphere and the skills necessary to analyze and interpret atmospheric data. It prepares them for diverse career paths where they can contribute to weather forecasting, climate research, environmental assessment, policy development, and the advancement of scientific knowledge in the field of atmospheric sciences.

Types of Degrees
In the field of atmospheric sciences, several types of degrees are offered at different academic levels. The specific degree options may vary between institutions, but here are the common types of degrees you can pursue:

  • Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) in Atmospheric Sciences: This undergraduate degree provides a broad foundation in atmospheric science and related disciplines. It typically includes core courses in meteorology, atmospheric dynamics, atmospheric chemistry, climate science, and data analysis. A B.Sc. in Atmospheric Sciences prepares students for entry-level positions in weather forecasting, environmental consulting, air quality assessment, or further study at the graduate level.
  • Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) in Environmental Science with a Concentration in Atmospheric Science: Some institutions offer undergraduate programs in environmental science with a concentration or specialization in atmospheric science. These programs provide a broader perspective on environmental issues, incorporating interdisciplinary coursework in areas such as ecology, environmental policy, and sustainability, along with specific atmospheric science courses.
  • Master of Science (M.Sc.) in Atmospheric Sciences: A graduate-level degree, the M.Sc. in Atmospheric Sciences offers more advanced coursework and research opportunities in atmospheric science. Students can specialize in areas such as weather prediction, climate modeling, air quality, or atmospheric chemistry. The program typically includes advanced coursework, seminars, and the completion of a research-based thesis.
  • Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Professional Science (MPS) in Atmospheric Science: Some institutions may offer M.A. or MPS programs in atmospheric science, which focus on applied or professional aspects of the field. These programs may emphasize practical skills, such as weather forecasting techniques, data analysis, or air quality management. They can be suited for individuals seeking careers in applied atmospheric science, weather forecasting agencies, or environmental consulting.
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Atmospheric Sciences: The Ph.D. is the highest academic degree in atmospheric sciences. It is a research-intensive program that allows students to pursue independent research and contribute to the advancement of knowledge in their specialized area. Ph.D. candidates typically conduct original research, write a doctoral dissertation, and defend their work in front of a committee of experts. A Ph.D. in Atmospheric Sciences prepares individuals for careers in academia, research institutions, or leadership roles in the atmospheric science community.

There are several reputable institutions that offer excellent programs in atmospheric sciences. Here are some well-regarded institutions known for their strong atmospheric sciences programs:

  • University of California, Berkeley: The Department of Earth and Planetary Science at UC Berkeley offers a highly regarded program in Atmospheric Science. It focuses on the physical, chemical, and biological aspects of the Earth’s atmosphere, climate change, and air quality. The program benefits from the proximity to research institutions such as Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the UC Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory.
  • University of Colorado Boulder: The Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder is known for its world-class research and education in atmospheric sciences. It offers a comprehensive curriculum covering various aspects of atmospheric science, including weather, climate, remote sensing, and numerical modeling. The university also benefits from its location near the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).
  • Pennsylvania State University: The Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science at Pennsylvania State University is renowned for its atmospheric sciences program. It offers comprehensive undergraduate and graduate programs, emphasizing research, numerical modeling, weather prediction, and climate dynamics. The department is well-connected to organizations such as the National Weather Service and offers access to state-of-the-art research facilities.
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences offers a highly regarded program in atmospheric science. It focuses on the study of atmospheric dynamics, climate, atmospheric chemistry, and remote sensing. The department collaborates with leading research institutions and provides extensive research opportunities for students.
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison: The Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison offers a comprehensive program in atmospheric sciences. It covers various aspects of atmospheric science, including weather, climate, air quality, and numerical modeling. The department benefits from collaborations with the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies and the Space Science and Engineering Center.
  • Colorado State University: Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science is known for its strong emphasis on weather and climate research. The program offers a range of courses and research opportunities in areas such as atmospheric dynamics, severe storms, climate modeling, and atmospheric chemistry. The university also hosts the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA), facilitating further research collaboration.
  • University of Washington: The Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington provides a rigorous program in atmospheric sciences. It covers a broad range of topics, including weather forecasting, climate dynamics, atmospheric physics, and remote sensing. The department benefits from the proximity to renowned research centers such as the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (JISAO).


See which schools are the most and least expensive.

Read about Tuition