Careers in Forecasting & Observations
Whether you watched the weather on the TV this morning, listened to it on the radio or checked it on your phone, it’s highly likely that we are behind that forecast.
While we’re probably best known for our UK radio and television bulletins, people and organisations all around the world rely on our meteorological expertise, summaries and advice. Our weather information supports flight safety and aviation routing around the globe, provides frontline support for the Armed Forces, saves people from hazardous climate conditions and helps the government to make fundamental decisions.
Operational delivery of our round the clock services is managed through the Observations and Forecasting & Service Delivery Programmes. Working hand in hand with our world leading scientists, customer services people, IT advisors and remote sensing experts we deliver reliable weather forecasts that add value to customer activities. We also provide predictions for the oceans, the dispersion of pollution, the source and spread of diseases and much more. With the issue of climate change becoming more prominent by the day, the work of these teams has never been more in demand. Our work is ever-evolving and constantly provides new, exciting challenges. Put simply, our teams are behind the weather and critical to Met Office business.
But how do we predict the ever-changing weather? It all starts with observations. Observational data forms the basis of operational meteorology. If we’re to get the weather as accurate as possible, those initial observations need to produce data of the highest quality. Our Observing networks and systems need to be capable of accurately measuring the atmosphere in all its complexity. The Observing teams are responsible for monitoring these complex networks to ensure the data is of the highest quality. This data is then fed into high performance numerical models and used by our operational meteorologists to predict the weather. The process doesn’t just end when we’ve produced a forecast. We are committed to ensuring that people can rely on our information. Verification is a key part of the process as we need to ensure our forecasts are accurate by looking closely at what the weather was doing at the time, also accurate observational data is required as supporting evidence for the decisions made by government and industry in response to climate change.
Right now, we’re exceeding accuracy targets and making predictions that are largely more accurate than they ever have been. That’s thanks to increased computing power, better data from our new satellite programme, enhanced data assimilation techniques and improved numerical models and algorithms. And of course, our brilliant people. Our operational meteorologists work closely with other areas of the organisation. Their bright ideas constantly help us to improve processes and come up with new ways that we can do things better and deliver the best results for our customers.
Furthermore if your passion lies with helping brilliant people to develop, then there are opportunities to join our expert training team in the Met Office College. Working at the heart of one of the most prestigious weather and climate centres in the world you can teach the science of meteorology to colleagues and customers across the UK and all around the world. Whether they’re a budding meteorologist, a pilot or an energy supply forecaster you can help bring the subject alive through one of our wide range of specialist courses.
Learning and development
Observations and forecasts are at the heart of all of our work making the Met Office the perfect place for those looking to build a career in these areas. There is nowhere else in the UK that can offer such expansive career opportunities in operational meteorology. Using our Professional Skills Frameworks, we’ll give you all the support and opportunities that you’d expect from a world-renowned weather and climate services organisation. You won’t be limited to forecasting or observations though: we’ll encourage you to move around and spend time in other departments too. That way you’ll get to see for yourself how vital your work is to other areas of the business.
Joining us as a Trainee Operational Meteorologist, you’ll complete our internationally-renowned Initial Forecasting Course at the Met Office College, one of the most respected meteorological training establishments in the world. The course is designed to deepen your understanding and build your operational forecasting experience. Over two years, we combine education, on-the-job training and the opportunity to provide real time products and services for real customers. Once you’re fully qualified, the opportunities are vast and varied. While you may specialise in an area that interests you, we’ll encourage you to experience other disciplines. Progression, it’s there for the taking: once you’ve gained a broad understanding of the business, you work to senior roles, learning at every step of the way.
There’s also the opportunity to return to the College and share all your knowledge and experience with others. To do this you’ll need to stay ahead of the curve keeping abreast of a host of issues from numerical modelling, technical applications and software, to the increasingly complex requirements of users of weather and climate services. Understanding these customer requirements and the impact of meteorology is just as important as being able to explain the fundamentals of the science behind weather and climate. All this expertise will of course stand you in good stead for your future career.
The route is similar for our Observations people. You’re encouraged to move around and experience different areas of the business. You’ll specialise your skills into a certain area of your choice and interest. We’ve teams working in Land Networks, Marine Networks, Upper Air & Remote Sensing, Quality Monitoring and Quality Assurance, but we’re always keen for our people to move around and diversify their skill set and see how different systems work.
