How to become a meteorologist
The first requirement is to have strong enthusiasm for the weather. After that, it gets harder.
Mon, Apr 02, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Some television weather reporters are not degreed meteorologists and they do not need to be to report the weather. (Photo: Jupiterimages)
“Like most meteorologists, I was a total weather nerd,” says Adam Moyer of Berlyn, Penn. “By age 5, I watched The Weather Channel more than anything else on TV.”
That childhood passion led Moyer to Penn State University, where he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in meteorology. But, like many meteorologists, Moyer didn’t want to report the weather on television. Midway through a second master’s degree — this one in statistics — Moyer decided not to pursue a career in academia or government. Instead, he looked to the private sector.
He found an opportunity with Planalytics, a business weather intelligence company, where Moyer can combine his knowledge of meteorology with his knowledge of statistics to help retailers figure out how the weather will impact their business.
Opportunities for meteorologists with companies like Planalytics are on the rise. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 9,400 jobs in 2008 for meteorologists not including those in academic institutions. Currently, 34 percent of employed meteorologists work for the U.S. government and its agencies like NASA, NOAA and the National Weather Service. Opportunities are expected to increase 15 percent by 2018 and private companies like Planalytics will likely be responsible for much of the growth.
Like Moyer, many people in the field have multiple degrees in meteorology and other complimentary sciences. But technically almost anyone can call themselves a meteorologist, which the American Meteorological Society defines as a person with a specialized education who uses scientific principles to explain, understand, observe or forecast the Earth’s atmospheric phenomena. This education usually includes a bachelor’s degree or higher from a college or university, but there is no board certification required to take on the title.
In fact, many television weather reporters are not degreed meteorologists and they do not need to be to report the weather.
That said, the American Meteorological Society offers certification programs in the areas of broadcasting and consulting for meteorologists who meet specific education and experience requirements. It’s also noteworthy that many successful candidates for meteorology jobs often have multiple degrees in the field of atmospheric sciences. In 2009, the American Meteorological Society listed about 100 undergraduate and graduate programs, many of which combine meteorology with other fields like chemistry, geology, oceanography, physics or statistics.
“Today’s opportunities are more interdisciplinary and there is a lot of collaboration and crossover between the atmospheric sciences and the geosciences as well,” says meteorologist Beth Mill, another Penn State alum who went to work for the American Meteorological Society (AMS) after completing her master’s degree in 2001.
“AMS was founded in 1919 to promote the development and dissemination of information and education on the atmospheric and related oceanic and hydrologic sciences and the advancement of their professional applications in service to society,” says Mills who is the associate director of the education program for AMS. With 14,000 members, the organization hosts conferences, publishes professional journals, and helps to match job seekers with openings for jobs like Moyer’s that have nothing to do with reporting the weather on screen.
Mill’s department creates classroom content for students from kindergarten to high school to teach them about the weather, the atmosphere, the oceans, and train teachers on these subjects so that they can help to create the meteorologists of tomorrow.
“It helps to learn about physics, chemistry, oceanography, and geology, just to name a few,” says Lis Cohen, who learned firsthand about interdisciplinary studies at Cornell University while working as a researcher and communications specialist for the Mars Exploration Program. “We studied how to get the Mars Rovers’ existing instruments to find out about the atmosphere, and how the atmosphere might affect the technology,” says Cohen, who added courses in astronomy and geology for this project.
Need to be 'obsessed'
Cohen is currently completing a master’s in public affairs in domestic policy at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and she’s frequently asked to do radio interviews about the climate.
“To report on the weather, you need to really be obsessed with the day to day changes,” she says. “I’m more interested in long-term trends in weather and climate, and in educating the public and the policy makers about how these changes will affect us all.”
To that end, she launched WeatherOutreach.org to help others learn more about weather, meteorology, and her first love: clouds.
Related meteorology story on MNN: 16 meteorologists with ridiculous names
Tease photo: BP America/Flickr