Last Updated: May 15th, 2022 by
When anyone needs to know what the weather will be like, all they have to do is check the newspapers or go online. Weather forecasts tell us precisely what we need to know to plan ahead and be prepared. All of that is made possible thanks to meteorologists.
In this guide, you’ll learn everything there is to know about how to become a meteorologist. You’ll understand what they do, how to become one, and what you can earn from following this career path.
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As a meteorologist, your job is to forecast the weather and then report it to members of the public. To do that, you must first collect data related to the weather and analyze it in great detail.
Your aim is to forecast the weather for the coming days, weeks, or even months. Once you do that, you’ll share that information with members of the government, private businesses, and members of the public through reports or other weather reporting systems.
To become a meteorologist, you’ll need a Master’s or Doctorate degree in meteorology, atmospheric science, or a related field. This line of work pays an average of $100,550 a year.
What Does an Average Day for a Meteorologist Look Like?
One of the most important things to learn about how to become a meteorologist is what an average day will look like on the job.
Here’s what your average day as a meteorologist will look like:
Collect Weather Data
Throughout your average workday, you’ll spend a significant portion of time collecting weather data. You and your colleagues will be using that data later to analyze and forecast the weather.
The data you’ll want to collect doesn’t just come from one source. Instead, the data comes from multiple sources nearby and far away in other countries.
For example, the data you collect will come from:
- Weather stations in your location and elsewhere around the world
- Satellites in space that monitor weather here on earth
- Remote sensors and radars
- And more
Here’s the exciting part: some of the data sources will belong to your employer. However, it’s also common for third parties worldwide to share weather data for the benefit of meteorologists in other locations.
As for the types of weather data, you’ll collect, those include:
- Wind speed and direction
- Rain and snow volume
- Air pressure
- Visibility, humidity, and more
Analyze Weather Data
Once you have all the weather data you need, you’ll then spend time analyzing that data to understand what all of it means.
You’ll do some of that manually, like performing calculations using nothing more than a calculator.
However, you’ll also use high-tech computers and sophisticated models to do the same.
With all that computing power and science at your disposal, you’ll be able to understand what the weather might be like in the coming days, weeks, and even months.
Forecast Weather Conditions
As a meteorologist, your expertise lies in forecasting weather conditions, but unlike what some people might think, the job of forecasting goes into so much more detail than just knowing if it’ll rain or not.
Beyond that, you’ll also have to forecast things like wind speeds and directions, humidity levels, visibility ranges, and much more.
All of that detailed information is crucial for specific businesses and services. For example, an airport will rely on your forecasts for wind speeds, wind directions, and visibility ranges to ensure it’s safe for planes to land and take off.
Report Weather Forecasts
After completing your weather forecasts, you’ll have to report them to the general public.
For example, if you’re a broadcast meteorologist, you’ll tell people about the weather on TV, the radio, or online.
However, you might also do the same by writing reports and delivering them to the government agencies and private companies that need them.
Read our related article on How to Become a News Anchor if you’re interested in other aspects of the reporting business!
Last but not least, you’ll also spend some of your day conducting research. Your work is a science, and there’s always room for improvement. So, you’ll spend some time thinking of ways to improve how you collect, analyze, forecast, and report the weather.
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Process for Becoming a Meteorologist
The journey you’ll take to become a meteorologist is pretty straightforward. That means your experience will likely be the same as the other atmospheric scientists you meet during your career.
Here’s what the different stages of that process will look like for you.
1. Start Preparing in High School
Let’s suppose you’re still in high school and want to become a meteorologist. In that case, you can start preparing early by taking courses that will help you along the way.
For starters, you’ll want to take science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses like:
Mastering these subjects and getting good grades will help you get into the college course of your choice.
Equally important is that it’ll also help you throughout your career. Your work as a meteorologist relies heavily on your proficiency in science. So, having a deep understanding of these subjects will help you succeed.
2. Pursue a Degree
Your academic credentials will play a significant role in building your career as a meteorologist. So, you’ll learn a lot about how to become a meteorologist as you pursue your bachelor’s degree in the field.
These days, you can pursue a degree in meteorology, climatology, or even atmospheric science.
3. Get a Master’s or Doctoral Degree
Getting a bachelor’s degree is only the beginning required to become a meteorologist. Once you have a degree, you can use that to apply for graduate school, where you’ll pursue a master’s degree or doctorate.
Remember: scientific fields like this one require higher education as an essential requirement for you to find work.
So, you’ll spend a significant portion of your journey of becoming a meteorologist in school.
4. Gain Hands-On Experience and Training
As a meteorologist, you’ll rely on sophisticated tools like high-tech computers to do your job. Those tools are necessary for analyzing data and producing weather forecasts.
If you choose to work for the National Weather Service, you must also learn how to use equipment to warn the public when there’s dangerous weather on its way.
Even if you don’t work for the National Weather Service, you can also gain valuable experience with them. For instance, you could:
- Pursue an internship with them
- Take part in a fellowship
- Become a volunteer
- Apply for a scholarship program
Regardless of where you end up working after you graduate, any experience that you get from the National Weather Service will undoubtedly be valuable and improve your chances of landing a job.
5. Choose a Specialization
As you continue building your meteorology career, you’ll also want to choose a specialization. Thankfully, the fields of meteorology and atmospheric science are very broad, so you’ll have a long list of specializations to choose from.
For example, you can choose to specialize as a broadcast meteorologist. These are the professionals who inform the public of weather forecasts on TV, the radio, and online.
