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Atmospheric Scientists, Including Meteorologists

Summary

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Video transcript available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Hof_Cs5d0Y.
Quick Facts: Atmospheric Scientists, Including Meteorologists
2022 Median Pay $83,780 per year
$40.28 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2022 10,500
Job Outlook, 2022-32 4% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2022-32 500

What Atmospheric Scientists, Including Meteorologists Do

Atmospheric scientists study, report on, and forecast the weather and climate.

Work Environment

Most atmospheric scientists work indoors in weather stations, offices, or laboratories. They may work outdoors to observe the weather. Most atmospheric scientists are full time and may work extended hours during weather emergencies.

How to Become an Atmospheric Scientist

Atmospheric scientists typically need a bachelor’s degree in meteorology or a related field to enter the occupation. Those who work in research typically need a master’s degree or a Ph.D.

Pay

The median annual wage for atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists was $83,780 in May 2022.

Job Outlook

Employment of atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists is projected to grow 4 percent from 2022 to 2032, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 900 openings for atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Atmospheric Scientists, Including Meteorologists Do About this section

Atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists
Research meteorologists study atmospheric phenomena such as lightning.

Atmospheric scientists study the weather and climate. They may compile data, prepare reports and forecasts, and assist in developing new data collection instruments.

Duties

Atmospheric scientists typically do the following:

  • Measure atmospheric properties, such as temperature, dewpoint, humidity, and windspeed
  • Use computer models that analyze atmospheric data (also called meteorological data)
  • Write computer programs to support their modeling efforts
  • Conduct research to improve understanding of weather phenomena
  • Generate weather graphics for users
  • Report current weather conditions
  • Prepare long- and short-term weather forecasts using computers, mathematical models, satellites, radar, and local station data
  • Plan, organize, and participate in outreach programs to educate the public about weather
  • Issue warnings to protect life and property threatened by severe weather, such as hurricanes and tornadoes

Atmospheric scientists use instruments such as radar systems, satellites, and weather balloons to monitor the weather and to collect data. They also use graphics software to illustrate data in forecasts and reports for their clients or the public.

The data that atmospheric scientists collect and analyze are critical to understanding issues related to weather and climate. Atmospheric scientists may work with geoscientists, hydrologists, or other scientists to help solve problems in areas such as agriculture, commerce, energy, the environment, and transportation. For example, atmospheric scientists may work with hydrologists and government organizations to study how rainfall and temperatures impact the water supply and its management.

The following are examples of types of atmospheric scientists:

Broadcast meteorologists give forecasts to the public through television, radio, and digital media, such as streaming videos. They use graphics software to develop maps and charts that explain their forecasts. Not all weather broadcasters appearing on television are meteorologists or atmospheric scientists; reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts may present weather conditions and forecasts but do not have specific training in meteorology.

Climatologists study how climate changes over time so that they can interpret long-term weather patterns or shifts in climate. They may examine data from remote sensing imagery, either analyzing the images by software or combining them into color composites to highlight details not visible to the naked eye.

Forensic meteorologists use historical weather data to reconstruct weather conditions for a specific location and time. They investigate whether the weather was a factor in events such as traffic accidents and fires. Forensic meteorologists may be called as experts to testify in court.

Research meteorologists develop new methods of data collection, observation, and forecasting. They also conduct studies to improve understanding of climate, weather, and other aspects of the atmosphere. For example, they may study severe weather patterns to understand why cyclones form and to develop better ways of predicting hurricanes and tornadoes. Others focus on environmental problems, such as air pollution.

Weather forecasters use computer and mathematical models to produce weather reports and short-term forecasts ranging from a few minutes to more than a week. In addition to developing forecasts for the public, their forecasts for business clients—including airports, utility companies, or grocery stores—help these clients plan for weather events that may affect demand for products or services. They also issue warnings for potentially severe weather, such as blizzards and hurricanes. Some forecasters prepare long-range outlooks to predict whether temperatures and precipitation levels will be above or below average in a particular month or season.

