Interested in a career in meteorology, or related fields such as hydrology, atmospheric physics or atmospheric chemistry? A good information resource is the web site of the American Meteorological Society: www.AmetSoc.org/AMS. When you reach the home page, go to the top left and type in the word “careers” in the Google search bar on the upper left (set for the AMS web site only). That will lead you to a lot of useful links.
What is a meteorologist?
When the public hears the word “meteorologist”, they often think of the person on TV presenting the forecast. Many weathercaster are only weather reporters, although increasingly many are highly trained scientific professionals. Meteorologists also work for the National Weather Service, preparing forecasts and warnings and making observations. But there are many other activities in which practitioners can be called meteorologists or alternately atmospheric scientists, atmospheric physicists or atmospheric chemists. So what is a meteorologist? According to a guideline of the American Meteorological Society, it is a person with specialized education, using scientific principles to explain, understand, observe or forecast the earth's atmospheric phenomena and/or how the atmosphere effects the earth and life on the planet. This requires at least a four year college degree in meteorology or related sciences. A masters or even doctoral degree is often required for many of the more advanced jobs. Many meteorologists also obtain degrees in fields such as chemistry, mathematics, electrical or computer engineering, or other branches of the physical science and then become involved in studying the atmosphere.

What is atmospheric physics?
Many scientists with training in physics work on atmosphere-related problems. These can include issues related to radar and radio wave propagation, optical propagation, acoustics and spectroscopy, to name just a few. The field can be highly theoretical and mathematical. There are also many observationally oriented programs in which new sensing systems are developed such as Doppler lidar, radar and acoustic profiler and satellite sounding systems.

What is atmospheric chemistry?
Atmospheric chemistry is the scientific discipline that deals with the chemical constituents in our air. The problems addressed, often at a very highly theoretical level, include understanding and predicting stratospheric ozone levels which are now known to be strongly influenced by chemicals injected into the atmosphere by humans. Closer to the ground, unraveling the problem of regional smog has remained a major challenge. The fate of many chemicals released into the atmosphere and their interactions with ecosystems is under close study. The emissions of natural pollutants from trees, soil microorganisms and geological processes is vital to understanding global chemical balances. There are now more than 10 million manufactured chemicals that have been identified. Many of them are released into the atmosphere with as yet unknown consequences. This field is also heavily involved in global climate change research.

Is meteorology a good career?
According to The Jobs Ranked Almanac, the career of meteorologist now ranks seventh out of 250. This is a big move up from 38th place in the 1988 edition. The rankings are based on factors such as environment, employment outlook, stress, security, physical demands and income. The really interesting thing about the field is that you can be involved at many levels ranging from taking observations to working on high end theoretical problems on supercomputers. You can find employment within many federal government agencies, the military, state and local government, universities, broadcasting, utilities, private industry, engineering consulting firms or be a self-employed consultant.

Would meteorology be a good career for you?
Ultimately the answer to the above questions is the same as for any career - do you enjoy the work? Here are some questions you may wish to ask yourself if you are considering a career in meteorology:
• Am I curious about the physical world about me, and why it is the way it is? Have I always watched the sky, read books on science and weather, taken my own observations?
• Would I like to work in a field of science that has many applications in human affairs?
• Am I intrigued by the concept of using mathematics as a language to describe things that happen in the natural world? Do I enjoy working with computers?
• Do I have the ability to conceptualize three-dimensional physical phenomena?
• Do I enjoy and do well in my math, physics, chemistry and computer courses?
• Am I open to change, working in a field where developments occur at a breakneck pace?
• (For those interested in forecasting and/or broadcasting) Am I willing to work shifts and be transferred to a number of job locations until becoming established?
Many meteorologists swear that you are born with the love of weather. Many were “weather freaks” as kids and thought nothing of staying up all night to watch a snowstorm. Many others, however, have entered the field from other disciplines as interests and opportunities developed
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How many meteorologists are there?
In the United States it is estimated that there are about 30,000 to 35,000 men and woman whose professional activities involve some aspect of the atmospheric sciences. Some of the professionals might call themselves atmospheric scientists, environmental engineers, or atmospheric physicists or chemists, but they all deal with the atmosphere in some way or another. Very closely allied to meteorology are the oceanographic, limnological (study of lakes), and hydrological fields. Some of the wide variety of jobs that involve some aspects of meteorology or another include:
operational forecaster, satellite meteorologist, radar meteorologist, agricultural forecaster, climatologist, commodities trader, hydrological engineer, aviation forecaster, emergency planner, instrument designer, fire weather forecaster, broadcaster, flood forecaster, high school or university teacher, national laboratory researcher, data communications engineer, remote sensing specialist, air quality forecaster, air quality modeler, hurricane researcher, atmospheric chemist, global change or acid precipitation researcher, atmospheric optics researcher, radio propagation researcher, severe storm forecaster, numerical forecasting modeler, air traffic control assistant, computer visualization specialist, bioclimatologist, lightning researcher, wind energy prospector, paleoclimatologist, forensic specialist, technical writer or editor, etc. etc. etc.

