Want to be a Meteorologist?

If so, there are plenty of skilled people still needed.  If you need evidence, look at some recent forecasts from the National Hurricane Center for the track of Tropical Storm Nate in the Gulf of Mexico.  Here’s the forecast track issued at 7 PM CDT on Thursday, September 8th:

Here’s the forecast track they issued three hours later:

In a matter of three hours, the forecast track went from slowly moving toward the US/Mexico border, to more rapidly moving into central Mexico.  Landfall shifted about 300 miles south and moved up from sometime late next week to Sunday morning.  It’s just another example of how there is still room for improvement in forecasting.

The saddest part about this change in forecast is how it takes away a significant rain event from south central Texas.  They are mired in a horrid drought that has led to wildfires throughout the state.  And while 2-3 inches of rain from Nate would barely put a dent into the drought, it would help on the long road to recovery from this event.  Alas, they will have to wait a while for any wet weather.  The latest GFS (long-range model) run show no precipitation in southern Texas for the next week.  Of course, as we’ve learned here, forecasts can change quickly.

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3 Responses to Want to be a Meteorologist?

  1. Jackie says:

    Hi im jackie and im in highschool and at that time where i really need to start thinking about what I want to do as i get older and go to college. i really love the weather and I absolutely love storms and the excitement when you hear sirens going off… And im thinking maybe i could get into meteorology. What i really need is for a meteorologist just to tell me what their day is like. I have questions as to whether this is a job that enables people to say “my job is my life,” because i heard that they all work lon ghours and dont really get a break because of hiw weather changes. Also i heard they get paid low. Should i get a BS and see if i cant grt a job after that and if i dont.. Just get my masters? Like what location would be best to work to earn the highest pay? Also aby other information would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much

    • Steve J says:

      Depending on what you want to do in meteorology will determine pay and hours.

      If you want to be a forecaster like those in the National Weather Service, you can expect shift work and government pay scales. I don’t think the pay is too bad, but you’re not going to get too wealthy climbing the ladder – especially if you only hold a bachelor’s degree. Those with a Master’s can end up in leadership positions at NWS offices. A PhD can get you to leadership positions on the national level. Daily work at an NWS office can be quite boring. Think about it: how often is the weather really that interesting? Maybe 45 days out of the year, give or take depending on your location. Of course, looking at forecast models can usually give you a day to look forward to, but forecasting whether it’s going to be mostly cloudy/sunny and either 75 or 80 can get quite mundane after a while. Forecasting in the private sector can be more interesting and stressful. It generally comes with better pay, but it’s not as stable of a job as one poor forecast can get you fired if it costs a company lots of money.

      You can always go the TV route if you have the look and the right attitude. It requires an extensive knowledge of the TV industry and understanding what drives ratings, but if you’re good at it, you can go far. ABC meteorologist Ginger Zee, who works on Good Morning America, has gone national in less than 10 years after graduating college with a bachelor’s degree. She’s worked very hard at what she does, and is a great example of what is possible in that industry.

      Other options in meteorology revolve around academics and research. Sometimes a research job may be solely that – just research. In other cases, it can be combined with education, usually as a professor at a college or university. This usually requires a PhD, although there are some cases where a Master’s is sufficient. This usually isn’t a well-paying job unless you become recognized as a top researcher in your field or rise the ranks of academics as a department chair and perhaps dean of a college – which, honestly, should happen if you stick with it long enough.

      If you have any desire to get your Master’s or PhD – for whatever reason – I highly recommend getting it immediately after earning your Bachelor’s. It becomes very difficult to go back to school once you’ve obtained a job and started making real money.

      I wouldn’t say any of these jobs becomes overbearing except, possibly, the TV job – but only when the weather is bad and you need to continuously inform your viewers of how the storm is evolving. Perhaps the private sector forecasting jobs can become overbearing, but that’s something you would only do for a short time after graduating unless you were really successful.

  2. YES! I saw that first forecast and it was like an answered prayer. Then I saw the second one and I was MAD. Stupid hurricanes.

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