Still, there are plenty of other specializations you can choose from, which you’ll discover later in this guide.
Are You Suited for a Meteorologist Career? Skills, Credentials, Tools, and Technology
As you go through your journey of learning how to become a meteorologist, you’ll discover that you must have a balance of soft and hard skills to succeed in the long run.
Here are some of the personality traits, skills, and proficiencies that you must have or be willing to develop to succeed as a meteorologist.
Personality and Skills
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) highlights that analytical skills, critical thinking skills, and communication skills are among the top skills you will require to work in this field.
Regardless of your specialization, you’ll spend your days dealing with a lot of raw data about the weather. So, your analytical skills are crucial to help you understand what all of that data means to the average person.
What makes this job even more challenging is that the data you analyze won’t always be correct.
So, strong critical thinking skills are also necessary to help you separate useful information from what might just be useless noise.
Lastly, you’ll need to process your findings and share them with people who don’t have the same level of expertise that you do.
Your communication skills will allow you to share what you know in a way that’s easy for other people to understand.
Credentials and Proficiencies
The Occupational Information Network (O*Net), on the other hand, shows that you must be very proficient in the fields of physics, geography, and mathematics to succeed as a meteorologist.
Physics is the science of energy, motion, and matter. These are also important characteristics of different weather conditions that you’ll be analyzing in your career.
Besides that, geography also plays a big role. The climate and its effects will be different based on the geography around you, which is why understanding the subject is so important.
Lastly, being proficient in mathematics also plays a key role. Your math skills will allow you to make the necessary calculations required for your data analysis.
How Does a Meteorologist Find Work?
At the end of your journey in learning how to become a meteorologist, you’ll need to know where to find jobs for people with your unique skills.
You can increase your chances of finding a job opening and getting hired by focusing on the industries that deal with atmospheric science. That’s where you’ll find the organizations and institutions that hire the most meteorologists.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) points out that most people who pursue this career path work with:
- The Federal Government
- Scientific research organizations
- Radio and television broadcasting
- Academic institutions like universities and colleges
To begin your job search, start by identifying the relevant organizations in your area. Then, check their websites or call them directly to inquire about any current job openings.
Even if there aren’t any openings, you can leave your CV or resume to keep on file for any future job openings that might suit you.
What Is the Average Salary of a Meteorologist?
Before investing your time and effort in learning how to become a meteorologist, you’ll want to know what the average salary in the industry looks like.
Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that meteorologists earn an average of $100,550 a year.
The same data also shows that:
- The top 90th percentile earns an average of $153,150 a year.
- The bottom 10th percentile earns an average of $52,350 a year.
Where Do Meteorologists Make the Most Money?
The BLS also provides data to show where meteorologists can earn the most in this country. According to them, these are the 5 highest paying states for meteorologists:
- District of Columbia: $132,340 a year
- California: $123,710 a year
- Virginia: $114,470 a year
- Hawaii: $109,680 a year
- Georgia: $108,860 a year
How Do You Earn More as a Meteorologist?
There are 3 main ways you can increase your earning potential as a meteorologist.
- Get a doctorate: In this line of work, your academic credentials matter a lot. So, those with doctorates can demand a higher salary compared to those without.
- Specialize: As you’ll see later in this guide, there is a wide range of specializations for meteorologists. By specializing and developing expert knowledge in one area, you’ll be of more value and can demand a higher salary.
- Relocate: As you’ve seen from the information above, a person with your atmospheric science qualifications can earn a much higher income in specific parts of the country. So, relocating can certainly be worth it if you can secure a high-paying job in a state that pays more.
Meteorologist Job Outlook
The job outlook for meteorologists is bright. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects this field to grow by 8% between 2020 and 2030.
The BLS considers that growth rate to be “as fast as average.” That’s excellent news for you and anyone else who wants to learn how to become a meteorologist.
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Top 8 Specializations for Meteorologists in 2022
With your qualifications in atmospheric science, you can work in a wide range of specializations like:
This is probably the most recognizable type of meteorologist out there. In this role, you’ll give weather forecasts to the general public online, on TV, or on the radio.
You’ll take on a more investigative role with this specialization. For instance, you’ll study historical data to understand what the weather was like for a given place on a given date.
In this specialization, you’ll put together new methods to collect and study weather data. In doing so, you’ll develop better ways to predict the weather.
This is the specialization for you if you love chemistry. In this role, you’ll study climates, gasses, chemical reactions, radiation, and much more.
Atmospheric Physicists and Dynamists
If physics is your preferred science, then you’ll go far in this specialization. Here, you’ll study the physical movements that take place in the atmosphere. For example, like how lightning moves and what effects it causes.
As a climatologist, you’ll study historical weather data and try to predict long-term weather changes. Studying global climate change in the long run, for example, will be something a climatologist would focus on.
Climate scientists focus on the theoretical foundations and modeling of climate. Your focus in this role would be to forecast climate changes well into the future, perhaps even months and years in advance.
While climate scientists focus on the very long term, your focus as a weather forecaster is on the very short term. You’ll use technology and advanced mathematics to forecast daily and weekly weather.
Besides going to college, you’ll learn the finer points of how to become a meteorologist through mentorship and networking. Here are the top professional associations for people in this field.
Top Colleges and Universities
The process of learning how to become a meteorologist involves spending time pursuing a college degree. Here are some of the top institutions to learn atmospheric science: