Career outlook for climate scientist

Figures and forecasts for roles at the same level, which require similar skills and qualifications.

Average UK salary

£49,920

Currently employed in Scotland

6,000

Average UK salary

£49,920

Currently employed in Scotland

6,000

"LMI for All" supplies our salary and employment status information. "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures.

Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

Working as a climate scientist is an exciting career choice that can make a real difference to the environment around you. You’ll work to understand the effects of climate change. This can improve and protect the livelihoods of people all over the world, as well as helping to preserve nature and the eco-systems of animals.

It can also help us understand and predict the weather and oceans. In fact, the person who created the weather maps used in forecasts every day was a Scottish climatologist called Alexander Buchan!

You could spend months outdoors, doing essential research and recording climate information for long-term studies. Or you could lecture at universities about the importance of climate change and the projects you’ve taken part in.

What you might do:

  • gather and analyse data from the atmosphere, oceans and land
  • create computer models that simulate changes to the environment
  • investigate ways of tackling climate change
  • monitor sea levels and temperature changes – then compare to the past so we can predict the future
  • publish your own research findings, and attend industry conferences
  • advise government or corporate policy makers

You could choose to specialise in a certain area of climate science. For example: polar research, rainfall patterns or ocean changes. You might also choose to lecture in order to share your research.

Other career options can be working as a consultant for science publications or TV documentaries.

Working conditions

Hours

You can expect to work Monday to Friday, during usual office hours – though fieldwork and research hours may vary.

Environment

A career in climate science could take you anywhere in the world! You should also expect to spend time in a laboratory or educational settings like lecture theatres.

UK employment status

Full-time

95%

Part-time

5%

Self employed

0%

Here are some of the skills needed for this job. Sign in to see how your skills match up.

  • Verbal communication
  • Working with technology
  • Problem solving
  • Observation
  • Researching
  • Attention to detail
  • Sorting
  • Analysing
  • Understanding

Skills Explorer

Your skills can help you choose the career that’s right for you. You can build your skills through work, study or activities you do in your spare time.

To understand more, have a look at What are my skills?

Our Skills Explorer tool will help you understand what skills you have and match them to jobs that might suit you.

Use the Skills Explorer tool

Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you’ll need.

Qualifications

Not all employers list specific qualification requirements but they do ask for relevant experience, usually work based. 

There are different ways to get qualified for this job through college, university or work-based qualifications, such as apprenticeships. 

Most climate scientists will have a degree in: 

  • maths
  • physics
  • meteorology 
  • computing science or software engineering

Employers might consider applicants without formal qualifications if they can demonstrate knowledge and experience of the industry. 

Useful subjects

Many colleges and universities will have required subjects that you must have for entry. They might also highlight additional subjects that they would value. Look at individual institution websites for specific entry information.   

Useful subjects would be: 

  • maths
  • environmental science
  • computing subjects
  • physics
  • geography

Helpful to have

Not all employers list specific qualification requirements but they might ask for relevant experience, usually work based, that show a range of transferable skills.  

This is a small profession and entry is very competitive. Most people starting out in this job have a first degree in maths or physics and a postgraduate qualification in meteorology or a related subject.  

It’s helpful to have some previous work experience in computing or in a laboratory, as well as showing an interest in weather and climate.  

The Met Office runs a summer placement scheme in areas including science and forecasting, which last for 3 months. Recent graduates and current students can apply.