What qualifications do I need to be a meteorologist?
According to The Jobs Rated Almanac, the number of new positions for trained meteorologists will continue to grow over the next decade. This would appear especially true for students with advanced degrees in the atmospheric sciences and who are highly trained in computer-related skills. While there are a few low-level jobs for those with only high school education, the vast number of meteorologists and atmospheric scientists have four year college bachelor degrees. Many have graduate level masters and doctoral degrees. The nature of most work in atmospheric sciences is such that a companion discipline besides classical meteorology is becoming almost essential. Meteorology students often take extra course work, double majors or advanced degrees in areas such as physics, computer science, electrical engineering, physical chemistry, numerical methods, ecology, horticulture, hydrology, etc. In almost all cases a strong foundation in computer sciences and applications is essential.

Where do you get training in meteorology or atmospheric sciences?
The first university in the United States to have a formal meteorology degree program was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The department was founded in 1928 by Swedish scientist Carl-Gustaf Rossby. There are dozens of institutions of higher learning that offer formal degree programs. A complete listing of these universities, their faculties, facilities and course offerings can be obtained from the American Meteorological Society which periodically publishes its “Curricula in the Atmospheric, Oceanic, Hydrological and Related Sciences.” A recent census showed that there were at least 77 universities offering Ph.D. level programs, with an additional nine only going to the masters degree level, and 18 providing only bachelor level programs. The number of doctoral (Ph.D.) degrees currently granted by U.S. universities in meteorology and related fields is estimated at about 100 per year. The military services will provide “in house” training for the specific tasks they need to have accomplished. Many officers are also enrolled in university degree programs.

Don’t all meteorologists work for the National Weather Service or TV stations?
These two groups, with whom the public has the most contact, do employ a large fraction of the nation’s meteorological practitioners. About a thousand meteorologists are actively working in the media. The National Weather Service employs approximately 5000 professionals. But many other organizations hire those with meteorological training including engineering and environmental firms, private weather forecasters and consultants and over a dozen federal government agencies. At least 8000 meteorologists are working in the rapidly expanding private sector.

What is the private sector?
With the end of World War II, thousands of returning military meteorologists were looking for work. At that time the only significant employers were the (then) Weather Bureau and universities. Many introduced to the science during the War wanted to stay active in the field. Thus was born the private sector. Many small companies providing specialized forecasts were started. After a period of initial antipathy from the government establishment, the relationship between the two groups has generally been harmonious and mutually beneficial. A recent survey of private sector meteorologists listed their job responsibilities in general descending order of practitioners: Weather forecasting, broadcast meteorology, general consulting, air quality, computer programming, research & development, environmental impact studies, systems integration and climatology.

How do you get on radio and TV?
Many aspiring meteorologists yearn to “get into television.” It is possible, but it is not always easy. First you need the basic training in meteorology, particularly in the practical aspects of forecasting. You should be reasonably telegenic, or at least have an engaging on-air personality. Computer skills are most valuable. College courses in communications, if available, are often also very valuable. Starting out working at campus radio or TV stations gets a foot in the door, as does volunteering for summer intern work (often without pay) at the local commercial TV station. Having a mentor who already works in the business can be a big help. At some point you have to have “a tape” to be able to send to news directors at various stations so they can see how you come across on the air. Getting that first demo tape is often a challenge, but sometimes it can be part of the deal for working as a summer intern or at the campus station. And getting on the air usually doesn’t mean big city lights and lots of glamour at first. It usually means starting with the 6 AM weather cut-ins in Bozeman, MT, working your way up to weekend weather in Quincy, IL or Pocatello, ID - and then maybe the morning show in some market bigger than Boise. It usually takes ten years or more of service in the smaller markets before you can expect to become “an overnight sensation” in a major market where they make the big bucks. Plan to move a lot. And also plan for the fact that your job security may be zilch. A new news director may be appointed, and if he or she doesn’t like your face, you are history. But media work can be very professionally rewarding, some meteorologists do stay at the same station for decades, and even if you don’t stay in the business forever, it is a good springboard to other activities.