What we look for
Operational Meteorology is a niche career areas, especially in the UK. So of course, we don’t expect you to know the ins-and-outs of the field when you come to us. You’ll need to be educated to degree (or equivalent) level with a proven interest in the weather. Your degree doesn’t have to be in meteorology though. We’ve had trainees qualified in Physics, Mathematics, and Environmental Studies, Geography and many other subjects, go on to build successful careers with us. We like inquisitiveness, people who are curious to learn more, people who aren’t afraid to question and are keen to find the answers. People who want to use their expertise and technical skills to have a visible impact on others’ lives. And importantly, people who have a drive to deliver excellent customer services and a desire to be part of an organisation whose key objective is to support the protection of life and infrastructure for the UK.
Our Operational Meteorology training is second-to-none and internationally renowned. We tend to recruit at graduate level so that you can take full advantage of these incredible learning opportunities. We do consider previously experienced meteorologists but if you’re coming from elsewhere, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate that you’ve been professionally trained and qualified to a high standard.
Joining us as an Operational Meteorologist, it’s really important that your softer skills are first class. The role is a lot more than just producing forecasts; it’s really all about the customers. You’ll apply your knowledge to advise customers on the impact the weather may have on their business. So you’ll need to be as confident interacting with and influencing customers as you are forecasting.
While observations roles involve less direct customer interaction, the customer is still key to the process. We recruit for a range of positions in Observations. Qualifications and experience will be made clear on our role advertisements. But for entry level roles, we tend to look for a physicals sciences degree (or equivalent). For the more senior positions, you’re likely to come to us with some relevant experience – for instance, you may have managed networks elsewhere.
Met Office College
You’ll be a first class communicator who loves the science but equally has a strong passion for developing others. To do this you have to be the best in your field, constantly honing your skills and keeping up to date with both your specialist subject and the wider world of education. We’ll support you so you can use all the latest tools and techniques to craft brilliant learning that inspires your colleagues and our customers.
Customer service and IT
Our Customer Service and IT people are crucial to our forecasting and observations work. It’s not just a case of picking up the phone when it rings; you’re a pillar of expertise for our customers. Your customer-focused nature and brilliant people skills will ensure that their queries are answered and followed up, or forwarded to the right people if necessary.
For these roles, it’s fundamental that you have an interest in the weather. And your personal attributes are really important. You need to be a confident and impressive communicator as your advice and guidance will be crucial to people and businesses. Having worked in a customer interaction role before, your customer service skills will be first class.
Places of work and opportunities
Our Operations Directorate consists of three departments; Forecast Service Delivery, Observations and International Relations.
Training and customer services opportunities sit in our state-of-the-art Exeter Operational Centre. But a career in Operational Meteorology can take you anywhere. We’ve a twin Operational Centre in Aberdeen and we also work at Royal Air Force and Army Air Corps stations throughout the UK and overseas. We have Operational Meteorologists working in Europe and as far away as the Antarctic and the South Atlantic. There are increasing opportunities to work alongside our customers as part of their teams and perhaps on their premises. We’re also focused on helping developing countries, such as Rwanda, to prepare and protect themselves from the effects of weather and climate conditions.
Forecast Service Delivery (FSD)
Within FSD we cover a wide spectrum of areas; Operational Meteorology, Production Improvement, IT & Customer Service and the Met Office College. Below examples of careers opportunities within this area.
Operational Meteorology will provide you with an opportunity to progress through the profession by gaining experience and learning new skills, perhaps one day becoming one of our world renowned Chief Operational Meteorologists, who are an integral cog in the Met Office’s Senior Leadership Team. However, in a dynamic and multi-disciplined organisation such as the Met Office there are always opportunities for our people to experience different roles across the network, and are encouraged to do so, both within Operations, the wider Met Office business and with our partners.
MOBILE MET UNIT (MMU)
As a Royal Air Force sponsored reserve unit, the Met Office MMU provides vital frontline meteorological support to our Armed Forces in operations across the UK and abroad. The MMU is mainly made up of Operational Meteorologists and Engineers. Around 40 strong, MMU personnel all have ‘day jobs’ in the Met Office and deploy as RAF Reservist where and when needed.
It’s a highly rewarding and highly demanding opportunity to work very closely with the military. Wherever they’re assigned to, MMU teams work quickly to establish a fully functioning Met Office, regardless of their conditions. Often meteorological services will need to be provided within hours of arriving. You’ll receive specialist training not only from us but from the RAF too and there’ll be opportunities to attend military adventure training events such as sailing and skiing.
One of our main customers is the Ministry of Defence. In addition to supporting our Armed Forces in their UK stations, we also deploy Operational Meteorologists to stations around the world. You could be in Cyprus, Gibraltar, the Falklands or the South Atlantic. We even have forecasters in the Antarctic supporting the British Antarctic Survey; the world is your oyster.
