Can Operational Meteorologists make a six figure salary?07 Nov , 2011 | 14
Yes, absolutely! It is possible for operational meteorologists to make a six figure salary. But, what do I actually mean by “Operational”? “Operational”to me means someone who is actually forecasting the weather…not a senior manager, or director, VP, or CEO who’s overseeing things and probably already making six figures. I’m also including TV meteorologists as “operational forecasters” even though we know some of them straight copy the NWS forecasts . Let’s discuss a few sectors where operational meteorologists make it big:
1) Chief and Morning meteorologists/Severe weather experts in Large TV markets: There are reports that some of these TV meteorologists make between $250-750k/year. Yeah, I’m not joking! If you can be the top rated meteorologist as well within a top market…the station will pay big bucks to keep you there! So for example, if you’re a chief meteorologist in New York or Los Angeles (top 10-20 type of market) or a very senior on-air meteorologist at the Weather Channel…congratulations…you’ve found a high paying weather job! Plus in many cases you’re a local celebrity Keep in mind though that during recessionary times, the station may have to reduce salaries based on sales volume. Read my related post on “Looks Do matter in TV weather“.
2) Mid level Energy Trade Floor Meteorologists: Energy trade floor meteorologists generally make large salaries and bonuses that easily propel them into the six figure salary range. There are reports that some of these trade floor meteorologists at hedge funds and large banks make upwards of $250-550k including bonuses. Trade Floor meteorologists generally support either power and/or natural gas trading operations. Your bonus is generally dependent on how the company is doing plus the performance of the traders. It’s a high stress, high risk/high reward type of role….it’s been my favorite role of a meteorologist thus far! I also did not have to wait 20-25 years to make six figures in this role….only 5! Pretty sweet gig if you ask me.
3) Very Senior (close to retirement) Government positions: Depending upon your grade and location in the NWS, it’s of course possible to make six figures at the NWS…but it’ll take years…on average between 15-25 years! “The top 10% of meteorologists at the NWS make upwards of $127k per year,” according to NOAA’s statistics. This is actually public information…you can see the salaries for any city that you want to work for in the NWS here: For the most part, it’s also a pretty low stress gig and in all honesty you’ll most likely never get fired unless you do something really really bad. At least that’s what my friends in the NWS tell me
4) Private weather Consultants/Senior Operational Private weather forecasters: Weather affects almost every single industry on the planet. From ships to airplanes, trucks to trains…roads to agriculture…surfing to skiing…private weather consultants are taking advantage a growing list of these types clients. And if you’re a market leader in a niche market, you are probably milking it! However, with the recession and budget cutbacks, I’m sure this is also a tense time for many private weather consultants. Also, if you are a meteorologist working for a private weather consulting firm…they generally do not pay well. If you are your own private weather consultant, its where you have the chance to make a higher income. In a separate post, I’ll go into detail on some of these private weather consultants and what exactly they do.
5): Very Senior (almost about to retire) Aviation meteorologists: Interestingly enough, I like to compare working for aviation companies similar to working for the government. It takes years and years for you to make a six figure salary…probably close to 15-20 years. If you can stick it out in aviation companies, you also get a cushy work schedule…more than likely you wont work any overnight shifts! FYI, It obviously depends what level you start at these companies….but you have to wait it out to become one of the most senior members of your group. See my related post on (What is the role of an aviation meteorologist).
Of course there are probably a few sectors that I am missing…like in research or atmospheric modelers where a few select meteorologists are doing well. But the above sectors are the ones that I’ve personally witnessed.
Bottom line: It is possible to make a six figure salary in meteorology…but you have to get into the right sector and/or have major patience. Too bad we’re not like the investment banking industry…where entry level analysts make six figures with their bonuses! But they also work 120 hours a week! I know it can be quite discouraging if you’re making 25-45k as an entry level meteorologist…but at least you can see that there is some light at the end of the tunnel! And if you do hate your meteorology job, see what other options you have, here! (Photo credit: Granville County Schools)