What is a meteorologist?
A meteorologist is a professional who specializes in atmospheric science, focusing on weather patterns, climate trends, and atmospheric phenomena. At its core, meteorology is about predicting and understanding weather, which requires extensive scientific knowledge and sophisticated technology. This role is instrumental not just for convenience in our daily lives but also for a better understanding of our planet’s weather systems and their impact on human and environmental safety and economic activity.
These professionals constitute a critical element within many sectors, from public services to academia and aviation to agriculture. Their insights assist in planning for weather-related events, thereby reducing potential impacts on the populace, the environment, and the economy. In addition to providing vital weather forecasts, they contribute to research efforts to understand the broader climate systems and their variations.
Duties and responsibilities
The duties and responsibilities of a meteorologist are numerous, and they differ based on the sector they are serving within. Among the primary responsibilities is predicting weather conditions based on data derived from weather satellite images, radar, remote sensors, and weather stations. This involves monitoring current weather conditions, creating models to predict future weather patterns, and analyzing the potential impact of these weather conditions.
They are also responsible for communicating weather forecasts and alerts to the public, businesses, government authorities, and other relevant entities. This can include severe weather events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, thunderstorms, and heavy snowfall. For those working in research, their responsibilities might also include the investigation of weather phenomena, the development of new data collection tools, and the contribution to scientific studies related to climate change and atmospheric conditions.
The work environment for a meteorologist can be quite varied. Some professionals work predominantly in office settings, analyzing data and creating forecasts on computers. These offices can be located within weather stations, government buildings, or research institutions. Hours spent in front of screens monitoring and interpreting weather data can be significant.
Others, such as field meteorologists, spend much of their time outdoors in varying weather conditions, collecting data for analysis. These professionals may find themselves in remote locations or in the midst of severe weather events to gather real-time data. TV or radio meteorologists, on the other hand, work in studios, presenting weather forecasts. They may also be called upon to provide on-site reports during significant weather events.
Typical work hours
Weather is a constant, continuous process, and thus, meteorologists often work in shifts to ensure around-the-clock coverage. These shifts can occur at any time of day or night, on weekends or holidays. For those in public forecasting or broadcasting, irregular hours are a reality, including the possibility of being on-call during severe weather events.
On the other hand, those working in research or academia often have more standardized hours, typically corresponding to regular business hours or academic timetables. However, during periods of intensive research or fieldwork, extended or unusual hours may also be required. As with many professions, their typical work hours can depend heavily on the specific role and sector they are a part of.
How to become a meteorologist
This career guide section outlines the steps to becoming a meteorologist. A journey into this profession primarily involves a solid education in atmospheric science or related fields, hands-on training through internships, and earning relevant certifications.
Step 1: Obtain a high school diploma
Your journey begins with accomplishing your high school education. Focus on science and math-related subjects as these are fundamental to the field of meteorology. It’s also beneficial to take computer science courses, as technology plays a significant role in modern meteorology.
Step 2: Earn a bachelor’s degree
The next step involves pursuing a bachelor’s degree in meteorology or atmospheric sciences, where you learn about weather patterns, atmospheric dynamics, and climate change. Coursework may include calculus, physics, computer programming, and physical meteorology. Many universities also offer specialized courses in areas like operational meteorology, climate science, and atmospheric chemistry.
Step 3: Gain experience through internships
Hands-on experience in the field is invaluable. Participating in internships or cooperative programs during your undergraduate studies is a great way to gain real-world experience. Internships offer an opportunity to work under experienced meteorologists, hone your technical skills, and understand their day-to-day responsibilities.
Step 4: Consider a master’s degree
While a bachelor’s degree is sufficient for entry-level positions, a master’s degree in atmospheric science or a related field offers advanced knowledge and can open doors to more specialized roles. Not necessary for all positions, this step is geared toward those interested in research, teaching, or complex forecasting roles.
Step 5: Earn professional certification
The American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association offer certification programs. Earning a certification—the Certified Broadcast Meteorologist designation, for example—can demonstrate your competence and dedication to employers. Some roles may require specific certifications, especially within broadcasting.
Step 6: Get started in the profession
Your first job might not be your dream job, but it’s a start. Try looking for entry-level positions in weather stations, environmental agencies, or broadcasting companies. With time, experience, dedication, and perhaps even more advanced education, you might find your perfect niche in this multiplex field.
How much do meteorologists make?
Meteorologist salaries will vary by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size. Compensation can be significantly impacted by specialized skill sets such as expertise in climatology, geophysics, or oceanography and the type of employers, ranging from government organizations to private sector companies.