MARINE OFFSHORE CONSULTANCY
Our Marine Offshore Consultancy gives Operational Meteorologists the exciting opportunity to work at sea providing essential services to the commercial marine industry. Many of these customers are high profile global companies and you’ll be an integral source of meteorological expertise and advice for them.
ADVISORY & CONSULTANCY SERVICES
Increasingly there are opportunities for qualified Operational Meteorologists to work in advisory or consultancy roles, often on customer premises, to help the customer with their day to day and longer term strategic planning and decision making. This collaborative service builds resilience for businesses and has been vital to customers such as Heathrow Airport who relied on our service and support to stay open through the snow events of Winter 2017/18. We already have advisors placed with a number of customers in the energy, land transport, aviation and retail industries and further opportunities are expected in the UK market and overseas.
The Met Office business strategy will see an increasing requirement for Operational Meteorologists to work in partnership with scientists and experts in other scientific disciplines including environmental science, hydrology, geology and astrophysics.
Since 2009 we also have worked in partnership with the Environment Agency to combine meteorology and hydrology expertise into a specialised hydrometeorology service – The Flood Forecasting Centre (FFC). Operational Meteorologists work with the FFC to provide forecasts for all natural forms of flooding - river, surface water, tidal/coastal and groundwater.
The Met Office is one of only two World Area Forecast Centres (WAFC) - the other is WAFC Washington (NOAA). Since 1984, the Met Office have provided international forecasting services for flights throughout the world helping to optimise safety and fuel consumption.
MET OFFICE COLLEGE
Our College delivers high quality meteorology and climate change training to Met Office staff and external customers, providing skills that are vital to business success. It is one of the most respected training colleges in its field worldwide and our Operational Meteorology training is set to the standards of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
As a trainer in the Met Office College you’ll have the chance to work with diverse teams both within the Met Office and across our range of commercial and public sector customers. This could mean anything from delivering a short course about space weather to Met Office staff at RAF stations, teaching how to do aeronautical observations at Changi Airport in Singapore, helping a group of private pilots at the Met Office College in Exeter make safer decisions about the weather or facilitating a workshop in Rwanda that helps a team of forecasters communicate severe weather events to their stakeholders. The variety of opportunities is immense.
Working as a Product Owner in Production Improvement is an exciting challenge with an opportunity to work cross organisationally with teams across the spectrum. This will include:– building up the customer and user requirements with the Business; developing user stories with technical teams; and understanding how to weave our latest science into our wide variety of products and systems. Different experiences and skills are always in high demand in Production Improvement. You may find yourself applying your meteorological knowledge to help shape tools for operational staff or ensuring the voice of the customer is centre-stage when taking a key role in the development of a product.
IT & CUSTOMER SERVICE
Working in the Operations Centre, you will be providing high quality 24/7 customer and colleague support within our Weather Desk and IT Operations team. As a Weather Desk Advisor you will be the first point of contact for customers, include Government agencies, educational establishments, commercial businesses and the general public. Using your extensive knowledge of our systems and services, you will provide advice and support including past, real time and forecast meteorological data and information. You will also provide 1st line IT support to external and internal customers, triaging issues and responding to requests.
As a member of our IT Operations team, you will provide 2nd line IT support, monitoring and resolving incidents on our critical operational services running over a variety of platforms, including; model output from the Supercomputer, Cloud based applications, observation gathering systems, the primary Met Office data transfer services, and the Production Framework used by Meteorologists across the office. You will be responding to alerts, using your technical knowledge to minimise customer impact by restoring services quickly and efficiently.
This is a great place to develop your knowledge of what we do and can often lead to opportunities across the Met Office.
Whilst the majority of observations staff are based in Exeter we also have an office in Edinburgh who specialise in quality management, and sites in Camborne and Lerwick, which operate 24/7 taking atmospheric readings.
Our Engineers also have the opportunity to join the Mobile Met Unit as a RAF sponsored reserve.
Meteorology is a global science that depends on strong, long lasting international collaboration. The Met Office engages in an extensive range of international activity which touches on almost every aspect of its work, ranging from formally representing the UK at the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), EUMETSAT and ECMWF to contributing expert understanding to international science teams. As a member of the Met Office International Relations team you will have responsibilities for managing UK interests within international organisations, building relationships with international partners including other national Met Services and supporting the delivery of international projects such as those related to overseas development. In carrying out these tasks you will have the opportunity to develop a good understanding of the international landscape within which the Met Office operates and be asked to engaged in the development of the Met Office International Strategy.
How did you hear about the MMU and what made you decide to join?
Tanya: I always held an interest in the MMU but it sounded like a daunting process to go through. After completing a tour in the Falklands I knew that I wanted travel and adventure to play more of a role in my career so I applied to the MMU – and I haven’t looked back since.
