Careers - where will I end up with a degree in climate science?

The need for students who understand environmentally relevant physical sciences has never been greater.  Demand for graduates of programs in this area is currently high worldwide. Most researchers at the CCRC quantitatively study processes in the atmosphere, ocean, land surface or how they work together. There is a wide range of career opportunities available for graduates in these areas.

In a research career, you could expect to work within the CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology, universities or government agencies internationally. Work could include the development and maintenance of ocean, atmosphere and climate models or use of these to understand and predict our future climate or tomorrow's weather.

A more hands-on career could focus on the operational aspects of climate and environmental dynamics. Here, you might be involved in the collection of data and the interpretation of the variability of a system. This information could then be used to advise government agencies on environmental management issues. Agencies interested in these skills include Sydney Water, the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, CSIRO and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

Finally, there is the decision-making or managerial path. Fisheries or oil companies require personnel trained in these areas to liaise with scientists to develop policies that require an understanding of the complex issues that surround the long-term preservation of our environment. Insurance companies need scientifically literate graduates in this area to assess the relative risks of weather related events.

To date, 100% of CCRC PhD graduates have secured full time employment shortly after graduating, if not before.

Careers in atmospheric science, meteorology, climate Science, oceanography, earth system science, climate system science

These fields are deeply founded in “STEM”, that is “Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics”. If you want a career in any of these areas here are some tips.

Starting at school, there is simply no substitute for Maths and Physics. You have to choose more than this and subjects like Earth and Environmental Science, Computing, Chemistry and Biology are great choices. Science, science, science. To be honest, if you do not like these sorts of subjects you are probably not reading this!

For a career in this area you need to go to University and do a degree. Your degree should be rich in the following sorts of area:

Maths. At least first and probably second year undergraduate study, including calculus, is particularly important. Many scientists working in these areas hold a Maths degree, some an Honours degree.

Physics. At least first and probably second year undergraduate. Many scientists working in these areas hold a Physics degree, some an Honours degree.

Computer Science. You will almost certainly need to be able to write computer code, and it helps to be proficient.

If you study many areas of science, you may do enough of these things – a Chemistry degree for example, or an Engineering degree. Some Universities offer Environmental Science that has suitable foundations and a good focus on quantitative skills. Many Universities offer courses, majors or degrees in Meteorology, Climate Science etc building on good foundations in Maths and Physics. Specialised degrees in Hydrology can contain all the necessary skills. It is not uncommon to be able to do some degrees and skip second year Maths and Physics. That short cut is not normally good in the long term, but there can be options that lead to fantastic outcomes. Note- admission to the Bureau of Meteorology’s graduate meteorologist program normally requires both 2nd year undergraduate maths and physics.

There are variations. If you want to work on some specific areas, for example areas around carbon cycling, studying Biology and Chemistry can be more important. If you want to build Climate Models or Weather Forecast Models, then more Computer Science can be valuable. And there are always special areas that can prove hugely important including Statistics.

Most, but not all, people working in the weather and climate sciences have Honours or Masters degrees. These tend to be desired by employers from the Australian Antarctic Division, the Bureau of Meteorology, State and Federal Governments and Environmental Consultancies, and so forth. If you want to do research in these areas you are likely to want to do a PhD, but that comes much later.

Finally, working in areas relevant to climate and climate change can be very diverse including Economics, Psychology, Engineering, Urban Design and Planning, Insurance, Banking, Financial Risk, Actuarial, Manufacturing Technology, Business, Medicine, Biotechnology, Media Studies, and so on. If you are studying one of these, perhaps add a little climate science so you can help link your chosen field into finding solutions to climate change.

Finally, seek advice. There is no substitute for contacting a researcher in an area you are interested in and asking what they think. You can seek advice from us by contacting our Graduate Director- Melissa Hart.