Meteorology is the science of weather and climate. A meteorologist not only studies weather and performs weather forecasting but also studies climate trends and analyzes long-term weather conditions. People in science jobs within the field of meteorology often work for the federal government.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2008, about 9,400 people held jobs as meteorologists or atmospheric scientists, as they are also called. Nearly 34 percent of these jobs were with the federal government, mostly with the National Weather Service. A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for most jobs, while some people hold master’s or PhDs. Those with doctorate degrees usually work in research positions. Certification from the American Meteorological Society is available for those who earn the degrees, successfully pass an exam, and have at least five years of experience.
Meteorologists may work at weather stations, which can be anywhere—airports, cities, towns, or isolated areas. The work must be done every hour of every day, so many meteorologists work nights, weekends, and holidays. Some meteorologists work for television or radio stations and also work irregular hours. During weather extremes, such as blizzards or hurricanes, meteorologists may work very long hours.
The work involves collecting data from various sources, including temperature and barometric readings, wind velocity and humidity measurements, and radar and satellite information. Once the data is collected, the meteorologist combines it into a forecast with the help of computer models
Some meteorologists or climatologists study weather over months and years and use the information to make long-range predictions of weather and climate change.
Job prospects for meteorologists are predicted to be better than those for average professions. The BLS forecasts a growth of jobs at about 15 percent from 2008 to 2018. Competition will be stiff for job openings, and those with advanced degrees will find jobs more easily. New jobs will be found in private industry rather than government. Improved weather forecasting will convince industries, such as commodities, agriculture, construction, and transportation companies, to hire their own meteorologists or rely on private meteorological companies.
The median annual pay for meteorologists in 2008 was $81,000. In March 2009, meteorologists hired by the federal government made an average of $94,000.
Last Updated: 06/04/2014