Careers in the National Weather Service

To be a meteorologist and/or hydrologist employed by the National Weather Service you need a Bachelor's degree in Meteorology, Atmospheric Science, or Hydrology (Physical Science or Engineering). These fields of study are math-intensive. To major in meteorology, you will receive a minor (18 semester hours) in mathematics.

Also, with the Internet rapidly transferring weather information to the public, students with degrees and/or skill level related to Information Technology have the opportunity to work in the National Weather Service.

Electronic Technicians (the folks that repair the computer systems) usually enter the National Weather Service with a military background in electronics, an Associate degree in Electronics, and/or a degree in Information Systems.

Carefully consider the college or university you attend when seeking a career with the National Weather Service. Not that it matters as to the name of the school where you obtain a degree but some schools that offer degrees in this field (see maps) do not all of the minimum NWS requirements. Schools by list.

However, remember universities and their programs, like the rest of the world, are in a constant state of flux. Therefore, inclusion on this map does NOT guarantee that the program meets current NWS standards or the standards of other agencies.

Before you decide on a course of study, you should make sure that the program and course-work fulfill the requirements of your career choice.

Minimum Requirements

Degree: Meteorology, Atmospheric Science or other natural science major that included at least 24 semester hours (36 quarter hours) in meteorology/atmospheric science including:
  • 6 semester hours in Atmospheric Dynamics *
  • 6 semester hours of analysis and prediction of weather systems (synoptic/mesoscale)
  • 3 semester hours of physical meteorology; and
  • 2 semester hours of remote sensing of the atmosphere and/or instrumentation.
  • 6 semester hours of physics with at least one course that includes laboratory sessions. *
  • 3 semester hours of ordinary differential equations.
  • At least 9 semester hours of course work for a physical science major in any combination of three or more of the following:
    • Physical Hydrology
    • Chemistry
    • Physical Climatology
    • Aeronomy
    • Computer Science
    • Advanced Electricity and Magnetism
    • Statistics
    • Physical Oceanography
    • Radiative Transfer
    • Advanced Thermodynamics
    • Light and Optics
    * Prerequisite or corequisite of calculus for course work in atmospheric dynamics and thermodynamics, physics and differential equations. Calculus courses must be appropriate for a physical science major.

While these are the minimum requirements to be considered for a position of meteorologist in the National Weather Service the competition to enter the NWS has become extremely fierce over the last decade or so. So much so that some have continued their education to the Masters level as that will provide an advantage over someone with just a Batchelors of Science degree.


For employment as a Hydrologist the minimum is a degree in Physical or natural science, or engineering that included at least 30 semester hours in any combination of courses in hydrology, the physical sciences, geophysics, chemistry, engineering science, soils, mathematics, aquatic biology, atmospheric science, meteorology, geology, oceanography, or the management or conservation of water resources.

The course work must have included at least 6 semester hours in calculus (including both differential and integral calculus), and at least 6 semester hours in physics. Following is a list of water resources related graduate programs in the country.

Because of the intensive requirements at the college level, one must generally have an interest in both math and science. Students interested in Meteorology and Hydrology should concentrate in the high levels of math, physics, and chemistry.

Internship Program

This Program is designed to provide students enrolled in a wide variety of educational institutions, from high school to graduate level, with opportunities to work in agencies and explore Federal careers while still in school and while getting paid for the work performed. Students who successfully complete the program may be eligible for conversion to a permanent job in the civil service.

To be eligible you must be a current student in an accredited high school, college (including 4-year colleges/universities, community colleges, and junior colleges); professional, technical, vocational, and trade school; advanced degree programs; or other qualifying educational institution pursuing a qualifying degree or certificate. Learn more.

Student Volunteer Service (Unpaid)

The U.S. Department of Commerce also offers unpaid training opportunities to students in high school and college. These opportunities provide work experience related to your academic program. The program allows you to explore career options as well as develop your personal and professional skills. As a student volunteer, you will be exposed to the various missions and responsibilities of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

If you have any questions or inquiries regarding student employment opportunities, please refer to the DOC Student Employment Opportunities web site.