What Is a Meteorologist?

meteorologist studying weather
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While most people know a meteorologist is a person who is trained in the atmospheric or weather sciences, many people still ask questions like...

  • What does a meteorologist do?
  • Are there different types of meteorologists?
  • How much do meteorologists get paid?
  • How can I become a meteorologist?

Before we delve into the answers, let's take a look at the official definition of a meteorologist according to the American Meteorological Society:

A meteorologist is an individual with specialized education who uses scientific principles to explain, understand, observe or forecast the earth's atmospheric phenomena and/or how the atmosphere affects the earth and life on the planet. This specialized education would be a bachelor's or higher degree in meteorology or in atmospheric science. Individuals who have little formal education in the atmospheric sciences, or who have taken only industry survey courses, and who disseminate weather information and forecasts prepared by others, are properly designated "weathercasters."

They Do More than Issue Forecasts

While meteorologists are well-known for issuing your forecasts, this is only one example of the jobs that they do. The following list shows some of the more popular types of meteorologists.

  • Broadcast Meteorologists report the weather for television. This is a popular career choice as it is entry-level, which means you only need a Bachelor's degree to do it (or sometimes, no degree at all).
  • Forecasters are responsible for preparing and issuing weather forecasts, as well as watches and warnings, to the public.  
  • Climatologists look at long-term weather patterns and data to help assess past climate and to predict future climate trends.
  • Research Meteorologists include storm chasers and hurricane hunters. Research mets are generally scientists who work for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Weather Service (NWS), or another government agency. A Master's degree or P.h.D is often required to work in weather research.
  • Forensic Meteorologists investigate claims for insurance companies on past weather or research past weather conditions pertaining to court cases in a court of law.
  • Incident Meteorologists work with firefighters and emergency management personnel by providing onsite weather support during wildfires and other natural disasters.  
  • Tropical Meteorologists focus on tropical weather -- tropical storms and hurricanes.
  • Consulting Meteorologists are hired on by retailers, film crews, large corporations, and other non-weather companies to provide weather guidance and expertise on a variety of projects.
  • Those with a passion for meteorology and education can help to create future generations of meteorologists by becoming a Meteorology Teacher or Professor.

Did I Mention the Pay is Pretty Good?

Meteorologist salaries vary depending on position (entry level or experienced) and the employer (federal or private), but typically range from $31,000 to over $150,000 USD per year. Most meteorologists working in the United States can expect to make $51,000 on average per year.

Now that you know a little more about what meteorologists are and what they do, why not look into how to become a meteorologist. Not completely sold on the idea?

Let these 9 reasons persuade you.

 

Edited by Tiffany Means