Climate Science - MS, PhD

College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences

About This Degree

Climate Science is the study of the atmosphere, land, water cycle and how they interact and change. USU is the only university in the region that offers a degree in climate science.

The program focuses on climate variability, prediction/attribution, land surface processes, paleoclimate, and exchanges between land ecosystems and the atmosphere. These subjects impact agricultural crops, rangelands in the area, and mountain ecosystems, which are especially important to the Intermountain West, as they are the main source of water resources.

Research conducted by faculty are cutting-edge projects dealing with the climate and its connections to water cycle and land surfaces, with a focus in the intermountain region and also around the world. This research includes: cycles of climate, what causes the droughts and wet episodes, regional-scale climate, and the effects of land surface changes on climate.

What You Will Learn

Students at USU have the unique opportunity to acquire both a theoretical and modeling education, as well as learning how to make actual measurements outdoors. Most universities’ programs are limited to one or the other. Students can work on a variety of research topics, including climate dynamics and variability, regional climate modeling, modeling of hydrological processes, spatial variation in surface fluxes of carbon dioxide and water vapor, micrometeorology, remote sensing, and more.

Because USU’s biometeorology program is designated as a Western Regional Graduate Program, students from participating western states qualify for in-state tuition. For more information, visit


Climate Dynamics:

The field that combines the processes that control climate and its variability. This includes the interaction of the atmosphere, the oceans, the land surfaces, the cryosphere and the biosphere. The study of Climate Dynamics covers most aspects of the dynamics of global climate systems, including analytical and numerical modeling research on the global and regional climate systems.


The study of weather conditions on a small scale, as in the area immediately around a building, smokestack, or mountain.

Hydroclimate Modeling:

Climate models use quantitative (numerical) methods to simulate the important drivers of climate, including atmosphere, oceans, land surface and ice, as well as how they interact and evolve. Climate models are also used to project future climate change and generate predictions for a variety of timescales.

Turbulence in Plant Canopies:

Study the turbulent flow in the plant environment to better understand the processes governing momentum, heat and mass exchange between the atmosphere and the biologically active canopy.

Climate Adaptation Science (Climate Sciences MS & PhD):

The Climate Adaptation Science specialization provides students with experiences in actionable science through internship and research experiences. Program includes interdisciplinary research to identify adaptive responses to changing climate extremes and two-part internships with agency, NGO, and industry partners. In a first internship, students contribute to projects and learn the workplace cultures and science needs of the host. The internship experiences inform interdisciplinary climate adaptation research by student teams. In a second internship, students share science results and tools with the host organization and help put that science into action.

Career And Outcomes

Career Opportunities

Employment of climate scientists is projected to grow 10 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. The best job prospects for climate science major are projected to be in private industry, one that will increasingly tackle climate change impacts on society (as a way to formulate insurance policy, for example). This job demand has been growing for the costal regions (hurricanes and sea level rise), the Great Plains (tornado alley), and western states (drought and large fires).

The job market for climate-background personnel is going through a transformational change, from sections asking people of diverse background to conduct climate-related tasks into companies directly recruiting climate scientists or risk managements. New computer models have vastly improved the accuracy and extent of forecasts and allowed climate scientists or meteorologists to tailor climate prediction to specific purposes. This will increase the need for climate scientists working in private industry as businesses demand more specialized weather and climate information.

Job Outlook


Request Information Climate Science
Description Climate Science

I am not a current USU student

I have not applied or been admitted, even if I've taken a USU Concurrent Enrollment course

I am a current USU student

I have been admitted and plan to attend, or continue attending USU

USU Locations



Admission Requirements

Students without an undergraduate or graduate degree in plants, soils, biometeorology, or a closely related field may be required to complete selected undergraduate courses prior to admission.

Application Requirements:

  • Complete the online application
  • Pay the $55 application fee
  • Score at or above the 40th percentile on the GRE
  • Have a 3.0 or higher GPA on your last 60 semester or 90 quarter credits
  • Provide transcripts of all college/university credits
  • Provide three contacts for letters of recommendation

International students have additional admissions requirements.


Applications for graduate programs are accepted year-round. However, chances for acceptance are best if students apply between October and January of each academic year.

Program Requirements

PhD Qualifying Exams:

Each student must undergo some sort of qualifying experience. Depending on the student’s particular research and their faculty committee, the exam can either be a traditional oral and written exam, a scholarly proposal, or another option best suited to the student’s individual situation.

Plan Options

Students can receive the MS by pursuing one of two options:

  • In the Plan A option, students complete graduate-level coursework and must write a thesis.
  • The Plan B option requires the production of a paper or creative work of art and is expected to reflect equivalent scholarship standards as a thesis.

Students are encouraged to pursue the Plan A option.

Financial Aid

The department typically funds all of its graduate students with research assistantships.

A variety of funding opportunities are available on the graduate school website.

Take The Next Step

You May Also Be Interested In

Applied Environmental Geoscience

Integrate your studies in geology with courses in environmental sciences to prepare for a career in environmental and ecological fields.


Work on exciting research projects with renowned faculty studying ecology through the lens of a variety of different scientific disciplines.

Environmental Planning

Prepare for a career helping communities with growth and development in a unique program that focuses on large-scale planning of entire geographic regions.

Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning

This interdisciplinary program in Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning prepares leaders and future faculty in landscape architecture.