Will I Find a Job?
The National Weather Service and other government agencies have historically been the main employers of meteorologists. That has changed. For young people, the modernization of the National Weather Service has been both good and bad. At first, when the effort to update radar, observational, and communications equipment was made in the 1980s, newly trained young meteorologists were in demand. But once the automated systems were set up in the mid-1990s, the National Weather Service stopped hiring, except in rare cases. Then in the late 1990s, hiring began—about 100 new meteorologists per year to replace employees lost through attrition. However new positions have been limited. Since then, the number of new employees has lowered to 50 to 75 per year. Still the federal government remains the major employer of meteorologists. The various branches of the military have their own weather services and even the intelligence agencies have separate weather operations.
As the public sector tightened its belt, the private sector began to grow. By the late 1990s, most private-sector firms were anticipating an increase of 10 to 30 percent in positions over a 10-year period. According to the American Meteorological Society survey, that translates into a minimum of 360 new entry-level positions each year. That's more than the 100 that the National Weather Service hires. Also, that 360 does not include those who go into education. The general outlook for employment opportunities in meteorology is optimistic.
The American Meteorological Society (AMS) is located at 45 Beacon Street, Boston, Massachusetts. It publishes numerous journals as well as monthly employment announcements.
The opportunities for employment are directly related to one's skills and training. Because meteorology is such a broad and applied field, those seeking employment should have training in many areas. Although forecasting could be the first choice, keep in mind that opportunities may be more likely in air quality work or education. New meteorologists should be flexible. Also the work environment usually involves irregular hours. The weather never sleeps, and weather people do tend toward insomnia. Shift work is to be expected. Research and teaching provide a more normal schedule, but forecasting is something else entirely. All-nighters go with the territory.
But opportunities aside, for many meteorologists, their occupation is a passion rather than a profession. They simply love what they do. Storms excite them, the howling wind stirs them, and they cannot wait to tell others what the weather will do next. Their real compensation comes from experiencing and observing the infinite number of changes the weather puts on display, almost daily. Then there is the satisfaction of getting tomorrow's forecast right.
"On bravely through the sunshine and the showers, Time hath his work to do, and we have ours."
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Yet you really don't need a Ph.D. in meteorology to share in that wonderment and excitement, and that is what this is all about. The weather belongs to all of us. Just by looking out and looking up, we can learn and understand the weather and its many ways. These days many websites also provide volumes of weather information right at our fingertips. These serve both the hobbyist and the professional with the latest weather information which technology has to offer. And most of the information is free. When I was growing up, I was excited about having a barograph, but computers have now made satellite and radar pictures available to all along with computer analyses and projections. The weather is there in all its permutations and computations for all to enjoy. These are exciting times.
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Weather © 2002 by Mel Goldstein, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.