Job as a meteorologist

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Rachel Carter is a meteorologist from the Met Office. Also, she is a BBC TV weather presenter and can be seen on the screen most days forecasting from some unusual and varied places such as the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland and Grimsby fish market.

How did you become a weather forecaster?

As well as physics, my other A levels were maths and geography and I went to Nottingham University to study physics, as meteorology forms part of a physics degree. Once I'd completed my degree, I applied to join the Met Office and was accepted. Initially, I wanted to go into research, to help improve our forecasting methods, but there was a vacancy in forecasting, so that's where I started out.

How did you get on TV?

As part of our initial training course, we needed to understand radio and TV broadcasting in case we were ever asked to do a broadcast. It was good fun and when TV weather presenters, John Kettley and Michael Fish, came along to talk to us about what they did, I chatted to them and got interested in the job. At the end of the course we all did an audition tape and I started off as a forecaster in Cardiff. Soon after, the programme 'Wales Today' was launched with a new look, and I got a job on that. I was only in my early 20s and it was a steep learning curve.

Why did you choose to become a meteorologist?

I was always really interested in the weather, but what really got me thinking about it was an A level geography project in which I looked at the variability of weather across North Wales.

In the UK the weather is never the same for two days running, and that's what makes it interesting. It's partly because of our latitude, and partly because our weather mostly comes from across the Atlantic.

How do you prepare a forecast?

It's very much a team effort. We're in constant communication with the Met Office operations centre at Exeter, which has much more information than us and has very experienced forecasters. They look at information coming in from around the world and the chief forecaster decides what the forecast is going to be. How I put that over is up to me. We have to do the graphics ourselves and we don't have someone writing a script for us. With between five and fifteen charts to go through, it's important to know what you're going to say and how you are going to link them.

Are all your broadcasts from a studio?

Most of the broadcasts are. Our studio is about the size of a bedroom and most of the time the forecaster is the only person in there, controlling the lights, camera and sound with the flick of a switch. For the two main news bulletins we are in the news studio with a camera in front of us. We do also look for interesting locations. Grimsby fish market was memorable, as was a lake near Merthyr Tydfil. It was pitch black and freezing. The most spectacular was a broadcast from the Giant's Causeway.

What skills and qualities are needed to work as a meteorologist?

As a meteorologist it is essential to have good communication skills, be presentable and believable and also have a strong scientific background.

Being able to work under pressure and to talk to time is also essential TV work.

Rachel's route to her job as a meteorologist

  • GCSE
  • A levels in Physics, Maths and Geography
  • BSc Physics at Nottingham University
  • Met Office
  • BBC

Rachel's tip

  • Be flexible and grab the opportunities – who would think I would become a TV presenter as well as a meteorologist.

Meteorologist related jobs

  • Physicist
  • Geologist
  • Geographer
  • Landscape scientist

Meteorologists salary

  • Graduate entrants start at £17,487, which can rise to £26,229.
  • A senior meteorologist can earn up to £67,885.

Becoming a meteorologist

  • Professional meteorologists need to have a degree in either meteorology, physics, maths or computing science, or a related subject.
  • The majority of meteorologists in the UK start their careers in the Met Office. It has its own residential college that provides initial training and supports continued professional development. The Met Office has over 2,000 staff, including 460 operational and over 300 research meteorologists.
  • There are some opportunities with other government bodies, gas, electricity, oil and water industries, instrument manufacturers, universities and environmental consultancies. It is possible to work abroad.
  • Opportunities in support roles for non-graduates require A level or equivalent or HNC qualifications in maths or a physical science. Competition for these jobs is fierce.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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