What you need to know
Meteorologists study the weather and climate, and examine how those conditions affect human activity and the earth in general.
Most meteorologists work indoors in weather stations, offices, or laboratories. Occasionally, they do fieldwork, which means working outdoors to examine the weather. Some meteorologists may have to work extended hours during weather emergencies.
Some of the things a meteorologist might do.
- Measure temperature, atmospheric pressure, humidity, wind speed, dew point, and other properties of the atmosphere
- Use computer models that analyze data about the atmosphere (also called meteorological data)
- Write computer programs to support their modeling efforts
- Conduct research to improve understanding of weather phenomena
- Generate weather graphics for users
- Report current weather conditions
- Prepare long- and short-term weather forecasts by using computers, mathematical models, satellites, radar, and local station data
- Plan, organize, and participate in outreach programs aimed at educating the public about weather
- Issue warnings to protect life and property when threatened by severe weather, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and flash floods
- Analytical skills. Meteorologists must be able to focus for many hours, working with computer models and massive amounts of data to prepare analyses on their findings.
- Communication skills. Meteorologists need to be able to write and speak clearly so that their knowledge about the weather can be used effectively by communities and individuals.
- Critical-thinking skills. Meteorologists need to be able to analyze the results of their computer models and forecasts to determine the most likely outcome.
- Math skills. Meteorologists use calculus, statistics, and other advanced topics in mathematics to develop models used to forecast the weather. They also use mathematical calculations to study the relationship between properties of the atmosphere, such as how changes in air pressure may affect air temperature.
The average pay in the United States for all atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists, ranges from $52,350 to $153,150 as of May 2020.
The specific pay depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.
Employment of atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists is projected to grow 6 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations.
New types of computer models have vastly improved the accuracy of forecasts and allowed atmospheric scientists to tailor forecasts to specific purposes. This should maintain, and perhaps increase, the need for atmospheric scientists working in private industry as businesses demand more specialized weather information.
Businesses increasingly rely on just-in-time delivery to avoid the expenses incurred by traditional inventory management methods. Severe weather can interrupt ground or air transportation and delay inventory delivery. Businesses have begun to maintain forecasting teams around the clock to advise delivery personnel, and this availability helps them stay on schedule.
Meteorologists typically need a bachelor’s degree, either in atmospheric science or a related scientific field that specifically studies atmospheric qualities and phenomena. Bachelor’s degrees in physics, chemistry, or geology are usually adequate, alternative preparation for those who wish to enter the atmospheric sciences. Prospective meteorologists usually take courses outside of the typical atmospheric sciences field.
Meteorologists who work in research must at least have a master’s degree, but will usually need a Ph.D. in atmospheric science or a related field. Most graduate programs do not require prospective students to have a bachelor’s degree in atmospheric science; a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, physics, or engineering is excellent preparation for graduate study in atmospheric science.