Climate Scientist Sanaa Hobeichi

Are you interested in:

  • Atmospheric science?
  • Meteorology?
  • Climate science?
  • Oceanography?
  • Earth System Science?
  • Climate Risk?

These fields are founded in STEMScience, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

If you want a career in any of these areas here are some tips:

High school

Starting at school, there is simply no substitute for Maths and Physics.

In addition, 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!

University study

Climate science students visiting the supercomputer Gadi in Canberra

For a career in this area you need to go to University and do a degree.

Your degree should be rich in the following areas:

  • Maths. At least first and probably second year undergraduate study, including calculus, is essential. Many scientists working in these areas hold a Maths degree.
  • Physics. At least first and probably second year undergraduate. Many scientists working in these areas hold a Physics degree.
  • Computer Science and/or data science. You will need to be able to write computer code, and it helps to be proficient. Our data can reach petascale. Python is increasingly a language of choice.

In studying some areas of science, undergraduates may do enough of these things anyway – a chemistry degree for example, or an engineering degree.

Many degrees may already include an appropriate level of maths and physics, for example a Chemistry Engineering degree.

Some Universities offer Environmental Science degrees that also provide a suitable foundation and a good focus on quantitative skills. Many Universities also offer courses, majors or degrees in Meteorology and Climate Science that building on good foundations in Maths and Physics. Specialised degrees in Hydrology may also contain all the necessary skills.

However, it is not uncommon to be able to do some degrees that skip Maths and Physics. That short cut is not normally good in the long term – if your degree lets you skip Maths and Physics you might want to think about whether it is the right degree for your long-term career.

Further studies

Students conducting experiments at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab at the Australian National University

Most people working in the weather and climate sciences have Honours or Masters degrees. These tend to be desired by most employers. If you want to do research in these areas you are likely to want to do a PhD, but that comes much later.

Many new areas of employment have emerged in the last few years, particularly in major consultancy companies, insurance and reinsurance companies, and climate risk start-ups.

These companies want a broad range of skills including awareness of environmental sustainability, emissions scenarios, climate impact analysis and so on.

These topics tend to be taught in Climate Science degrees, and it is desirable to also have skills in data science, maths, and physics.

Ultimately, 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 to your degree so that you can help link your chosen field to 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.

How do you write a cold email asking for a PhD opportunity?

Cold emails can be an effective way to secure that next important opportunity. Find out how to write an effective cold email.

You can seek advice from us by contacting our Graduate Director Melissa Hart.