Amy: When I was completing my forecasting training in the Met Office College, a few of the trainers were active members of the MMU. I then went on to work at my first defence post in North Yorkshire, where some of my colleagues were in the unit too. Their adventures sounded amazing and something I really wanted to be a part of.
Tell me briefly about your MMU career so far
Amy: Since I finished initial training, nearly all my days in uniform have been deployed. Most of my deployments so far have been supporting JHC (Joint Helicopter Command), working with the paratroopers and supporting MEDEVAC/CASEVAC missions. Because of this, most of my time in uniform has been in tents or bivvies, which sounds a bit austere but is really good fun!
Tanya: It’s been one of the best parts of my career with the Met Office! After completing military training and graduating as an Officer from RAF College Cranwell I have deployed to Romania with II Sqn conducting NATO Air-Policing duties, I have taken part in an ARRC (Allied Rapid Response Corps) exercise, I have taken part NATO’s assessment of the RAF in a war-fighting exercise at RAF Leeming, and most recently I have deployed on Operation TORAL in Afghanistan.
How did you find the Basic Recruit and Initial Officer Training?
Tanya: It took me right out of my comfort zone of a warm office with a computer, to lying under a bivvie sheet under a tree with my uniform drying at the bottom of my sleeping bag. I remember endless ironing and polishing boots, nights of practising drills with a wooden rifle, playing games with the other recruits of an evening and ultimately the time flying by in no time. I’d do it all again!
Amy: The MMU were great with preparing me and after speaking to members of the unit about what would be involved, I went on to really enjoy it. The first part of the training is “green” skills, learning more about the RAF and basic military skills such as battlefield first aid. Meteorologists in the unit then go on to do Reserves Officer training, which was mentally challenging as you learn about and build on your emotional intelligence and leadership skills. My military training was like nothing I had done before and whilst it was challenging, it’s probably one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.
What have you learnt about yourself through your time in the MMU?
Amy: I have learnt that I am a lot more resilient than I ever believed I was. There have been times on exercise where I have been extremely tired but have dug deep to make sure that I can support the team. There have been other times where IT has fallen over, sat comms aren’t working and there’s no other option but to find a solution yourself. These challenges have helped me to become much more robust, both as a person and as a Meteorologist.
Tanya: I have found that even though I’m a natural introvert, I still love the teamwork and comradery that comes with working with the MMU.
What skills have you gained as a Sponsored Reservist?
Tanya: The military training we’re taught covers how to fire a rifle, how to wear and work in a respirator, battlefield first aid and more. I found learning these new skills a thrill – it’s something entirely different from the maths degree I gained at university!
Amy: MMU deployments have allowed me to build on my forecasting skills, as often you are lone-working and as the only Meteorologist on shift, you need to be self-reliant and innovate to respond to last-minute changes.
What is day to day life like on deployment/exercise?
Tanya: It’s full on, there are new and exciting challenges, and the time away can be immensely rewarding. When on deployment/exercise it is a complete change of pace – you’re living and working together with the same people day in day out. However, what comes with this is an incredible sense of comradery.
Amy: There are often long days (10-12 hours) and usually the day starts by looking at the latest data, building a forecast and briefing the customers. In a lot of respects, my role is very similar to my forecasting shifts, however one big difference is that you are a lot more embedded within the military team. This means that you get to know their operations really well, so you can see for yourself how your forecasts are making a difference and innovate to provide the best service for what they need. On some deployments, there are also opportunities to get out and see the local area on days off. Other elements of the day include general life admin, some form of exercise and my favourite – mealtimes!
What has been the best experience?
Amy: A few highlights have included flying in a Chinook helicopter over the Plitvice Lakes in Croatia, seeing the night sky/being visited by wild camels in the desert and my first MMU exercise in the UK when I got to fly in a Wildcat with Army colleagues from Dishforth. Marching on the parade square at RAFC Cranwell was also an unforgettable experience.
Tanya: Watching a massive thunderstorm in the distance whilst we had a barbeque on base in Romania, working with the NATO nations when on an ARRC exercise and making foreign friends, taking part in a charity 5K in Kabul.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of joining the MMU?
Tanya: If you decide to join the MMU then you are opening a vast new range of opportunities, ones that are difficult to find in other careers. Additionally, I would say prepare yourself physically and mentally. Basic Recruit Training is designed to test these qualities and to see how you react when these are put under pressure. By putting in the physical work before you embark on the training you’re getting yourself in the best place possible to keep going when fatigue sets in.
Amy: Go for it! You will not regret it. MMU has been the best element of my career so far and a fantastic way to challenge yourself in so many ways.