Work Environment About this section

Atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists
Many atmospheric scientists work at weather stations located throughout the country.

Atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists held about 10,500 jobs in 2022. The largest employers of atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists were as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service 29%
Other professional, scientific, and technical services 23
Television broadcasting stations 10
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 10

In the federal government, most atmospheric scientists work as weather forecasters with the National Weather Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in weather stations throughout the United States: at airports, in or near cities, and in isolated and remote areas. In small stations, they often work alone; in larger ones, they work as part of a team.

Atmospheric scientists involved in professional, scientific, and technical services or research often work in offices and laboratories. Some travel frequently to collect data and to observe weather events, such as tornadoes, up close. They also may observe weather conditions from aircraft.

Broadcast meteorologists present their reports to the public from television and radio studios. They also may broadcast from outdoor locations to highlight current weather conditions, such as near the ocean before a tropical storm.

Atmospheric scientists who work in private industry may have to travel to meet with clients or to gather information in the field. For example, forensic meteorologists may need to collect information from the scene of an accident as part of their investigation.

Work Schedules

Most atmospheric scientists work full time. Weather may change quickly, so weather forecasters need to continually monitor conditions. Schedules vary by position and employer. For example, some meteorologists work shifts to ensure 24-hour coverage. While some atmospheric scientists may have a standard workweek, broadcast meteorologists may work evenings and weekends. In addition, they may work extended hours during severe weather, such as hurricanes.

How to Become an Atmospheric Scientist About this section

Atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists
Atmospheric scientists issue warnings for severe weather.

Atmospheric scientists typically need a bachelor’s degree in meteorology or a related field to enter the occupation. For research positions, these scientists typically need a master’s degree or a Ph.D. In addition, experience gained through an internship or by volunteering while in college may be helpful.

Education

Atmospheric scientists typically need a bachelor’s degree in meteorology or a related physical science. In addition to meteorology and atmospheric science, course requirements may include physics, mathematics, and computer programming.

Atmospheric scientists who work in research typically need at least a master’s degree or a Ph.D. in atmospheric science or a related field. Graduate programs may not require program applicants to have a bachelor’s degree in atmospheric science; a bachelor's degree in mathematics, physics, or engineering is usually acceptable.

Training

Atmospheric scientists and meteorologists may need training after they are hired, depending on where they work. For example, new employees of the National Weather Service (NWS) need training on the use of equipment for issuing warnings about severe weather.

Other Experience

Experience gained in the military or through opportunities during college, such as internships or volunteering, may be helpful for prospective atmospheric scientists. For example, the National Weather Service offers opportunities for students through internship, fellowship, volunteer, and scholarship programs.

Licenses and Certifications

Although not required, professional certification may benefit atmospheric scientists in some fields. For example, forensic meteorologists may enhance their credibility for testimony if they have the American Meteorological Society’s (AMS) Certified Consulting Meteorologist credential.

Certification demonstrates a level of knowledge that employers often value. For example, employers of broadcast meteorologists may prefer to hire candidates who have the AMS designation of Certified Broadcast Meteorologist.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Atmospheric scientists need to evaluate large amounts of data produced by computer models.

Communication skills. Atmospheric scientists must be able to write and speak clearly so that their weather information is useful to the public or business clients.

Critical-thinking skills. Atmospheric scientists need to interpret data and information to create forecasts or reports.

Math skills. Atmospheric scientists must understand the mathematics used to develop models for weather forecasts and to calculate relationships between atmospheric properties, such as how changes in air pressure may affect air temperature.

Pay About this section

Atmospheric Scientists, Including Meteorologists

Median annual wages, May 2022

Atmospheric and space scientists

$83,780

Physical scientists

$83,760

Total, all occupations

$46,310

 

The median annual wage for atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists was $83,780 in May 2022. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $50,490, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $141,520.

