Atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists held about 9,100 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists were as follows:
|Federal government, excluding postal service||34%|
|Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences||15|
|Management, scientific, and technical consulting services||2|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Atmospheric scientists typically have an interest in the Building and Thinking interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws.
If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Thinking interest which might fit with a career as an atmospheric scientist, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Atmospheric scientists should also possess the following specific qualities:
Communication skills. Atmospheric scientists need to be able to write and speak clearly so that their knowledge about the weather can be used effectively by communities and individuals.
Critical-thinking skills. Atmospheric scientists need to be able to analyze the results of their computer models and forecasts to determine the most likely outcome.
Math skills. Atmospheric scientists use calculus, statistics, and other advanced topics in mathematics to develop models used to forecast the weather. They also use mathematical calculations to study the relationship between properties of the atmosphere, such as how changes in air pressure may affect air temperature.
The median annual wage for atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists was $94,570 in May 2021. 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 $48,600, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $150,760.
In May 2021, 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||$108,060|
|Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences||101,180|
|Management, scientific, and technical consulting services||74,870|
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.
Employment of atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists is projected to grow 4 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
About 700 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.
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.
For more information about atmospheric scientists, including a list of colleges and universities offering atmospheric science programs, visit
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For more information about the COMET training program, visit
To find job openings for atmospheric scientists in the federal government, visit
For more information about federal government atmospheric science careers in the National Weather Service, visit
National Weather Service (NWS)