Whether they work for a government agency, consult in the private sector or teach at a university, climatologists are concerned with how the climate affects everything from crops to construction.
They use radar, satellite systems and other technology to measure climatic conditions, and then develop computer models to predict weather patterns. This data can be vital in safeguarding against dangerous weather conditions, such as hurricanes, heat waves, snow storms and flooding. It also can be used to gauge levels of air pollution.
Such information is used by farmers, utilities and transportation companies. In addition, it may be utilized by insurers in order to set policy rates and by architects and builders in order to plan construction projects.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the category of workers that includes climatologists is projected to experience job growth of 11% nationally from 2010 to 2020. That employment increase for atmospheric scientists compares with a 14% growth rate forecast for all occupations over the same period.
As of 2011, about one-third of the nation’s approximately 9,600 atmospheric scientists worked for the federal government. However, demand is expected to be greater in the private sector through 2020, as more companies seek detailed weather information to increase the efficiency of their operations, the BLS noted. Employment prospects should be more robust for candidates with a graduate degree.
In 2011, the median annual wage for atmospheric scientists was $89,790, with the top 10% earning more than $136,000, the BLS reported. Those salaries represented increases of approximately $2,000 and $4,000, respectively, over the previous year.
An individual’s work experience and educational qualifications can affect salary potential and employment opportunities, as can local market conditions.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), climatologists must have a broad base of knowledge and a strong background in physics and math. A bachelor’s degree in meteorology, atmospheric science or a related field is typically a requirement for employment. Some positions, particularly in teaching and research, may require a master’s degree or doctorate.
Meteorology, climatology, agriculture, biology and computer science are common areas of study for aspiring climatologists. Writing and speaking skills may also be important as climatologists must prepare and present reports on their findings.
Professional development opportunities, including continuing education and other training, are available from numerous industry organizations, including the American Association of State Climatologists, National Weather Association, American Meteorological Society and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.