As a recent meteorology program graduate (I graduated May 2014 from the University of Oklahoma), I often see posts now from frustrated students or fellow recent grads, saying “There’s no jobs in meteorology”.
I must confess I once thought this same thing… As a senior in college, interning at the NWS Norman, OK, I became very aware of the feeling that government weather was very “big brother”, with strict rules of engagement and a seemingly unstable job market, due to the hiring freeze and budget problems. For a short period this put me into a daze and almost a panic, as I had had my eyes set on working at the NWS for such a long period. This long period including nearly 4 years of government weather agency experience, including being a student volunteer at the NWS Wichita, NWS Norman and also as a student intern at the Storm Prediction Center. All of these experiences were attempts to build an impressive resume… A resume I now deemed worthless since I had spent so much time focusing on one of many areas of meteorology.
This is where the story gets interesting… In the spring of 2014, two dear friends sat down with me to discuss my future. By this time I had recovered from my fear of not finding a job in the world of weather and had opened my eyes to the world of private sector meteorology and starting my own company. My friends assured me that I had the knowledge and drive to start my own company. A few months later, Hazard Notifications LLC was born. It started with just myself, but I quickly put together ideas and acquired powerful investors, my two brilliant business partners Robert and L.B and we began to build, innovate and expand.
Starting a company was an entirely new venture for me. Of course, I had no background in business so everyday I learned something new. Doing all of this while trying to graduate was especially tricky, but can only make the feeling of success, much sweeter. If you approach starting a business with the hope that you can not take orders, not answer emails, be your own boss and live free… You have to re evaluate now! I quickly realized that as the boss, I answered to more people than I ever planned. I had to be sure employees were paid on time, that investors were happy, that customers were happy, that efforts were being made to seek new clients… I had to make sure we innovated… Every day… While advanced equations and algorithms are rampant in meteorology, the field desperately needed methods to simplify these into numbers into usable products.
I could spend quite some time detailing all the functions that my company serves, but that can appear in a separate blog. After a year though, we have hired some brilliant minds to work alongside us to develop amazing new technology. We have raised the eyebrows of billion dollar companies and acquired clients on a global scale. We have developed innovate technology, a popular forecast modeling website, and a number of proprietary algorithms and technologies that are still in development.
So, lets forget a bit about me managing a company, and discuss WHY I pursued this route, and what other options there are out there… As I said originally, I had spent my last few years of high school and all of my college career trying to secure a spot in the NWS. I wanted to issue tornado warnings and save lives. It was really that simple. But, during the hiring freeze, I quickly felt like NWS might not be the place for me. Beyond the job scarcity, I felt that there were too many hoops to jump through, for the most basic requests. Now, since then, the job market actually looks much better, but you better come in with a Masters or know a heck of a lot of people. There is WAY more applicants than there is jobs. Furthermore, I had grown quite fond of the OKC area and knew it was very likely to get a NWS job, I would be forced to move somewhere far, far away.
What about TV meteorology? Yeah, there are jobs out there. There aren’t a lot, but they do exist. If you want to get into a big market and make a big paycheck, you can expect a lot of competition. I found the hours and pay to not really line up that well in my head. The ideas of being stuck with morning shifts for the first few years of my life sounded really unappealing. I did have some friends who were very fortunate to get jobs close to the OKC area, and they seem to be happy, and I am happy for them! Anyways, I did realize I was a college student about to graduate and did not necessarily have the luxury of being picky, but that only pushed me harder to build something strong and build it quick.
There are plenty of government weather jobs outside of NWS. For example, FEMA has meteorologists, Military, FAA, etc.. With these jobs you can get the benefits of being a federal employee, but once again you have to jump through the associated hoops of government protocol, but the security of good benefits may offset that for you.
Then, there is private weather. I don’t hesitate to say that this is the area I would focus in. There are a number of powerful, booming companies out there. AccuWeather employs over 100 meteorologists who work around the clock and forecast various hazards around the world. AccuWeather covers forecasts for the general public as well as business to business relationships as they pertain to weather. Weather Decision Technologies, based in Norman, OK is another powerful weather company that operates such things as Radar Scope, iMap Weather Radio and more popular applications. There are a number of other consulting companies (companies such as mine, Hazard Notifications, LLC ) which work on a focused set of problems for businesses and consumers. There are other online sites/apps such as Wunderground and WeatherBug that have staffed meteorologists. Also, there is a lot of off air work to be done at places like The Weather Channel and WeatherNation. Forensic meteorology is a growing field and there are an increasing number of hail analysis type services that work in this area. Of course, I have just named a few big ones but I assure you there is a ton of opportunity in the private sector.
Weather impacts every business, every day. Large companies are going to staff meteorologists to monitor weather around the clock. Companies like WalMart, power companies, rail roads, transportation companies, shipping companies. The amount of jobs out there is growing each day in these fields as companies continually realize their susceptibility to adverse weather.
The moral of this long story is, don’t confine your thinking to a white walled office with no windows, or a desk job from 9-5, or waking up at 3 am to get on camera. There are a ton of options out there, whether it is starting your own creation of jumping on board the growing success of another company. I promise you there are jobs. I promise you weather knowledge will not stop being useful anytime soon. I promise you if you want to make 100k a year, you can definitely do it.
If I had to offer one piece of advice to anyone pursuing meteorology, I would let it be this… LEARN PROGRAMMING! Computer programming skills are an incredible asset, one that I wish I had. I focused so much on equations and logic that I really failed to capture just how important programming was. As a meteorologist investigating the job market, as well as a business owner, I assure you, your value is much higher if you can code, too.
If you have questions, please comment below and I can try to answer you directly! I want to be a source of encouragement and help for those interested in weather.