Learn the Basic Science of Meteorology

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 may not be aware that there is more to a meteorologist's job than simply forecasting the weather.

A meteorologist is a person who has received a specialized education to use scientific principles to explain, understand, observe, and forecast the earth's atmospheric phenomena and how this affects the earth and life on the planet. Weathercasters, on the other hand, do not have specialized educational backgrounds and merely disseminate weather information and forecasts prepared by others.

Although not many people do it, it's rather easy to become a meteorologist—all you need to do is earn a bachelor's, master's, or even doctorate in meteorology or in atmospheric sciences. After completing a degree in the field, meteorologists can apply to work for science research centers, news stations, and a variety of other government jobs related to climatology.

Jobs in the Field of Meteorology

While meteorologists are well-known for issuing your forecasts, this is only one example of the jobs that they do—they also report on the weather, prepare weather warnings, study long-term weather patterns, and even teach others about meteorology as professors.

Broadcast meteorologists report the weather for television, which 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); on the other hand, 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 while research meteorologists include storm chasers and hurricane hunters and require a Master's degree or a Ph.D. Research meteorologists generally work for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the  National Weather Service (NWS), or another government agency.

Some meteorologists, like forensic or consulting meteorologists, are hired for their expertise in the field to help other professionals. Forensic meteorologists investigate claims for insurance companies on past weather or research past weather conditions pertaining to court cases in a court of law while consulting meteorologists are hired on by retailers, film crews, large corporations, and other non-weather companies to provide weather guidance on a variety of projects.

Still, other meteorologists are more specialized. Incident Meteorologists work with firefighters and emergency management personnel by providing onsite weather support during wildfires and other natural disasters while tropical meteorologists focus on tropical storms and hurricanes.

Finally, those with a passion for meteorology and education can help to create future generations of meteorologists by becoming a meteorology teacher or professor.

Salaries and Compensation

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 per year; most meteorologists working in the United States can expect to make $51,000 on average.

Meteorologists in the United States are most often employed by either the National Weather Service, which offers between 31 to 65 thousand dollars per year; Rockwell Collins, which offers 64 to 129 thousand dollars per year; or the U.S. Air Force (USAF), which offers salaries of 43 to 68 thousand annually.

There are many reasons to become a meteorologist, but ultimately, decided to become a scientist who studies climate and the weather should come down to your passion for the field—if you love weather data, meteorology might be the ideal career choice for you.

Edited by Tiffany Means