What is Atmospheric Science Really?
In theory what is it?
Nope, not the same as meteorology. Atmospheric science is the study of the physics of the Earth's atmosphere, or loosely put, atmospheric physics. However, the past few decades, atmospheric science has become more plural to include the study of all physical and now, chemical phenonoma occuring in the Earth's atmosphere and oceans.
What is it used for?
Atmospheric science is used to elucidate the study of turbulence, climate, global warming, and ocean processes, to name a few.
What does the major actually entail - work-wise?
The standard curriculum is that of physics or engineering, The vast majority of atmospheric scientists come from the two above fields, though a sizeable minority are trained in chemistry, geophysics, and environmental biology.
The discipline is built upon the accumulated knowledge of thermodynamics and fluid dynamics, thus physics or engineering explains the general trend.
Computer programming's importance in the field has increased innumerably. Everything is simulation and numerically-based, a working knoweldge of programming is indispensable
What kind of jobs do you get with it?
A Ph.D. is officially required to do basic research at places like NASA, NCAR, and NOAA studying climate and global warming, known also as the "geosciences."
Those that opt out of the geosciences work primarily in aviation or engineering.
A lesser degree may warrant a position in a consulting firm, but a Ph.D. is highly encouraged. Life with an M.S. can be rather precarious.
What are the fellow students like (personalitywise) in it?
Physics/engineering nerds infatuated with flying or intent on solving the "global warming problem."
This is not meteorology. Meteorologists study weather and weather prediction, whereas atmospheric scientists study the atmosphere "for the sake of studying the atmosphere," and not because they want to know if it will rain tomorrow.
Physics and engineering courses without computer programming skills will get you nowhere. Places like NASA, NCAR, and NOAA are increasingly hiring computer scientists over the physicists simply because the discipline centers so much on theory and simulation. The computer science people are better prepared and can apply their knowledge immediately. A strong sense of understanding of Fortran and/or C++ in a unix environment is required.