Government Meteorologists Salaries in 2011…Wow!

30   May ,  2012 | 34
comments

My buddy, Tom Pagano, who runs a blog called The River Seers, sent me a link last week that showed government meteorologist salaries for 2011. This includes agencies such as NOAA, FAA, Goddard Space Flight Center, National Science Foundation, Forest Service, NTSB, Agriculture Research Service, DOE, among others!  It not only showed salaries…but the names of each individual, what station they work at, and what grade level they were at.    Honestly, I didn’t realize this data was available to the public until now.    If you want to see where the data came from, here is the link.   I also have a copy of the entire data set…so if you want it, just holler and I’ll email it to you.

I’ll be honest.  I thought government meteorologist salaries were actually a lot lower.  I was quite impressed with what I saw.  Out of the approximately 2800 government meteorologists that are employed, about 1250 make 100K or more.   This means that approximately 45% of all government meteorologists make over 100K!  In addition, the data set showed the average government meteorology salary in 2011 was approximately $97,140.  Quite impressive!

The highest paid government meteorologist (and I won’t name names) made a grand total (including bonus) of $230,911.    Wow, that’s as much as the Vice President of the United States!

The lowest salary was at the NWS…approximately 31K, shared between small town offices in Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Texas.   When I was attending university, I remember hearing NWS salaries were approximately in the 20-25K range.  So it’s great to see that salaries have moved higher by a considerable percentage.

As I’ve said in the past, government meteorologists do deserve higher salaries because they are responsible for indirectly saving lives and protecting trillions of dollars of infrastructure with their issuance of pertinent weather warnings/watches.  They also contribute to vast amounts of research and data collection (among other tasks) that are extremely important for the present and future.   I think they deserve a lot of credit and their salaries are justified.

Do you think government meteorologists are being paid fairly?  Would love to hear the perspective of NWS meteorologists, too.  Thanks!

Posted by AJ on May 30, 2012

  • Warren G

    As a Meteorologist who has worked in the private sector for 4 years now, and who has been close (but no cigar) on a few NOAA NWS jobs, this is discouraging. I know this didn’t used to be the case–but it sure is now! Although I knew they made nice salaries, they are higher than I even thought. LOL. My own fault for leaving air traffic control and the FAA and to work in Meteorology! ;)

    • Thomas Pagano

      Warren,

      Maybe this is something specific to air traffic control, but the meteorologists at the Federal Aviation Administration make nearly the most of any agency (only NASA and NSF make more on average). The lowest paid of the 13 FAA meteorologists gets $86k, the highest paid $182k. The median salary is $120k.

      Tom

      • Warren G

        Tom,

        You’re right about that-very interesting. And, I was just mentioning that I was actually hired by the FAA out of school to work as an air traffic controller, but I couldn’t shake the weather bug and ended up leaving to take my first job as a Meteorologist (in the private sector). I am still working in that position (4 years later) and make significantly less than I would be making as a controller, but at least I get to work in Meteorology. I’m hoping to eventually be able to work for the NWS in one of the air traffic centers, or transition into some kind of aviation meteorology. I’ve been close, but haven’t quite made it yet.

    • Anonymous

      Good luck getting back in. If you don’t hold a M.S. or Ph.D, it is unlikely. In my office NOAA/OAR/AOML, we haven’t hired anyone with only the B.S. in decades.

  • David

    AJ,
    Since you mentioned Tom’s blog how about a weather blog roll from you or other readers (or maybe a blog post?). I’m sure there are a bunch of good ones out there and I don’t know many. I enjoy reading Larry Cosgrove’s forecast especially his long range discussion posted on Saturday’s at
    http://www.examiner.com/weather-in-houston/larry-cosgrove. For paid sites I read the two Joe’s at Weather Bell. Thanks, keep up the great work!

    • Anonymous

      Hi David, thanks! I’ll try and find some good ones and put them on here, too. Thanks for sharing a couple that you read….

      AJ

  • Anonymous

    AJ:

    Nobody in the Federal Government makes $230K except for the Senior Executive Service folks. Even the most senior Supervisory Meteorologists (and Hurricane Specialists) make <$160K, some under $100K (gross). Almost all of us NOAA meteorologists have M.S. and Ph.D degrees, and we mostly live in expensive cities where the cost of living is easily 2-3x what it is elsewhere in the country. We lose ~1/3 of our gross salaries for retirement and health insurance alone, not to mention taxes. If you all think we're overpaid, try it sometime & you'll learn differently. It is true that the Government Meteorologist ranks are getting old – most of us are in the Baby Boom Generation, and near the end of our careers, so the average salary is quite a bit larger than starting salaries are.

    • Anonymous

      Yes you’re right. Most of the very top salaried individuals are executive level roles that come under “Meteorology” in the government sector. Here are some examples of grade level salaries for what it’s worth.

      Top salaries for GS 12: $106,497; GS 13: $122,927; GS 14: $143,135 and GS 15: $160,500.

      The average salary of a GS 12 is: $86,374.50; GS 13: $102,375. GS 14: $118,728.50 and GS15: $137, 117.50.

      Out of approximately 2800, there are approximately 2250 people who classify under GS 12 to GS 15. I think what Russell says makes sense…there are a lot of senior level folks currently in the NWS and other government agencies with advanced degrees, etc.

      Thanks,

      AJ

  • Steve Mirsky

    I can not say if government meteorologists are paid fairly and would not ask anyone to justify their salaries, but I would like to bring up a point. I stand to be corrected, but I believed government meteorologists (as well as many other government workers) are eligible for a pension after thirty years of employment. I would like to know if anyone can justify that. It would seem that most people would be able to retire in their 50′s and with the average age about 80 now, how can we justify paying people 25 years after they retire. This is part of the reason we have budget deficits. Any justification to this?