In May 2022, the median annual wages for atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service $110,090
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 99,320
Television broadcasting stations 75,130
Other professional, scientific, and technical services 68,820

Most atmospheric scientists work full time. Weather may change quickly, so weather forecasters need to continually monitor conditions. Schedules vary by position and employer. For example, some meteorologists work shifts to ensure 24-hour coverage. While some atmospheric scientists may have a standard workweek, broadcast meteorologists may work nights and weekends. In addition, they may work extended hours during severe weather, such as hurricanes.

Job Outlook About this section

Atmospheric Scientists, Including Meteorologists

Percent change in employment, projected 2022-32

Physical scientists

5%

Atmospheric and space scientists

4%

Total, all occupations

3%

 

Employment of atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists is projected to grow 4 percent from 2022 to 2032, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 900 openings for atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

New types of computer models have vastly improved the accuracy of forecasts, allowing atmospheric scientists to tailor forecasts to specific purposes. This should support demand for atmospheric scientists as businesses require more specialized weather information.

Businesses increasingly rely on just-in-time delivery to avoid the expenses incurred by traditional inventory management methods. Severe weather can interrupt ground or air transportation and delay inventory delivery. Businesses have begun to maintain forecasting teams around the clock to advise delivery personnel, and this availability helps them stay on schedule. In addition, severe weather patterns have become widely recognizable, and industries have become increasingly concerned about their impact, which will create demand for work in atmospheric science.

As utility companies continue to adopt wind and solar power, they depend more heavily on weather forecasting to arrange for buying and selling power.

Employment projections data for atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists, 2022-32
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2022 Projected Employment, 2032 Change, 2022-32 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Atmospheric and space scientists

19-2021 10,500 11,000 4 500 Get data

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OEWS data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.org. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help on Entry-Level Education 2022 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Computer programmers Computer Programmers

Computer programmers write, modify, and test code and scripts that allow computer software and applications to function properly.

Bachelor's degree $97,800
Environmental engineers Environmental Engineers

Environmental engineers use engineering disciplines in developing solutions to problems of planetary health.

Bachelor's degree $96,530
Environmental scientists and specialists Environmental Scientists and Specialists

Environmental scientists and specialists use their knowledge of the natural sciences to protect the environment and human health.

Bachelor's degree $76,480
Geoscientists Geoscientists

Geoscientists study the physical aspects of the Earth.

Bachelor's degree $87,480
Hydrologists Hydrologists

Hydrologists study how water moves across and through the Earth’s crust.

Bachelor's degree $85,990
Mathematicians Mathematicians and Statisticians

Mathematicians and statisticians analyze data and apply computational techniques to solve problems.

Master's degree $99,960
Physicists and astronomers Physicists and Astronomers

Physicists and astronomers study the interactions of matter and energy.

Doctoral or professional degree $139,220
Postsecondary teachers Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a variety of academic subjects beyond the high school level.

See How to Become One $80,840

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about atmospheric scientists, including a list of colleges and universities offering atmospheric science programs, visit

American Meteorological Society (AMS)

For a broad range of information concerning atmospheric scientists within the geosciences perspective, visit

American Geosciences Institute (AGI)

For more information about atmospheric science careers in research, visit

University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR)

For more information about federal government education requirements for atmospheric science positions, visit

U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM)

For more information about the COMET training program, visit

MetEd

To find job openings for atmospheric scientists in the federal government, visit

USAJOBS

For more information about federal government atmospheric science careers in the National Weather Service, visit

National Weather Service (NWS)

O*NET

Atmospheric and Space Scientists

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Atmospheric Scientists, Including Meteorologists,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/atmospheric-scientists-including-meteorologists.htm (visited December 31, 2023).

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, September 6, 2023

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2022 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2022, the median annual wage for all workers was $46,310.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2022

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2022, which is the base year of the 2022-32 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2022-32

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032. The average growth rate for all occupations is 3 percent.

Employment Change, 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

2022 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2022, the median annual wage for all workers was $46,310.