Wisconsin Weather Work: Career Options
The field of meteorology offers many opportunities for people with passion for weather and skills in science and math. This lesson investigates the diverse and exciting career opportunities within professional meteorology. Students will be able to assess their interest in the profession.
What type of work do meteorologists do in their jobs?
- To understand different career options within the field of weather science.
- To understand education and training needed for careers in weather science.
- To understand how to conduct an interview, transcribe the results and iterate a story in one's own words.
Preparing to Teach this Lesson
Become familiar with the different types of work that meteorologists do, as discussed below, in order to explore with your students the wide range of work done by meteorologists.
While a deep fascination with weather unites weather workers, the range of occupations in the world of professional meteorology is diverse. The broad realm of weather professions can be divided into five categories: television meteorologists, government meteorologists, research meteorologists, teaching meteorologists and consulting meteorologists.
Perhaps the most familiar of the professional meteorologists are those who give weather reports on television. These people can even become household names. The most important characteristic of a television meteorologist is his or her ability to tell a story. A good TV weatherperson will not simply lay out the facts for the viewers, but will organize them into story form with a beginning, middle and end.
Some meteorologists are better known than others. Government meteorologists are an important group that rarely step into the public spotlight. These are the people who issue official forecasts for the entire country, as well as decide if and when to issue severe weather watches and warnings. Many government meteorologists work at the National Weather Service (NWS) or the National Hurricane Center (NHC). Both are administered by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It is important to note that many lives have been saved because of our country's dedicated team of government meteorologists.
The scientific community has a considerable amount of data revealing the ways in which the world and atmosphere work, but even more vast is how much we have yet to learn. The job of the research meteorologist is to answer unsolved questions about the atmosphere, and then disseminate that information through journals and presentations. Research meteorologists, or atmospheric scientists, work at universities and laboratories all over the world. One of the most important characteristics of weather scientists' work environment is collaboration. As in many situations in life, more can be learned and accomplished when scientists work together by sharing information, resources, and techniques.
The field of education draws those who have a desire to inspire and educate future scientists. Teaching of meteorology occurs at the university and K-12 grade levels, but there are also many professional development trainings for professional meteorologists, including national weather forecasters. Experienced professionals must keep up to date on new discoveries and many accomplish this by attending training workshops to learn the latest theories about weather and climate. Many people who help train professional meteorologists have a master's degrees in meteorology or a related field; those who teach at the university level usually have a PhD. Teachers in high school and middle school might have an education degree with an emphasis in science, or might have an advanced degree as well.
Some meteorologists serve as consultants; many run their own businesses. Think about how weather touches your life. Does it influence how you dress or prepare for an outdoor activity? How often does bad weather close a school? Do you plan your vacations around weather conditions? Businesses, as well as people, are influenced by weather. If you own a ski resort you want to know if the coming winter will have above or below average snowfall. The importance of weather is indisputable when discussing its relationship to agriculture. Plants need water. A severe lack of precipitation can lead to a drought, which results in lower crop yields. It is not just good weather that farmers look for, but good weather at the right time. Corn needs lots of rain, but heavy rains at harvest can turn the fields to mud and cease harvesting leaving the corn rotting in the fields. Consulting meteorologists help large and small business owners in their business planning.
As described above, there are many different types of jobs within the field of weather science. Most students are probably already familiar with television meteorologists. Can they think of any additional jobs done by meteorologists? Some examples are government weather forecasters, weather science teachers, or even weather consultants. Have students discuss the responsibilities of each of these jobs. For example, weather forecasters must be very careful to predict approaching weather as accurately as possible because their predictions can help people avoid dangerous weather.
Here is a list of different types of jobs to get the discussion started:
- Satellite data analyst
- Airport weather forecaster
- TV news forecaster
- Weather map designer
- Military weather forecaster
Invite a weather worker to come to your class and be interviewed by your students as a group. Some ideas for whom to invite are professionals from the National Weather Service Bureau in Sullivan, your local television or radio newscaster, or a weather scientist from a local school or university (try the geography or geology department if there is no meteorology department on campus). Be sure to ask them about some of the occupational culture elements explored in the Wisconsin Weather Workers: The Culture lesson.
Before the interview, brainstorm a list of topics that the class will ask the meteorologist. Divide the students so that small groups are responsible for each topic, to ask questions during the interview and to write short essays afterwards from their notes. Use Collect Your Own Weather Stories as a guide to conducting an interview. Tape or video record the interview in order to get exact quotes. If the speaker tells a great weather story, have a volunteer transcribe the story. Compile each group's contributions to create a portrait of the weather worker. Send it to Wisconsin Weather Stories for posting to the website. Be sure to get written consent from the interviewee first!
Have students pick a profession that they want to learn more about. Students should do some basic research to familiarize themselves with that profession. Then, have them set up and conduct an interview with a friend, family member or community member within that profession. Some questions to consider asking include: 1. When did you become interested in your job? 2. How did you get your job? 3. What kind of training did you have to do for your job? 4. What kinds of social activity do you have at your job? 5. What are they ways that people use humor in your job: jokes, decorations, parody songs, etc? 6. When you were new to your job, did you have to go through some kind of rite of passage or initiation?
Have your students use the notes they took during the interview to rewrite their informant's story. Have them tell it in their own words but from the person's point of view. Remind them of the concepts that speakers use to tell a good story, and encourage them to use those ideas as they write. The final paper should be between one and two pages long.
To interview a government forecaster, contact these regional National Weather Service Forecast Offices: Milwaukee/Sullivan, LaCrosse, Green Bay, Marquette, Michigan, Duluth, Minnesota or Twin Cities, Minnesota. Have your students explore each office's website to understand more about the type of science done by these NWS meteorologists.
UW-Madison's Space Science and Engineering Center conducts summer programs for students and teachers interested in learning more about meteorology.
This page from the UW-Madison Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences discusses Career Opportunities in the Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. This page from NOAA discusses Careers in the National Weather Service.
Look at the July/August 2005 issue of Weatherwise and read On the Job, an interview with meteorologists Mark Breen and Steve Maleskit of Vermont Public Radio.
Standards and Benchmarks
|Grade 4||Grade 8||Grade 12|
|English Language Arts||A.4.1; A.4.2; A.4.3, A.4.4; B.4.1; C.4.2; D.4.2; E.4.1||D.8.2 A.8.1; A.8.3; A.8.4; B.8.1; E.8.1||A.12.1; A.12.2; A.12.4; A.12.11; B.12.1; C.12.2; D.12.2; E.12.1|
|Social Studies||A.4.1; A.4.2; A.4.7; B.4.1; B.4.8; B.4.7||A.8.1; A.8.3; A.8.7; A.8.8; B.8.1; B.8.8||B.12.8, B.12.9|
|Career Development||K 4.1, K 4.4, K 4.5, K 4.6||K8.1, K8.3, K8.4, K8.5, K8.6||K12.1, K 12.2, K 12.5, K 12.6, K 12.11|