Weather-related Careers Are Hot

Weather-related Careers Are Hot

Weather-related Careers Are Hot

Everyone needs to know the weather and how to prepare for it; however, there are a growing number of job options other than weather forecasting for those interested in a career in atmospheric science.

Only about 8 percent of those in weather-related professions actually work as on-air new personalities, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Most weather-related careers, says the BLS, are in the scientific and technical services areas.

Jobs in atmospheric sciences can be found in areas including analyzing weather data and futures, emergency and risk management and research. “There is a growing need for those with training in meteorology in the private sector to provide specialized forecasts and warnings, forensic/consulting meteorology, and technology creation and support,” says Janice Bunting, executive director for the National Weather Association. 

Hot options
In addition to earning a bachelor of science degree, Bunting says taking courses above and beyond what is required for the major can make job seekers in meteorology and related fields more marketable. She says those who have also studied areas such as social science, global information systems (GIS) and information technology tend to be more sought after.

"They can have an edge in the job market," she says. "Because of improvements in the science, meteorologists have a lot more information to evaluate when making a forecast, and technology allows us to produce more specific forecast data. There is a greater need to turn that data into easy to interpret products and graphics, and to properly communicate the information so people can react appropriately to the forecast or warning."

Paul Sirvatka, professor of meteorology at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, says more jobs are becoming available in areas like climate change and mitigating weather impacts, as well as sociology researching and analyzing how people respond to weather-related events.

"Weather causes billions of dollars of destruction (each year) and (atmospheric scientists) are trying to protect against that," he says.

Weather-related jobs are available at major corporations, airlines and insurance companies. Some also work in the instrument development and technology such as radar and satellites.

From developing actuary tables related to weather for insurance companies, to emergency management agencies developing safety programs related to weather, to studying air pollution and climate change, occupations continue to evolve.

According to the BLS, employment in these careers is expected to grow by  about 10 percent by 2022, which is average. The median pay for atmospheric scientists in 2012 was $89,260. 

Training and skills
Math and science are the foundation of weather-related careers.

A four-year bachelor's degree in meteorology or atmospheric science is typically recommended in jobs related to meteorology, according to the BLS.

Courses in other areas such as physics and mathematics are emphasized and additional courses in areas such as computer programming may make a candidate more marketable. The BLS suggests taking courses that are relevant to the desired area of specialization.

Sirvatka says those include higher-level sciences, applied physics, computer sciences and mapping.

“Some community colleges offer certification in meteorology,” says Sirvatka. “That can help with job security in areas where safety is a concern such as schools and hospitals.”

While math and science are required, Bunting says employers are also looking for strong skills in critical thinking, problem solving, as well as oral and written communication.

What to expect
While many jobs in the atmospheric sciences may be spent at a desk or in front of a computer analyzing data, others may be out in the field measuring and information gathering.

Sirvatka says jobs in the meteorology field are not concentrated in any one area so those interested in the field should be prepared to relocate.

“As they pursue their degree, finding internship opportunities will help gain skills and knowledge,” Bunting says. “Joining a membership organization such as the National Weather Association provides networking and volunteer opportunities to help refine skills and develop a better understanding of the career field.”

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