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Meteorologists

California Occupational Guide Number 200
Interest Area 2
1998

THE JOB

Meteorology is the study of the earth's atmosphere and the weather which
occur in it.  METEOROLOGISTS gather and analyze information on atmospheric
conditions.  They attempt to spot and interpret trends, understand the
weather of yesterday, describe the weather of today, and predict the weather
of tomorrow.  

Weather can affect us in numerous ways.  For example, drought results in
water shortages, increased wildfire potential, and crop damage.  The critical
impact of weather on human lives led to the best-known application for
meteorology--weather forecasting.  This essential information is applied in
agriculture, air-pollution, air and sea transportation, and in the study of
trends in the earth's climate such as global warming or ozone depletion.

More accurate instruments for measuring and observing weather conditions, as
well as high-speed computers to process and analyze weather data, have
revolutionized weather forecasting.  Meteorologists are now able to generate
large-scale weather analyses and predictions.  One of their primary concerns
is to improve forecasts, particularly long range forecasts.  They use
satellite data, climate theory, and sophisticated computer models of the
world's atmosphere to help forecast the weather and interpret the results of
these models to make local area forecasts.

Meteorologists usually specialize in one type of work. The largest group of
specialists are Forecasters (Operational Meteorologists) who analyze
current and expected weather conditions and predict short and long range
weather changes based on data received from satellites and worldwide weather
stations. General Forecasters provide weather summaries for limited
geographic areas. Specialized Forecasters develop forecasts for use in
agriculture, aviation, forestry, and marine operations.  Research
Meteorologists study atmospheric physics to advance meteorological theory
and to improve mathematical models of atmospheric activity.  They may study
the dispersal of air pollutants over urban areas, severe storm mechanics,
weather modification, and new weather prediction techniques.  Climatologists
study climatic variations spanning hundreds or even millions of years.
Environmental problems, such as pollution, and shortage of food, fuel, and
water, have widened the scope of the meteorological profession.
Environmental Meteorologists study these problems and prepare and evaluate
the "Air Quality" sections of Environmental Impact Reports.  Meteorologists
also teach their subject at universities.

Consulting meteorologists provide specialized information to both the
private and public sectors.  In theoretical Research, they investigate the
interactions of atmospheric gases and the dynamics of the earth's
environment.  Specialists in applied Research take the information of the
theoretical Researchers and use it in the design of aircraft, control of air
pollution, improved communication, city planning, and safer transportation.
Some may also do environmental impact studies, provide expert witness
testimony at hearings, and analyze the feasibility of developing a
particular site for industrial uses.


WORKING CONDITIONS

Meteorologists work in government agencies, private consulting and Research
services, industrial enterprises, utilities, radio and television stations,
and in education.  Jobs at most weather stations require night work and
rotating shifts.  Most stations are located at airports or in large cities,
although some are located in isolated areas.  Fieldwork and/or travel is
common in Research and consulting jobs.  The American Meteorological Society
and various other scientific organizations provide forums where
meteorologists may share findings and explore new directions within their
profession.


EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK

The employment level for meteorologists will increase slightly over the next
few years.  The National Weather Service, the largest employer of
meteorologists, expects to increase employment to improve short-term and
local-area weather forecasts.  The number of applicants for jobs in
California is likely to exceed the number of job openings.  Persons with
advanced degrees will have an advantage, but experience is required for most
employers for employment as a meteorologist.  Opportunities in broadcasting
are rare and very competitive.

The following information is from the California Projections of Employment
published by the Labor Market Information Division .  

These figures represent the broad occupational group Atmospheric and Space
Scientists which includes Meteorologists.

Estimated number of workers in 1993            300
Estimated number of workers in 2005            350
Projected Growth 1993-2005                     17%
Estimated openings due to separations by 2005  120

(These figures do not include self-employment or openings due to turnover.)

There are about 20,000 meteorologists working today nationwide.  About 1,000
degrees in meteorology and atmospheric science are awarded each year from
the nation's colleges.  Although few receive multiple job offers, most
applicants find employment in the field eventually.


WAGES, HOURS, AND FRINGE BENEFITS

Persons entering federal government service as National Weather Service
meteorologists with bachelor's degrees and no experience begin at the GS 5-7
level, with annual salaries starting at $19,520 to $24,178.  Graduates with
master's degrees start at the GS 7-9 level, ranging from $24,178 to $29,577
per year.  Those with doctorates start at the GS 9-11 level, offering annual
starting salaries ranging from $29,577 to $35,786.  The top level for
meteorologists with the NWS is at the GS 13 level, which starts at $51,003
annually.  In private industry and consulting firms, salaries begin at about
the same level but may range much higher. Some consultants and many
broadcast personalities earn annual incomes of $120,000 or more.


ENTRANCE REQUIREMENTS AND TRAINING

A bachelor's degree in mathematics or the physical sciences, including at
least 20 semester credits in Meteorology, is the minimum requirement for
professional positions.  Degrees in Atmospheric Science or Meteorology are
offered at the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of
California, Davis; San Francisco State and San Jose State Universities.
Competition at the entry level has made the master's degree an asset for
jobs in private industry.  A doctorate is required for university teaching.
Meteorologists enter the National Weather Service through its Meteorologist-
in-Training Program.  Applicants are ranked according to education and
experience and must sign a mobility statement.  Individual training
programs, which take four years to complete, are developed for trainees.
Upon completion of training, the journey-level meteorologist bids on
permanent position locations.  Other federal agencies rarely hire
meteorologists at the entry level.

The title Certified Consulting Meteorologist is granted by the American
Meteorological Society.  This certification is generally considered to be
recognition that the meteorologist is particularly qualified to carry on the
work of a consulting meteorologist.

In evaluating the inexperienced graduate, employers place emphasis on
fundamental knowledge and abilities. A thorough understanding of mathematics,
physics, meteorology, and computer science is essential along with skill in
the analysis and communication of technical information.


ADVANCEMENT

Advancement in the field of meteorology brings managerial responsibilities.
Meteorologists with many years of experience may become private consultants.
Some meteorologists establish their own consulting firms.


FINDING THE JOB

Government jobs are filled through regular civil service procedures.  Private
firms announce positions for experienced meteorologists in the American
Meteorological Society's monthly job bulletin or in other professional
publications.  When seeking recent graduates, they frequently contact
university meteorology departments.  These firms also rely on networking
through the academic and professional community.  Job Seekers should apply
directly to employers and follow up in person, telephone, or letter.  The
most important characteristic of the successful job seeker may well be
persistence.

ADDITIONAL SOURCES OF INFORMATION

American Meteorological Society
45 Beacon Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02108
(617) 227-2425
www.ametsoc.org/AMS

RELATED OCCUPATIONAL GUIDES

Chemists                            No. 22
Physicists                          No. 62

OCCUPATIONAL CODE REFERENCES

DOT (Dictionary of Occupational Titles, 4th Ed., 1991)
Meteorologist                  025.062-010

OES (Occupational Employment Statistics) System
Atmospheric and Space Scientists    241080


Source: State of California, Employment Development Department,
        Labor Market Information Division, Information Services Group,
        (916) 262-2162.

Note:  This is NOT a job opening.  The purpose of This California Occupational Guide is to provide you with useful information to help you make career decisions.   If you are searching for a job, go to:

California Occupational Guides


California Employment Development Department   >>   Labor Market Information   >>   More Occupational Guides