Highest paying industries
- Federal Executive Branch – $102,190
- Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services – $96,780
- Architectural and Engineering – $90,680
- Scientific Research and Development Services – $89,560
- Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools – $88,430
Highest paying states
- California – $105,520
- Virginia – $104,890
- Washington – $102,200
- New Jersey – $97,800
- Colorado – $97,100
Types of meteorologists
Below, we explore common career types and areas of specialization for meteorologists. This section aims to enhance your understanding of the various professional paths available in meteorology, from forecasting and climatology to environmental consulting and research.
In this specialty, professionals are typically found in weather stations, offices, or military services, where they provide vital real-time weather predictions. These predictions include storm warnings and other severe weather events. Their work is greatly valued in various sectors, such as aviation, marine, defense, and agriculture, where weather plays a key role in daily operations.
These individuals are the faces we see delivering weather forecasts on television and internet-based platforms, translating complex meteorological data into user-friendly formats for the general public. Excellent communication skills are key for these professionals, who must convey in-depth weather information effectively to a broad audience.
Climate scientists research long-term weather patterns and trends. They analyze historical climate data to project future climates and extreme weather patterns, providing essential information for policymakers, city planners, farmers, and others. This specialization often requires advanced degrees in meteorology or related fields.
This type of meteorologist carries out detailed and in-depth explorations of various atmospheric phenomena. They frequently work in academic, government, or private industry settings, conducting experiments and analyzing data to contribute to scientific understanding and meteorological advancements.
With a strong meteorological background, environmental consultants offer invaluable advice for projects related to weather or climate. They may assess environmental impact, conduct risk assessments, or help clients conform to environmental regulations. This profession often requires a balance between technical expertise and knowledge of regulations and laws.
This specialization involves studying the water cycle and its relation to weather phenomena. Hydrometeorologists track rainfall and other forms of precipitation, and their work can be crucial for understanding flooding forecasts, water resource management, droughts, and even certain aspects of climate change.
Top skills for meteorologists
This career guide section outlines the skills and abilities that will help you find success as a meteorologist.
Excelling in this field means you need to be able to analyze weather data minutely. This includes interpreting complex mathematical data and proficiently using computer models for weather prediction. An analytical mind is essential for success, as understanding these patterns allows for accurate weather forecasting.
Being able to communicate complex weather forecasts to the general public in an easy-to-understand way is central to this role. You should be talented in presenting information both orally and in writing and can use visuals like charts and maps to aid understanding.
You will need strong technical skills to handle sophisticated weather prediction tools and software. This includes understanding how to operate and maintain specialized meteorological equipment, like weather radar and satellite systems. Being familiar with scientific programming languages can also be beneficial.
When unexpected weather conditions arise, or technology fails, these professionals must exercise good judgment and creative problem-solving abilities. This may involve developing new methodologies for data analysis or finding novel ways to forecast weather patterns.
Attention to detail
Weather patterns can change rapidly, and small details can significantly impact weather forecasts. Being meticulous and detail-oriented are valuable traits that can increase your effectiveness and accuracy in this role.
Meterologist career path options
A meteorologist’s future career path starts with forecasting weather for local or national broadcasts. With the right mix of experience and passion, they might then progress to a senior role, where they could issue storm warnings and manage budding meteorologists. After proving their worth as senior meteorologists, they could step up to become chief meteorologists, bearing the responsibility for the accuracy of all weather forecasts and information.
Specialized roles in the field
Weather is universal and affects various industries, so these professionals have several specialized roles they could consider. These include aviation meteorologists, focusing on how weather conditions affect flight plans. Some professionals might become marine meteorologists, catering to seafaring vessels by predicting temperatures, wind patterns, and precipitation at sea. If the cosmos is their passion, they can aim to become space meteorologists, predicting solar flares and providing valuable data to satellite and space mission operators.
Moving into management
Fundamentally, meteorologists are scientists, but they also have the option to explore the management side of their field. After gaining experience, they can aim for roles such as laboratory manager or operations director. This shift into management offers a way to leverage one’s scientific background while focusing on policy-making, budgeting, and staff supervision.
Opportunities in academia and research
Those interested in academia and research can consider teaching at the university level or becoming research scientists. These roles allow them to contribute to the advancement of their field through education or further study, respectively. They might also create their own innovations, advise governments on climate policy, or produce groundbreaking weather prediction models.
Similar job titles
Position trends and outlook for meterologists
As global climate conditions become increasingly complex, more emphasis is being placed on having reliable climate data. This changing dynamic has led to innovative advancements and new trends within the field of meteorology. Advancements in technology, including computer modeling and satellite imaging, have greatly enhanced their ability to predict climate conditions and weather patterns. As technological advancements continue to improve, these professionals have more precise tools to aid them in their jobs.
