Career Options for Meteorology Graduates
Daphne: Welcome to another edition of That Weather Show. I'm Daphne Thompson. My guests today are meteorologists who work in different areas of the National Weather Center. We'll be talking to them about their careers and discussing other options available for meteorology graduates. Why don't you go ahead and introduce yourselves?
Patrick: My name is Patrick Burke. I am a meteorologist and general forecaster here at the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Norman, Oklahoma.
Pam: My name is Pam Heinselman. I am a research meteorologist with the National Severe Storms Laboratory.
Jeff: I'm Jeff Evans and I'm currently a lead forecaster at the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.
Daphne: Let's start with you Jeff, why don't tell us about some of your duties there.
Jeff: The ultimate duty is maintaining the continual weather watch for severe weather in the United States. I have the ultimate responsibility of all the watches, tornado or severe thunderstorm watches, anywhere in the lower forty-eight states.
Daphne: And you also do research?
Jeff: Yes, we do research. SELS, which is now the Storm Prediction Center, has always been cutting-edge as far as implementing science into operations, especially whe it comes to severe storms. And a lot of what's commonly used today in severe storms forecasting, things that people take for granted, really all came out of a ground roots effort of forecasters at the Storm Prediction Center. Between maintaining the knowledge and the science and going to conferences and reading lots of papers and understanding that “hey, this is something we can actually implement in operations” and try to begin getting tools and building tools to put that into operations. There's certainly a lot of research involved.
Daphne: Pam, let's talk about what you do at the National Severe Storms Lab. I know your research involves weather radar. Can you talk about that?
Pam: Yes, I do spend some of my time analyzing radar data, which gives me information about severe storms, in particular, tornadic storms, hailstorms, high wind events, things like that. But then I also spend a lot of time with students. I'm an adjunct professor at the University of Oklahoma. I advise graduate students on their curriculum and on their research projects that they're doing and I give a lot of presentations to visitors. We have collaborators who come here and want to learn more about I do. The specific topic that I work on is the implementation of Phased Array Radar and so that's a big part of what I do but lots of activities go on in my day.
Daphne: Patrick, can you tell us some of the different types of things you do as a meteorologist for the National Weather Service?
Patrick: First and foremost, the biggest part of our mission at the National Weather Service is to provide public forecasts and warnings for severe weather to protect life and property. Those are the days we really shine and when there's a tornado outbreak or a hurricane, when there's winter weather and ice storms, something of that nature. We're working around the clock everyday of the year, even in quiet weather to prepare for those things. We forecast for airports, river levels and river flooding. But then there's also the everyday, seven-day forecast and that type of thing so a lot of diversity to the work.
Daphne: Besides forecasting, what other fields in meteorology can today's graduate consider?
Patrick: Some of the specific fields you can pursue – you know, I chose the forecasting route, operational meteorology. There's also the research meteorology that we've spoken about and the opportunities in that, whether you go into a government organization or private firm, there's certainly a lot of research going on. Some other areas that you could focus on are communications, mass media, broadcasting meteorologist. I think business is catching on to how weather affects things like energy, insurance companies – I know a lot of meteorologists have gone into that field. Aviation is another one. There's some airlines that hire their own meteorologists.
Daphne: Jeff, you've had a lot of job experience in the area of forecasting. Looking back, what advice would you give students who are trying to decide on a specific career path?
Jeff: I think people shouldn't set their goals too specific. I don't think you should say “I want to work at the Hurricane Center and that's all I'm going to be satisfied with”. That's very unrealistic. Or the Storm Prediction Center. There are very few positions, they're very difficult to get. Not that that can't happen. It happened for me. It happened for other people. Basically, if you're interested in it, I'd follow through with it and just keep an open mind and you might be surprised what you end up falling into and what opportunities you end up stumbling into that you really enjoy. The more flexible you are to take advantage of that, the better your career will probably take off.
Daphne: I think that's very good advice.
Well, it's time to wrap up for today. Jeff, Pam, and Patrick, thanks for stopping by. You have given my listeners some great information about what you do here at the National Weather Center. I am sure that your career advice will help give meteorology graduates a better understanding of what types of jobs are available out there.
All right, so next time on That Weather Show, we'll be talking about our guests' early childhood memories that sparked an interest in weather, as well as some cool weather-related hobbies. I hope you can join us again.
Related podcast: What do you need to know if you're thinking about pursuing a degree in meteorology?