The Bachelor's Degree in Atmospheric Science or Meteorology


  1. Introduction
  2. Attributes of bachelor's degree programs
  3. Appendix: New federal civil service requirements (GS 1340)

1. Introduction

This statement describes the minimum curricular composition, faculty size, and facility availability recommended by the American Meteorological Society for an undergraduate degree program in atmospheric science. For the purposes of this document, the terms atmospheric science and meteorology are taken to be equivalent.

The purpose of this document is to provide advice to university faculty and administrators who are seeking to establish and maintain undergraduate programs in atmospheric science and guidance to prospective students who are exploring their educational alternatives.

It should be noted that, while many similarities exist, the curricular composition described below differs from the federal civil service requirements for employment as a meteorologist (see appendix for GS 1340 meteorology standards). This statement recognizes that contemporary education in atmospheric science must include a fundamental background in basic atmospheric science and related sciences and mathematics while at the same time providing flexibility for students to pursue alternative career paths.

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2. Attributes of bachelor's degree programs

a. General objectives

The objectives of a bachelor's degree program in atmospheric science should include one or more of the following:

  1. in-depth study of meteorology to serve as the culmination to a science or liberal arts education,
  2. preparation for graduate education, and/or
  3. preparation for professional employment in meteorology or a closely related field.

b. Course offerings

A curriculum leading to a bachelor of science degree (or a bachelor of arts degree) in atmospheric science should contain

1) at least 24 semester hours (or 36 quarter hours) of credit in atmospheric science that includes

2) calculus though ordinary differential equations in courses designed for majors in either mathematics, physical science, or engineering;

3) a one-year sequence in physics, with laboratory, with calculus as a prerequisite or corequisite;

4) a course in chemistry appropriate for physical science majors;

5) a course in computer science appropriate for physical science majors; and

6) a course in statistics appropriate for physical science majors.

For institutions using the quarter system, the recommended credits in items 1a and 1b convert to noninteger numbers of quarter hours. In such cases the institutions may choose to include portions of the material in these courses in other recommended courses.

As in any science curriculum, students should have the opportunity and be encouraged to supplement minimum requirements with additional course work in the major or any supporting areas, including not only courses in the basic sciences, mathematics, and engineering but also courses designed to broaden the student's perspective on the environmental sciences (e.g., hydrology, oceanography, and solid earth sciences) and science administration and policy making. Also, students should be strongly urged to give considerable attention to course work or other activity designed to develop effective communications skills, both written and oral.

Finally, as noted in the introduction, the curriculum described above differs from the federal civil service requirements (see appendix). However, it is recommended that courses required to fulfill federal employment requirements—even if not required for the curriculum—be made available. Further, if the offering of such courses is not consistent with the educational objectives of the program, then the institution has an obligation to inform prospective students that the completion of their undergraduate degree will not fully qualify them for entry-level employment in federal agencies.

c. Faculty attributes

There should be a minimum of three full-time regular faculty with expertise

sufficiently broad to address the subject areas identified in item 1 in section 2b. The faculty role should extend beyond traditional teaching and research to provide academic counseling to students with diverse educational and cultural backgrounds.

d. Student recruitment and retention

To encourage the recruitment and retention of students with diverse educational

and cultural backgrounds, academic programs should provide appropriate resources and flexibility.

e. Facilities

There should be coherent space for the atmospheric science program and its students. Contained within this space should be access to real-time and archived meteorological data through computer-based data display systems, the availability of applications software suitable for the diagnosis of dynamical and physical processes in the atmosphere, and facilities for teaching atmospheric observation and measurement techniques. Further, course requirements should include components that utilize modern departmental and/or institutional computer facilities.

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Appendix: New federal civil service requirements (GS 1340)

1) A degree in meteorology, atmospheric science, or other natural science that includes the following:


2) A combination of education and experience—course work chown shown in item 1 plus appropriate experience or additional education.

*Prerequisite or corequisite of calculus for course work in atmospheric dynamics and thermodynamics, physics, and differential equations. Calculus courses must be appropriate for a physical science major.

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© 1996 American Meteorological Society