Analytics is another trend within the meteorology field. Professionals in this field are finding ways to become more accurate in their predictions by using big data and applying statistical methods. As advanced tools and technologies become available, the trend toward data-centric meteorology will continue to grow.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists, is projected to grow 4 percent through 2031, as fast as the average for all occupations. The best job prospects for atmospheric scientists will be in private industries.
Meteorologist career tips
Understand the different sectors
You won’t only be predicting tomorrow’s weather. There are several different paths your meteorology career can follow. Some work in environmental consulting, others work for the government or in broadcast media, and some are researchers or teachers. If you want to excel, it pays to understand these different sectors and specialize in one that genuinely interests you.
Invest in your technical skills
Meteorology is a science-based field that demands strong technical skills. You may need to create weather models, analyze atmospheric data, and use complex forecasting tools. Today’s meteorologists must also be proficient in statistics, computer science, and geographic information systems (GIS). Keeping your technical skills up to date will help you stay competitive.
Keep up with the latest research
Meteorology is a field that evolves rapidly, and the best professionals in this discipline are the ones who continue to learn and adapt. Following and understanding the latest research is important in staying current and ensuring your forecasts and weather models are as accurate as possible.
Improve your communication skills
Whether you’re standing in front of a camera forecasting the weather or explaining complex atmospheric patterns to a client, strong communication skills are key. Working on your public speaking, as well as your written communication skills, can make you much more effective in your role.
Build a professional network
Building meaningful relationships with other professionals can lead to opportunities and insights that may not otherwise come your way. Networking can happen at conferences, online, or through joining professional associations such as:
- American Meteorological Society (AMS)
- National Weather Association (NWA)
- Royal Meteorological Society (RMetS)
- Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (AMOS)
Pursue continuous learning
Pursue learning opportunities to broaden your professional knowledge and skills; this could involve:
- Enrolling in advanced statistical courses
- Learning advanced computer modeling techniques
- Acquiring certification from the American Meteorological Society or similar organizations
- Attending industry conferences to learn about the latest research and trends
Where the meterologist jobs are
- National Weather Service
- Weather Channel
- IBM’s The Weather Company
- US Air Force
- New York
Top job sites
What academic qualifications are necessary to become a meteorologist?
The minimum degree for entry-level positions in this field is a bachelor’s degree in meteorology or atmospheric sciences. Some professionals might choose to pursue a master’s or doctoral degree for advancement in the field, especially those who want to conduct research.
What skills are required to become a meteorologist?
Some important skills include analytical skills for understanding complex mathematical theories and computer models, observational skills for weather pattern analysis, and communication skills to explain forecasts to colleagues or the public. Proficiency in mathematics and computer science is also an advantage.
Do meteorologists work outdoors?
While some field work might be necessary for certain roles, a large part of their work tends to be indoors. They analyze weather data collected by weather stations, satellites, and radars, compose forecasts, and occasionally present their findings publicly or through media outlets. Fieldwork usually involves atmospheric research and data collection.
What kind of work schedule do meteorologists have?
The work schedule can vary based on role and employer. Weather services operate around the clock so that forecasters might work in shifts covering all days of the week and all hours of the day. Research roles in academia or government might follow a more traditional work schedule. During severe weather conditions, extended work hours might be necessary.
Is meteorology a stable job?
Many meteorology jobs are in government agencies or in academia, which can provide significant job stability. Roles in media or private businesses might be more susceptible to market fluctuations. Specialization can often provide increased job security within this field.
What is the most challenging aspect of being a meteorologist?
The unpredictability of weather conditions can be a challenge. While models and forecasts have become quite accurate, there’s always an element of uncertainty. This can be stressful, especially when severe weather conditions are involved. Staying updated on the latest research and developments in meteorology is also a continuous requirement.
What are the different specializations within meteorology?
Specializations can include things like operational meteorology, which focuses on forecasting for media outlets or governmental agencies; climate science, which concentrates on long-term weather pattern analysis; atmospheric science, which considers the physical properties and motions of the atmosphere; and environmental meteorology, which looks at the effects of weather on the environment and vice versa.
Can a meteorologist work independently?
While they can work independently as consultants, most are part of larger organizations, such as government agencies, research institutions, or broadcasting companies. Their work often requires collaboration with other scientists and professionals in the field.
What is the demand for meteorologists?
The demand tends to be stable as various sectors, including aviation, agriculture, television and radio stations, and governmental agencies constantly need weather forecasting. Advancements in technology and increased focus on climate change may also generate additional opportunities in this field.
Why should someone consider a career in meteorology?
If you have a genuine interest in studying atmospheric phenomena and climatic patterns, a career in meteorology can be rewarding. It offers an opportunity to work in an intriguing scientific field, contributing to society’s safety and understanding of the environment. The constant learning, the possibility of fieldwork, and the potential to inform public decisions around weather safety can be gratifying.