Everyone talks about the weather. Everyone. But, if your Facebook and Twitter posts are 99% weather updates, you might think about a career as a meteorologist.
The weather wonks on your local news are more than just pretty faces pointing toward a green screen. For the most part, they’ve studied and earned a degree in meteorology.
“Meteorology,” says the American Meteorological Society website, “is the science of the atmosphere. It takes its name from the Greek word meteoron — something that happens high in the sky. The ancient Greeks observed clouds, winds, and rain and tried to understand how they are connected to one another. The weather was important in their relatively simple society because it affected the farmers who raised their food and their seamen who sailed the oceans. Today, our complex society and our environment are affected even more seriously by events and changes in the atmosphere.”
Which is where you come in.
Today weather is all over the news. Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, excessive heat. Weather is very popular, and a career in meteorology is pretty cool. Or hot, depending on the weather.
Many universities offer programs in meteorology. You can find an extensive list at ametsoc.org.
To prepare for your new career in weather, you’ll want to be a bit of a math and science geek. Oh, and pack your bags. San Diego doesn’t have real weather — 361 days of sunshine does not a weather person make — but Oklahoma does.
The University of Oklahoma is well-known for its role in research into severe weather. Coastal campuses often specialize in marine meteorology, while some in the southern states emphasize tropical meteorology, so you’ll probably have to go to school where they actually have weather.
Once you graduate, you may aspire to be the next John Coleman, that wacky KUSI weather guy who also created the Weather Channel.
When a job opening becomes available at the National Weather Service, or at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a vacancy announcement is published with specific information on the job opening, duties, pay and location. A list of current job openings can be found at careers.noaa.gov.
You can enter the ‘series number’ of the job you’re interested in. The series number is 1340 for meteorologist and 1341 for meteorologist technician. For entry-level (intern) positions, look for jobs with a grade listed as ‘GS-5/’ or ‘GS-7/’.
These lists include not only meteorology positions, but other job opportunities within the agencies, and they’re updated daily. In both lists, the associated link will describe the vacancy announcement in full, including requirements to apply for a particular position.
The meteorologist positions use the Federal government’s General Schedule (GS) Federal salary table. In general, entry-level meteorology positions are as a “Meteorologist Intern” (GS level 5/7/9/11). Meteorologists entering the National Weather Service usually start at GS-5 (at this writing, about $25,600/year plus locality pay — a minimum of about 13%,) or GS-7 (about $31,700/yr., plus locality pay.) The intern position allows meteorologists to become acquainted with the products and processes of the at the agencies. Later, General Forecaster (GS-9/11/12, and, at a few locations, GS-13), and Senior Forecaster (GS-13 and, at a few locations, GS-14) positions are available. Other research, science, management, and supervisory positions (GS-13, 14 or 15, and some ES — Executive Schedule) are also available after an appropriate length of service. It sounds complicated, but if you’re smart enough to be a meteorologist, you’re smart enough to figure out this system.
Most meteorologists in the National Weather Service work at a forecast office. Since these offices are in operation continuously, meteorologists typically work some type of shift rotation. Usually, the rotation involves about a week on each of three main shifts. Overtime work is often required during severe weather events.
If you don’t want to be a weather nerd and you think you have what it takes — great teeth and hair, and a repertoire of bad jokes – to be an on-air weather person, check out weather.com/careers.