How Can I Become a Meteorologist?

Research what it takes to become a meteorologist. Learn about education requirements, job duties, and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Science, Technology, and International Security degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Meteorologist?

A meteorologist is a scientist who specializes in analyzing and understanding climate and weather patterns. They monitor various weather aspects like temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure and wind speed. Meteorologists use computer systems to interpret this data to project possible weather events. In some cases they may even write their own computer software for processing data. Once they have sufficient data, they make short-term and long-term projections about possible weather systems that may develop and how they may affect people in a specific region. When conditions suggest there may be an extreme weather event, such as a blizzard, hurricane or tornado, meteorologists may issue warnings so that people can take the necessary steps to protect themselves and their property.

Education Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Meteorology, atmospheric science, or related field
Key Responsibilities Produce weather maps, report weather conditions, make forecasts
Job Growth (2014-2024) 9% (for all atmospheric and space scientists)*
Median Salary (May 2015) $89,820 (for all atmospheric and space scientists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are My Degree Options?

If you decide to become a meteorologist, you'll need a minimum of a bachelor's degree. Your major may be in meteorology, atmospheric science or in a related science area with plenty of courses in meteorology. Some meteorologists obtain a second baccalaureate degree in a technical field, or pursue a master's degree. Research positions generally call for a doctoral degree. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), those with master's degrees may have better job prospects than those with a bachelor's degree (www.bls.gov).

Approximately 30 educational institutions degree programs structured for atmospheric and related sciences in the United States, according to information reported by the American Meteorological Study (www.ametsoc.org).

What Will I Study If I Pursue this Degree?

Specific coursework and areas of study depend upon your career goals. For example, if you are interested in broadcast meteorology, you may take classes in speech and journalism in order to develop excellent communications skills. In general, meteorology and atmospheric coursework incorporates atmospheric dynamics with thermodynamics, physical meteorology, the analysis and prediction of weather systems and instrumentation. Many programs of study combine atmospheric science studies with a different area, such as oceanography, physics, engineering, agriculture or hydrology.

Where Can I Use My Meteorological Skills?

Approximately one-third of meteorologists work for the federal government in National Weather Service stations sprinkled across the U.S., according to the BLS. Some are also employed in research positions. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Defense uses a large number of meteorologists. Other jobs are found in private firms and in broadcasting services.

What Job Duties Might I Expect?

Common tasks for entry-level meteorologists include data collection, basic forecasting, computation and analysis. National Weather Service meteorologists have a training program introducing them to the organization's processes and procedures.

There are several different classifications of meteorologists. Operational meteorologists study temperature, humidity and wind velocity and use the data to provide weather forecasts. They use computer models and data from satellites, radars, and other equipment to make their predictions. Sophisticated technologies such as Doppler radar allow meteorologists to better predict hazardous weather by detecting airflow patterns. Physical meteorologists study light and sound waves, energy transfer and chemical properties in the atmosphere. Environmental meteorologists study air pollutants and water quality issues.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Environmental scientists and specialists and hydrologists have some aspects of their professions that are comparable to the work of a meteorologist. Hydrologists specialize in understanding how water moves across and through the earth. Like meteorologists, they need a bachelor's degree. The focus of their expertise is on understanding how to improve water quality or how to make water accessible in areas where it isn't, which is similar to knowledge that meteorologists need to predict the possibility of flash floods and erosion from weather events. Environmental scientists and specialists focus on protecting human health and the environment from natural factors; they also must have bachelor's degrees. Their work may be directly impacted by weather systems that spread pollution or cause landslides or floods.

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