What is the AMS Broadcast Seal of Approval?
Not everyone presenting forecasts on radio or television is a trained meteorologist. Some are simply broadcasters who “rip and read”, hopefully without their own embellishments, forecasts prepared by the National Weather Service or a private forecasting company. But there are many professional meteorologists working in the media. In order to help the viewers identify those weathercasters who indeed have the training, experience and judgement to communicate the complex weather information in a professional and reliable manner, the American Meteorological Society has established its Seal of Approval awarded to Certified Broadcast Meteorologists. Each weathercaster must pass a qualifying exam as well as submit sample program tapes to a review board of his or her peers who accepts or decline their petition. The Seal once granted must be renewed periodically, encouraging the broadcasters to be involved with continuing education courses and upgrading the quality of their presentations.

What is the American Meteorological Society?
The primary scientific and professional society for atmospheric sciences in the United States is the American Meteorological Society. It has over 11,000 members who work in the various disciplines of meteorology, oceanography and hydrology. The objectives of the Society are the development and dissemination of knowledge of the atmosphere and related oceanic and hydrological sciences and the advancement of their professional applications. Membership is open to all. There is a grade of Associate Member for those who are interested in the goals of the Society but not educationally qualified for full membership. Student membership is available for those enrolled at least-half time at an accredited institution of higher learning. The AMS publishes a number of major technical journals including Weather and Forecasting, Journal of Climate, Monthly Weather Review, Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, and the Journal of Applied Meteorology. The official publication of the AMS is the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. Their headquarters are located at 45 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108-3693. Their web site is www.AmetSoc.org/AMS.

Are there other professional organizations serving the atmospheric sciences?
Many atmospheric scientists are members of the American Geophysical Union (2000 Florida Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009, www.AGU.org). The AGU conducts numerous scientific meetings which span the breadth of geophysics and publishes a number of well regarded technical journals, including Geophysical Research Letters and the Journal of Geophysical Research. Those interested in forecasting and the operational aspects of meteorology often join the National Weather Association (NatWeaAssoc@aol.com). The NWA publishes the National Weather Digest.

Is financial aid available to students interested in the atmospheric sciences?
Aside from the numerous financial aid programs offered by colleges and universities, there are several scholarship programs administered by the American Meteorological Society. Contact the AMS for information. Check with the Meteorology Department office at the college and university for details. The military weather services in the Air Force and Navy are a career option. If you choose to enter as a commissioned officer, you’ll normally be awarded a ROTC scholarship to complete your bachelor’s degree. After graduation, you attend Officer Training School.

Where do you find out about jobs in meteorology?
Networking and keeping your ear to the ground is probably the number one way to find out about positions. Asking people already in the business can be a big source of job leads. Starting out as an intern can be invaluable. The AMS publishes monthly listings of employment opportunities. Many college departments keep job announcements posted on the bulletin boards near the department office. Weathercasting positions are sometimes advertised in Broadcasting. Organizations such as the National Weather Service and the National Center for Atmospheric Research routinely publish their open positions. Many private sector jobs are arranged through personal contacts. If you have the training, good references, and healthy work ethic, chances are the work will find you. No matter what the position, you must be able to provide any employer with professional competence and good work habits. Web sites covering employment in atmospheric sciences include:
www.AmetSoc.org/AMS (go through navigation to Employment Announcements)
www.met.psu.edu/Jobs/jobs/index.html (Penn State University)
mrd3.mmm.ucar.edu/opportunites.html (National Center for Atmospheric Research)

Do environmental firms hire meteorologists?
Meteorologists have played a central role in much of the air quality research and control efforts in the United States over the past several decades. Atmospheric conditions play a key role in predicting the diffusion and transport (collectively called dispersion) of pollutants. If a new power plant is to be built, it is necessary to know the impact of the pollutants that it will release. Since one can’t measure pollution concentrations before the plant is built, numerical models of pollution dispersion simulate the atmosphere’s influence upon the plume once it leaves the proposed smoke stack. In an effort to control regional ozone, meteorologists work with chemists to create numerical “photochemical grid models” in which the known pollutant emissions are used to predict the ozone levels. Once these models are verified, then one can predict the consequences of planned emission controls, such as cutting automobile hydrocarbon emissions by 10% or power plant oxides of nitrogen releases by 30%. The complex models are necessary because the actual results of such controls can often be quite different from what might be expected.

