About the work
Meteorologists analyze and interpret data related to the Earth’s atmosphere and publish weather forecasts and more.
“Basically, meteorologists study the atmosphere,” said Casey Griffin, 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 radio. As Griffin noted, there are several other career paths for meteorologists thus, including:
- With the National Weather Service, which he called the “pinnacle” of forecasting.
- Education and academy
- For the military, which employs meteorologists at, say, Air Force bases (“I guess they do specialized forecasts for military operations,” Griffin said.)
- Private industry, such as transport, energy and insurance companies
Meteorologists use a variety of tools in their work, including computers, radars and weather balloons. The field has been studied for centuries, but Griffin said “modern” meteorology began during World War II.
Interest and skills in math and science are important. Meteorologists need to be curious and patient, Griffin said. Above all, those who plan to be on TV or radio need to have good communication skills.
Meteorologists also need to have computer skills and be able to create “eye-catching graphics” and “eye-pleasing maps,” Griffin added.
He also mentioned toughness, “for those who love the weather, but don’t realize how complex it is.”
Education / training required
A high school diploma and an undergraduate degree in meteorology are required. Then comes the certification of organizations like the American Meteorological Society or the National Weather Association.
SUNY Brockport has a program of study in the field, along with other SUNY schools as well as Cornell University, Penn State University and others.
Those who want to become meteorologists on television or radio must also take communication courses.
What labor pays
Salary varies widely depending on the specific occupation, Griffin said. National Weather Service meteorologists could start between $ 40,000 and $ 50,000 and earn more after a few years, he estimated.
Those that air will earn “considerably less,” Griffin said, although he added that a “chief meteorologist” at a big-market television station can make well over $ 100,000. Meteorologists working in academia are typically paid “in the middle of the scale,” he said, and those in the private sector could earn much more (or less).
The New York State Department of Labor reports that the median salary for “Atmosphere and Space Scientists” in the Finger Lakes region is around $ 104,000. (CQ)
The work photo
Griffin said meteorological jobs are “extremely competitive,” but there is always demand.
“The biggest problem that most students need to be aware of is that the number of jobs in the area where they grew up is extremely limited,” he said.
Most of those who get jobs in the field won’t be near home, at least initially, he added.
The Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics sets employment growth for “atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists” at 8% through the end of the decade.
“You have to have a little thick skin. You will be criticized by the public, as far as the forecast goes,” Griffin said. “But when it comes to predicting the future, (areas like) geopolitics and stocks are a lot less precise.”
Where to find out more
The National Weather Service has a document detailing career opportunities at Career Opportunities in Meteorology: weather.gov.
The American Meteorological Society website is www.ametsoc.org.
The National Meteorological Association is at www.nwas.org.