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Weather

How Much Will I Earn?

Meteorology has always been at the cutting edge of technology, and in general, meteorologists earn at least as much as any other scientist. Overall average salaries are skewed on the high side because of the influence of broadcast meteorologists. Some television meteorologists employed in small media markets or on cable networks earn little more than any other meteorologist. But those who work in medium or large markets earn far more. When these salaries are averaged with all the others, it turns out that the average meteorologist actually earns more than any other scientist. Competition in recent years has brought weathercaster salaries down to earth, but most meteorologists in medium markets or higher will earn salaries in the low six-figure area. Those salaries double and triple for primary on-air personalities in larger markets. You might not earn as much as a baseball or basketball star, but you'll do just fine.

Weather-Wise

A "cooperative observer" for a weather service office is a volunteer who collects weather data and forwards the data to weather service offices.

Opportunities in broadcasting have expanded in recent decades because of the proliferation of cable stations. That has provided more openings for newly trained and experienced meteorologists, but it has divided the viewer pie. Because a station's revenues are tied to its viewership, management has been less willing to pay the mega-salaries of years gone by. In a number of major markets, salaries have been cut by 50 percent or more. Salaries are still substantial, but not like the pre-cable days. Those who decide to go into broadcasting can expect plenty of competition for the higher paying positions. After all, it is show-biz.

On the low end of the income spectrum are entry-level salaries for those working in private weather-consulting firms. Some of these salaries are just barely over minimum wage, but many of these jobs provide considerable on-the-job training, which translates into more substantial future incomes. The American Meteorological Society did a survey of incomes for those who work in the private sector. The following table shows some of the results. The salaries are in 1995 dollars.

Incomes of Meteorologists Employed in the Private Sector

Annual Salary Entry Level One to Two Years' Experience Three to Five Years' Range Experience
<$15,000 7.1% 0% 0%
$15,000-$20,000 27.5% 11.5% 2.1%
$20,000-$25,000 28.1% 22% 6.4%
$25,000-$30,000 24.4% 31% 13.8%
$30,000-$40,000 9.9% 29.1% 39.8%
$40,000-$50,000 1.5% 4% 27.8%
$50,000-$75,000 1.2% 1.5% 6.4%
>$75,000 0.3% 0.9% 3.7%

About half of the entry-level positions pay between 20,000 and 30,000 dollars per year. About one third of the entry-level positions pay less than 20,000 dollars. But in three to five years, more than half will be earning between 30,000 and 50,000 dollars, while only 2 percent will be earning 20,000 dollars or less. Advancement is steady, even if entry-level opportunities are not exactly lucrative.

Salaries within the government are comfortable. Beginning salaries are between 20,000 and 25,000 dollars per year. Experienced forecasters earn in the neighborhood of 75,000 dollars.

Those meteorologists who go into management, marketing, or administration earn more. These salaries can approach those of broadcasters in at least medium markets. And for those who own their own weather-related businesses, the sky's the limit!

book cover

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.


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