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At a Glance

  • Not all forecast the weather
  • Many specialize in one area
  • May work overtime during weather emergencies
  • Have good research and communication skills
  • Have at least a bachelor's degree

Career summary

Meteorologists study the earth's atmosphere and the ways it affects our environment.

The atmosphere consists of the air that covers the earth and the water vapor that turns into rain and snow. Meteorologists study what the atmosphere is made of and how it affects the rest of our environment.

Meteorologists usually specialize in one area:

Weather forecasting

Meteorologists who forecast the weather identify and interpret weather patterns to predict the weather. They try to predict what the weather will be like for a week, a month, or several years.

In order to predict the weather, meteorologists interpret and analyze information. They get data from:

Some forecasters broadcast their forecasts on the internet, radio or TV. They warn if severe weather is nearby. Other meteorologists create forecasts for specific groups such as farmers, airplane pilots, and fishers.

Weather research

Some meteorologists develop new methods of data collection, observation, and forecasting. They study weather patterns to better understand how tornados, hurricanes, and other types of severe weather form. Some researchers study the chemical and physical properties of the atmosphere.

Weather researchers use weather balloons and Doppler radar to find patterns in violent storm systems. They study the patterns to determine the direction of a storm and how strong it will be.

Climate science

Climatologists are meteorologists who study past records of weather. This includes wind, rainfall, sunshine, and temperatures over land or oceans. They try to figure out what changes will occur over a long period of time. Many study the impact of pollution on climate and air quality. They may use geographic information systems (GIS) technology to gather and analyze data.

Related careers

This career is part of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to meteorologists.

Common work activities

Meteorologists perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, meteorologists:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Meteorologists frequently:

It is important for meteorologists to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for meteorologists to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Meteorologists need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a meteorologist, you typically need to:

Education after high school

You need at least a bachelor's degree if you want to be an operational meteorologist. If you didn't major in meteorology, you will need to have taken several classes in that area. Some people get a master's degree or second bachelor's degree so that they can qualify for these jobs.

If you want to do applied research, you usually need at least a master's degree in meteorology. A bachelor's degree in math, physics, or engineering is good preparation for graduate study. You need a doctoral degree (PhD) to lead research projects or teach at a college or university.

Because meteorology is a small field, few colleges and universities offer degrees in meteorology or atmospheric science. However, many departments of physics, earth science, and geophysics offer atmospheric science and related courses. Make sure that the school you are considering offers the courses required by the National Weather Service.

On-the-job training

Many employers offer additional training once you are hired. In general, meteorologists receive up to three months of on-the-job training.

Military training

Some branches of the military train people to work as meteorological specialists. Training lasts from seven to 18 weeks. Further training occurs on the job.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Most employers require at least a bachelor's degree in meteorology or a related field. Employers of researchers require a master's or doctoral (PhD) degree. Some employers may substitute a combination of experience and education for a degree.

Employers look for applicants who can absorb, process, and apply new information quickly. Employers who hire broadcast meteorologists look for applicants who have excellent communication and computer skills.

Costs to workers

After entering this field, most workers join professional associations and pay annual dues.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Atmospheric and space scientists (SOC 19-2021)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $24.35 $32.43 $42.91 $54.03 $67.54
Monthly $4,220 $5,620 $7,436 $9,363 $11,705
Yearly $50,660 $67,460 $89,260 $112,390 $140,470
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $23.65 $30.23 $40.96 $53.55 $68.62
Monthly $4,099 $5,239 $7,098 $9,280 $11,892
Yearly $49,193 $62,863 $85,205 $111,378 $142,746
    Vancouver Hourly $36.03 $41.25 $49.55 $58.92 $67.70
Monthly $6,244 $7,149 $8,587 $10,211 $11,732
Yearly $74,929 $85,795 $103,070 $122,551 $140,812
United States Hourly $24.06 $33.36 $45.25 $55.81 $68.51
Monthly $4,170 $5,781 $7,842 $9,672 $11,873
Yearly $50,040 $69,380 $94,110 $116,090 $142,500

Wages vary by area of the country and the worker's level of education. The federal government pays higher wages to meteorologists who have more education.

Meteorologists who work full time usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include health and life insurance, a retirement plan, vacation, and sick leave.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Atmospheric and Space Scientists (SOC 19-2021)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 300 13.7% 16.1% 30
    King County 213 16.0% 19.6% 23
    Spokane County 17 5.9% 13.9% 1
United States 10,000 8.0% 5.2% 1,100

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation will grow faster than average. New forecasting technology allows forecasting for specific purposes. This will lead to more jobs in private industry as businesses need accurate weather data. Jobs in government such as with the National Weather Service (NWS) will be scarce. Openings will occur as people leave or retire. 

Competition for jobs will be strong. There are more people graduating from atmospheric science programs than there are jobs. Job prospects are best for those with advanced degrees.

Other resources

All About Careers in Meteorology (external link)
American Geophysical Union (external link)
2000 Florida Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20009
American Meteorological Society (external link)
45 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02108
Career Guide for the Atmospheric Sciences (external link)
Careers in Space: A Universe of Options (external link)
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (external link)
1401 Constitution Avenue NW, Room 5128
Washington, DC 20230
National Science Foundation (external link)
2415 Eisenhower Avenue
Alexandria, Virginia 2231
Science Careers (external link)
Washington State Science & Engineering Fair (external link)
What Do Earth and Space Scientists Do? (external link)
(from the American Geophysical Union)


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupation

Holland occupational clusters