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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


Employment in Meteorology (and education for employment)

I want to study meteorology. What career opportunities are available to meteorologists, and what schools offer meteorology programs?

The American Meteorological Society has published a guide to careers in atmospheric research and applied meteorology that answers a lot of questions about the profession, including what meteorologists earn, where they work, and what kind of education is needed.

Many universities offer programs in meteorology or atmospheric sciences. UCAR/AMS has a good index of colleges that offer meteorology curricula.

Also see the question, "How do I get a job in the National Weather Service?".

What courses should I take to prepare for a meteorology major in college?

Generally, you would want to emphasize math and science, especially physics, in high school. You should also become very familiar with using a computer, and learn concepts of computer programming. Technical writing classes would also help when you get into the college-level courses. If you plan to attend the University of Oklahoma, check out their School of Meteorology.

I want to study meteorology in college. Which college is best?

Some colleges and universities have specialties that may be of value to you. For example, the University of Oklahoma is well-known for its role in research into severe weather. Coastal campuses often specialize in marine meteorology, while some in the southern states emphasize tropical meteorology. Similarly, if your interest is winter weather, the northern states often have good programs for that aspect of meteorology. Probably the best way to handle this decision is to determine which colleges and universities are affordable, and in locations where you would like to live for several years - then visit their Web sites and call their counselors. You might also want to contact the employer you will want to work for (National Weather Service, private meteorology companies, airlines, etc.), and find out which colleges/universities appeal to the person who will do the hiring.

Can I volunteer or do an internship at your office?

Possibly, but openings are quite limited. The entry-level position is a "meteorologist intern" (paid, full-time, rotating-shift schedule). Applications for the meteorologist intern position must be made as described in How do I get a job in the National Weather Service?). Volunteer positions are available at many NWS offices, usually including the Norman Forecast Office. Those positions are usually filled by juniors or seniors in the Meteorology Department at the University of Oklahoma.

Please contact us if you are really interested.

How do I get a job in the National Weather Service?

First, you should meet the current standards for NWS Meteorologists positions.

When a job opening (vacancy) occurs within the National Weather Service, a vacancy announcement is published with specific information on the job opening, duties, pay and location. A list of current job openings can be found at the USA Jobs website. You can enter the 'series number' of the job you're interested in (the series number is 1340 for meteorologist and 1341 for meteorologist technician). For entry-level (intern) positions, look for jobs with a grade listed as 'GS-5/' or 'GS-7/'. A list of all vacancy announcements within NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is also available. This list includes not only meteorology positions, but other job opportunities available in NOAA, and is updated daily. In either list, the associated link will describe the vacancy announcement in full, including requirements to apply for a particular position. Other opportunities are available within the National Weather Service for electronics technicians, hydrologists, computer programmers, and research meteorologists.

The meteorologist positions use the Federal government's General Schedule (GS) Federal salary table. In general, entry-level meteorology positions are as a "Meteorologist Intern" (GS level 5/7/9/11). Meteorologists entering the National Weather Service usually start at GS-5 (at this writing, in 2014, $27,705/yr., plus locality pay - a minimum of about 13%) or GS-7 ($34,319/yr., plus locality pay) depending on education and experience (see the General Schedule (GS) pay scale for up-to-date information), including charts showing locality pay adjustments. Interns can advance to GS-11. The intern position allows meteorologists to become acquainted with the products and processes of the NWS. Later, General Forecaster (GS-9/11/12, and, at a few locations, GS-13), and Senior Forecaster (GS-13 and, at a few locations, GS-14) positions are available. Other research, science, management and supervisory positions (GS-13, 14 or 15, and some ES - Executive Schedule) are also available after an appropriate length of service.

Most meteorologists in the NWS work at a forecast office (see map). Since these offices are in operation continuously, meteorologists typically work some type of shift rotation. Usually, the rotation involves about a week on each of three main shifts. Overtime work is often required during severe weather events. Meteorologists in other types of offices may work a standard workweek or have other types of schedules to meet their staffing needs. Contact the specific office(s) where you wish to work for more information.


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