    • Lee Chesneau, Meteorologist

      Hey Steve,

      Ever work shift work for 30 years? Weekends? Holidays? Most government mets do!.You know what deadlines are? Operational gov forecaster are under the gun day never to miss a weather event where significant property damage and loss of life occurs…if they do have to theirs lives with that on their conscience Sounds like you have been in a cushy 9-5 Mon-Fr job, no? When it comes to watches and warnings only government mets have that kind of responsibility! You have clearly demonstrated total ignorance here…shame shame shame on U!!!

      • Steve Mirsky

        Not sure why you are personally attacking me Lee when I did not say the NWS mets are being overpaid and I was just asking someone to justify the 30 year retirement. It was a simple question that you have obviously over reacted too. For the record, I have worked all hours of the day and night for 32 years including weekends and holidays. I average 47.5 hours per week and are against deadlines constantly. Why don’t you just try to answer questions professionally and maturely without going nuts with personal insults and making assumptions that can not be further from the truth.

        • Steve Mirsky

          And while it is true only the NWS issues watches and warnings to the general public, the company I am with does just that to clients that pay for that service.

        • Larry Cosgrove

          Lee, I thought Steve’s question/comment was even-handed and did not warrant your overly aggressive response. All of us know what pressures forecast meteorologists (as well as those practicing other weather specialized positions) are under, and can appreciate the need for proper payment and reward.

          I suspect that Steve, like many in the private sector, wonder why different rewards are allocated for the same kind of work, at charge to the tax-paying public. Personally, I think all of us in the meteorology fields need to be “taken care of”, but that retirement fees should be equalized between those of us who work in the public and private sectors. If that is even possible…

          • Anonymous

            I agree. Let’s remove personal attacks and discuss the issues at hand. I appreciate everyone’s perspective….thanks!

      • Steve NWS

        FYI……NWS mets dont get a pension anymore unless there within 5 years of retirement. They get a 401k and very small pension, like 1%.

        I was a student meteorologist with the NWS last year during my senior year.

  • The Weatherman

    Hi AJ,

    Well These Salaries are justified. I’d pay meteorologists $1.5M before I pay a lobbyist $1. But don’t government jobs have risks? Aj, can you share with us which sectors of meteorology have the most job security, which have the hardest and easiest work, and which will have the most job growth.

    Thank You,
    The Weatherman

    • Anonymous

      Hi Weatherman, normally I would say the NWS/US government…but these days there really isn’t any job security. Technically your job can be cut at anytime given the economy and the world wide fears of another double dip global recession. Job security varies by sector and company….if the company can maintain their clientele at a cost that remains profitable for the company, then you’ll probably have job security. It really depends and it’s hard to give you a true single source of job security when these days there really is none.

      Hardest and easiest work varies by company and sector. It just depends on how good you are at certain tasks which makes something “hard or easy”.

      Most job growth I feel will be in the weather risk sector where companies begin to realize (and model) how weather affects their operations. I hope that helps!

      AJ

      • The Weatherman

        It HELPED ALOT Thanks AJ

      • The Weatherman

        I just saw a 20/20 piece John Stossel did and One of the people featured was a meteorology student who was unemployed and $77,000 in debt.

  • Curtis

    I’d like to be able to get into the private sector. I’ve been trying for awhile now, come close, but nothing yet. Compensation wise, I just want enough to provide, have enough to go out every now and then, but I’ve said from age 12 when I really had a passion for meteorology, I wouldn’t do it for the money, I’d do it for the passion! Yes I have my BS in meteorology….maybe one day I can be fortunate to be in the private sector!!!!

    • Steve Mirsky

      Where are you interested in working, geographically?

      • Curtis

        anywhere!!! I’ll go where the job is, do what it takes, to use my degree and forecast the weather. I’m sure AJ will tell you from his site, I have so much passion for the field of meteorology!!!

        • Steve Mirsky

          What school did you go to?

          • Curtis

            I spent 3 years studying meteorology at California University of Pennsylvania, and finished my gen ed classes online at Mississippi state. I was awarded 1st place in the forecasting competition there, and was a forecast shift coordinator each year there.

          • Steve Mirsky

            MSU might be giving you a bad rap as people in the profession tend to associate it with TV people who get certificates.

          • Curtis

            I’ve had theories like that in my mind. I give people the same information I told you, that I have my BS in meteorology, but most of my coursework came from Cal U. Not sure if it truly is giving a bad rap or not….but I will tell you, its been a struggle and a half trying to get opportunities.

  • Steve Mirsky

    You are probably sending resumes everywhere. We are not hiring right now but you never know when something opens.
    So send it to weathercommand.com. Good luck Curtis.

    • Curtis

      Thanks a bunch. I am sending it everywhere. I will send it and hopefully sooner rather than later something will happen. If you know of anyone that may be interested let me know, or you can forward my information if it comes to you. Thanks for the conversation……

    • Curtis

      Steve, I sent my resume about a week ago to the info@weathercommand email. Hopefully they received it and it will be considered should an opening occur. Thanks again!

  • The Weatherman

    Hi AJ I found an article on the misconceptions of Private Sector Meteorology. I think you’ll like it.

  • JBrad

    Hey man, im posting from likey much further north then where you’re from – not even in the same country. Your posts towards Mets are very welcome, i especially like the post on designation discrepancies – it is a global issue. Best of luck to you in all your future endeavours.

    • freshAJ

      Thank you!

  • Amish

    My son is a research assisitant/ Meteorologist with his MAsters and earns under 40,000.