About the job
Meteorologists analyze and interpret data related to the earth’s atmosphere and issue weather forecasts and more.
“At its most basic, meteorologists study the atmosphere,” said Casey Griffin, an assistant professor in the Earth Sciences Department at SUNY Brockport.
You probably know them best as the people who predict the weather on TV and the radio. As Griffin noted, there are several other career paths for meteorologists as well, including:
- With the National Weather Service, which he called the “pinnacle” of forecasting.
- Teaching and academia
- For the military, which employs meteorologists at, for instance, Air Force bases (“I would guess they do specialized forecasts for military operations,” Griffin said.)
- Private industry, such as transportation, energy and insurance companies
Meteorologists use various tools in their work, including computers, radar and weather balloons. The field has been studied for centuries, but Griffin said “modern” meteorology began during World War II.
An interest and skill set in math and science are important. Meteorologists should be curious and patient, Griffin said. Those who plan to go on TV or radio especially need to have good communication skills.
Meteorologists also need to have computer skills and be able to create “eye-catching graphics” and “appealing-to-the-eye maps,” Griffin added.
He also mentioned tenacity, “for those who love the weather, but don’t realize how complex it is.”
A high school diploma and undergraduate degree in meteorology are required. Next comes certification from organizations like the American Meteorological Society or the National Weather Association.
SUNY Brockport has a degree program in the field, along with other SUNY schools as well as Cornell University, Penn State University and others.
Those who want to become TV or radio meteorologists also need to take communication classes.
What the job pays
The pay varies greatly depending on the specific occupation, Griffin said. Meteorologists with the National Weather Service might start between $40,000 and $50,000 and earn more after a few years, he estimated.
Those in broadcast will earn “considerably less,” Griffin said, although he added that a “chief meteorologist” at a large-market TV station can make well over $100,000. Meteorologists who work in academia are typically paid “middle of the scale,” he said, and those in private industry could earn much more (or less).
The New York State Department of Labor lists the median salary for “Atmospheric and Space Scientists” in the Finger Lakes region at roughly $104,000. (CQ)
The job picture
Griffin said that meteorology positions are “extremely competitive” but there is always a demand.
“The biggest issue that most students need to be aware of is that the number of jobs in the area where they grew up are extremely limited,” he said.
Most who get a job in the field won’t be close to home, at least initially, he added.
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics charts job growth for “Atmospheric Scientists, including Meteorologists” at 8% through decade’s end.
“You have to have a bit of a thick skin. You’ll get criticized by the public, as far as the forecast is concerned,” Griffin said. “But when it comes to predicting the future, (fields like) geopolitics and stocks are much less accurate.”
Where to learn more
The National Weather Service has a document detailing career opportunities at Career Opportunities in Meteorology: weather.gov.
The American Meteorological Society web
site is www.ametsoc.org.
The National Weather Association is at www.nwas.org.
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