What is industrial forecasting?
How much does a "bad winter" cost the US economy? The harsh winter of 1976-77 was estimated to cause $37 billion in direct economic losses due to lost retail sales, increased energy consumption, difficulties in transportation and industrial production and crop losses. Advanced warning can help reduce some of these losses. Cold weather, for instance, affects heating bills, thermal underwear sales, shipping-and video rentals. In Cincinnati, at least, video rentals have been known to double on weekends when the weather is exceptionally cold. Cold weather means hot pizza. One Twin Cities pizza delivery establishment found that when it was bitterly cold, even normally hardy Minnesotans would rather that someone else get the frostbite - his sales increased $400-500 on really nippy evenings. Knowing that in advance means bringing in more help to meet demand. Baseball teams hire private forecasters to predict the beginning and end of rain to help the ground crews decide when to put on the tarps. On a larger scale, knowing that the temperature will jump ten degrees in New York City tomorrow allows an electrical utility to purchase the needed extra power before the demand soars and the prices of power go up with it. The correct forecast of a few degree temperature rise or fall can save an electric company millions of dollars. Precipitation predictions for mountain reservoirs and drainage basins assist utility managers in planning hydroelectric power generation. Forecasts of temperature for snow making at a ski resort, rainfall on an outdoor movie set, relative humidity for a proscribed agricultural burn and winds for a hot air balloon rally are just a few of the many forecasts made for industry by the private weather forecasting firms in the U.S.

What is forensic meteorology?
The forensic meteorologist, who may act as either a background consultant or an actual testifying expert, will collect, interpret and analyze atmospheric data in support of insurance fraud claim investigations, civil and criminal trials, and environmental regulatory actions. The forensic meteorologist may be employed directly by an insurance company, the attorneys for either the plaintiff or defendant in a case or, with increasingly frequency, may be appointed by the court itself. Regardless of the employing party, it is not the role of the meteorologist to be an advocate for either side in a dispute, but to assist the judge and/or jury in understanding the often complex facts in a case so that they may reach an appropriate verdict.

Some typical problems dealt with in forensic meteorology: “The automobile accident was caused by poor visibility - was that caused by natural fog or pollutants from a nearby industrial plant?” “Was the building damaged by a tornado or a straight line thunderstorm wind?” “A person was found electrocuted near a downed power line - was it a fault in the utilities’ line or a lightning strike?” “How can we demonstrate that rain fell at a site that is located many miles distant from any National Weather Service reporting station?”

The forensic meteorologist may collect standard weather observations, assemble weather radar and satellite imagery, process weather data taken by a party in the case, or locate nonstandard sources of data such as lightning ground strike reports or atmospheric data taken by air pollution monitoring networks. These data are then used in a comprehensive analysis of the meteorological facts pertinent to a case. There is increasing use of sophisticated computer graphics and video animation of weather information in trials and administrative hearings. Most forensic meteorologist have had long and varied careers in the atmospheric sciences, and it is their hard-earned expertise that is in demand. Few recent graduates can expect to be heavily engaged in such activities until they have significantly enhanced their resumes. Most successful forensic meteorologists have met the qualifications of a Certified Consulting Meteorologist (CCM).

What is a Certified Consulting Meteorologist?
The title of Certified Consulting Meteorologist (CCM) is generated by the American Meteorological Society. It is a formal recognition on the part of colleagues, acting through their Society, that an applicant is considered well qualified to carry on the work as a consulting meteorologist. The qualifications for certification are centered around the fundamental characteristics of knowledge, experience, and character. The CCM program is a service for the general public provided by the AMS, in order to certify that certain individuals have been tested and found to meet or exceed its high standards. The CCM designation provides a basis on which a client seeking assistance on problems of a meteorological nature may be assured a mature, competent and ethical professional counsel. Only about 5% (600) of the Society’s members have earned CCM certification.

How do you find a certified consulting meteorologist?
Have a weather related problem in your business and don’t know how to locate a competent meteorological consultant or an expert witness for a trial? The American Meteorological Society will be pleased to provide a listing of Certified Consulting Meteorologists (CCMs) serving your area. Contact the AMS at 45 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108 (617-227-2425) for assistance. The web site is www.AmetSoc.org/AMS. A listing of meteorological consultants is also published monthly in the back of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. Many private sector firms also advertise in the yellow pages and professional and trade journal directories.