A meteorologist doesn't just present the weather on television. Most meteorologists work for national weather services, armed forces, research labs, forecasting companies, private companies, and for universities as professors. Those who become broadcasters become expert communicators of atmospheric science. Broadcast meteorology combines art, performance, and weather. Some meteorologists specialize in forensic meteorology- that's reconstructing past weather by using satellite, radar, hourly reports and other data. Forensic meteorologists frequently play a role in legal cases where weather may be a factor. Other meteorologists compile weather data for estimating energy usage, or for more efficient and safer building design in city planning, or for construction projects. Meteorologists may do research outdoors, or they may create weather models.
While meteorology is a fascinating, rewarding profession, meteorologists who forecast weather may have to deal with stress and pressure. Just creating an accurate and precise forecast or assessment on a deadline can be stressful. Big weather events may be long hours and many days of preparation and then recovery. Storm impact can be costly, tragic, and deadly. After an immediate crisis, it wouldn’t be unusual to experience sadness and guilt. That’s why being well-trained, and keeping a healthy mental and physical balance is important.
A typical meteorologist has a 4-year college degree in meteorology, which is also known as atmospheric science. The degree requires a solid foundation in chemistry, physics, computer science, and statistics. A year and a half of calculus is needed too before the student starts studying specific meteorology courses. Upper-level students in meteorology study how heat is transferred, how to read weather charts, how to forecast, computer simulations of weather, how clouds grow and interact, weather instruments and their strengths and weaknesses, and how light interacts with air and water. Here’s the outline for the course structure at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Some students go on to earn a master’s degree, and then a PhD in meteorology. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has extensive information to help you plan a career in meteorology. The American Meteorological Society has an education and career resource site for students, with a listing of universities with meteorology programs, along with financial aid and scholarship opportunities. Use social media to locate student meteorology clubs at different universities and try to visit a local club meeting.
Broadcast meteorology is also called weathercasting. It is a mix of meteorology, computer science, and unscripted presentation. There are frequent and strict deadlines to adhere to, where you make decisions and announcements that directly can impact lives. Weathercasters find themselves as scientists, educators, public speakers, and participants in charity events. They also frequently perform other duties for their stations such as reporting, editing, photography, or web page maintenance. The profession can be both challenging and rewarding. First weathercasting jobs are usually in small towns, and the pay is low. Expect to work weekends or early mornings. Work hours and salaries generally improve for veteran weathercasters. If you can handle being subject to constant public scrutiny, then here are tips to getting a job in weathercasting.
Along with a resume that includes your background related to weathercasting, meteorology, and performing, include internships; class or volunteer work at college or cable stations; and computer skills in graphics, audio and video, and web page or app design and use. Online, post a resume video that is a sample of your best work. News managers receive dozens to hundreds of applications, and you have to stand out. Interns at TV stations have access to produce mock weathercasts. For students, the AMS has a listing of internships. Contact nearby TV stations directly to see if they have internships. Most TV stations list internships on their websites. Many internships do not pay. Practice presenting weather. That is what helps you grow. Study your appearance and mannerisms and listen to your delivery, breathing, pacing, inflection and grammar. You must be clear and interesting, without visuals.
While green screen performance is an important skill, you can use a smartphone to produce a mock weathercast with you in front of a TV or monitor with weather maps on it. Many weathercasting positions require reporting, so if you have any video of that, put your best samples online too. If you don’t have reporting samples, go out and do stories with your smartphone about anything weather or science-related. Show that you can edit video and be resourceful.
Search online for TV broadcasting and weathercasting to find information and job listings. Read TV and weather industry magazines. Many carry employment listings. Many TV stations post job openings on their corporate web page. Join professional associations such as the National Weather Association (NWA), American Meteorological Society (AMS), and Radio and Television Digital News Association (RTDNA). Most offer a discounted or free job listing service. Membership fees are typically reduced for students. Attend local chapter meetings of both media and weather associations. Go to as many weather conferences as you can and network. Contact local weathercasters for advice. Keep in touch with your college instructors because they are sometimes contacted by stations looking to hire.
A first-time weathercaster does not need an agent. Agents seek openings and negotiate contracts for 5%-10% of your salary. For experienced weathercasters in larger markets, agents can be very useful, but are still not required, if you have the time and temperament to research and follow-up on job opportunities.