What Is a Meteorologist?

When you woke up this morning the sky was clear so you packed a picnic basket and reached for the phone. Before you call eight of your best friends to come along, you might want to check with a meteorologist. That's the person who can tell you if it's going to stay clear or if you'll need to run for cover in a couple of hours. Read on to learn more about these atmospheric oracles. Schools offering Science, Technology, and International Security degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

Meteorologists study the environment and lower levels of the atmosphere in order to track and predict weather patterns. To work as a meteorologist, you must understand how to use advanced technology like supercomputers to compile data gathered through satellites, radar and instrument packages known as rawinsondes. Once you compile data on storm fronts and pressure zones, you send out informed predictions to the public. While your predictions may not always be perfectly accurate, remember that meteorology is still an evolving science.

While you can't stop weather or weather-related changes to the earth, you can give an early warning system that will help others:

  • Find shelter in a tornado
  • Work with crops in accordance to climate changes
  • Fly more safely by having wind-sheer detection at airports
  • Develop tools for improving air quality by understanding the factors that degrade it

Important Facts About Meteorologists

Entry-level Education Bachelor's degree
On-the-Job Training Typically none, unless working for the National Weather Service which requires 200 hours of on-the-job training per year for the first 2 years of employment
Key Skills Oral and written communication, critical-thinking skills, and mathematical ability
Work Environment Work in weather stations for the federal government, radio or television studios, offices, fieldwork, laboratories at universities and scientific research centers

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education and Training

You can actually begin your meteorologist studies in high school, according to the American Meteorological Society (AMS). They recommend you begin by taking classes in physics, math, chemistry, and earth sciences. Because you'll be working to coordinate efforts and share information with scientists from other countries, a language such as Russian, French, or German can help you later in your career.

You need to look for a college that offers at least a bachelor's degree in meteorology or atmospheric science. The National Weather Services (NWS) has a map that indicates the locations of schools in the United States offering both bachelor's and graduate degree programs. The NWS also offers work-study programs, as well as student volunteer opportunities, if you'd rather test the waters before you dive into a career.

Career and Salary Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), the employment of atmospheric scientists such as meteorologists is projected to grow by an approximated 10% between 2012 and 2022, a rate consistent with the average predicted for all occupations. Such scientists were reported to have earned salaries averaging $87,980 in May 2014, per BLS.

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