Trends in U.S. Undergrad Meteorology, Degree Recipients, & Employment Opps

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kmreid

EF1
Mar 3, 2011
89
1
6
Arkansas
I don't think this is an isolated issue. For example, I am considering going into nursing as a second career. I recently found out that there are areas all around the country where there is an over saturation of new grad nurses. I think a number of people are trying to make their college degrees count for something since certain degrees are becoming moot. The trends in the economy are making people rethink what careers to pursue, and unfortunately a backlash from this is going to be higher competition within the workplace. Now, how to resolve an issue that is likely to get worse before it gets better? I have absolutely no clue. It is definitely a growing concern for various areas of education and employment, but it isn't limited to Meteorology. Regardless, all of this is quite worrisome.
 

rdale

EF5
Mar 1, 2004
7,230
778
21
50
Lansing, MI
skywatch.org
I think the way to resolve it is for 1) people to not go to school unless they have a plan for making sure they stand out and/or 2) developing new ways to use that education. I highly recommend this week's WeatherBrains as that was the focus of their show. (Well, after the little Mike Smith recap :) )
 

kmreid

EF1
Mar 3, 2011
89
1
6
Arkansas
I think the way to resolve it is for 1) people to not go to school unless they have a plan for making sure they stand out and/or 2) developing new ways to use that education. I highly recommend this week's WeatherBrains as that was the focus of their show. (Well, after the little Mike Smith recap :) )
I agree with you completely! I also think that Mike Rowe (yes, the guy from Dirty Jobs) is doing a great thing by promoting skilled trades. There is so much emphasis on obtaining a college education, that many overlook the jobs that are available in skilled trades. Welding is a great example. Welders are needed all over the country, and you can make a fairly decent living doing it, but you rarely hear of kids in high school who talk about wanting to become welders as adults. As much as I hate saying this, college isn't for everyone and it shouldn't be considered a bad thing to forgo college and go straight into the work force.
 

James Gustina

Supporter
Mar 9, 2010
650
269
11
25
Dallas, TX
www.thunderingskies.blogspot.com
GIS and computer science minors or double majors with meteorology become more valuable every day. Both those fields set you up for other jobs that may require only a smidge of meteorology and also give a competitive edge. Proximity to private weather industry doesn't hurt either.
 
Apr 18, 2006
783
12
11
GIS and computer science minors or double majors with meteorology become more valuable every day. Both those fields set you up for other jobs that may require only a smidge of meteorology and also give a competitive edge. Proximity to private weather industry doesn't hurt either.
Do yourself a favor though...don't just learn how to use ArcGIS or any other point-and-click system. Teach yourself the programmatic aspects of GIS. It will make you much better and more valuable in the long run.
 

James Gustina

Supporter
Mar 9, 2010
650
269
11
25
Dallas, TX
www.thunderingskies.blogspot.com
Do yourself a favor though...don't just learn how to use ArcGIS or any other point-and-click system. Teach yourself the programmatic aspects of GIS. It will make you much better and more valuable in the long run.
Definitely, knowing how to code it in Python is extraordinarily useful, especially when you're pulling a metric ton of data in that can be done quicker with a script. The GIS course I'm currently in is half basic principals and half programming.
 
I agree with you completely! I also think that Mike Rowe (yes, the guy from Dirty Jobs) is doing a great thing by promoting skilled trades. There is so much emphasis on obtaining a college education, that many overlook the jobs that are available in skilled trades. Welding is a great example. Welders are needed all over the country, and you can make a fairly decent living doing it, but you rarely hear of kids in high school who talk about wanting to become welders as adults. As much as I hate saying this, college isn't for everyone and it shouldn't be considered a bad thing to forgo college and go straight into the work force.
Well said. Plumbers and electricians are about to become a lot more expensive, and the few people going into that field are going to be making a ton of money. My body can't do the physical aspect of it, otherwise I'd look into it. Not getting certified to weld (although I know how), was not a terribly smart move on my part.
 
FWIW, In the NWS, I'm hearing that PhDs are popping up in Met-Intern applicant pools more often. (Met Interns being the entry-level Met position in the NWS, not an actual "internship"). So, yeah, the competition is becoming fierce!

My advice to anyone trying to get into the NWS after Undergrad: Try to get into the Pathways program (formerly SCEP). That way, you're virtually guaranteed an Intern position assuming you don't screw up and aren't picky about where you end up. Hiring overall has been at a glacial-pace despite hundreds of vacant positions, so I'm not sure when the next time these Pathways positions will be bid out. We're only just now bringing in students that applied roughly a year ago. Rumor has it that some students are even delaying graduation so they can still qualify.

Otherwise, try and get the most operationally-relevant Summer Internship possible. Met Intern applications are initially scored based on how you answer a bunch of experience questions. The more NWS or operationally-relevant experience you have, the better off you are. When applying from outside the federal government, only the Top 3 or so applicants are forwarded to the Selecting Official (MIC). If you make it past that round, that's when the "stand out" experience really helps. GIS is good to have (and is relevant outside the NWS). Skills with graphics, briefings, video software are becoming more useful every day. "Decision Support Service" is the focus behind "Weather Ready Nation", and basically means working closely with Emergency Managers and other decision-makers, and trying to speak their language. If you can land an Emergency Management-related internship, that will stand out to an MIC, even if meteorology isn't the focus. But it might not help as much with getting "points" on the initial Application unless they start changing the questions to reflect the DSS-focus. So try and be well-rounded. Do the EM and graphics stuff, but not at the expense of the meteorology. Having an advanced degree gets you big points on the initial application too. Veterans who qualify for the job float right to the top of the list.

All that being said, if I were an MIC, I'd be biased towards hiring "Weather Geeks" that have the extra skills. The reason is simple: Weather geeks will be self-motivated and their morale won't be as affected by the other "distractions" inherent in government work (bureaucracy, Congressional funding games, etc) which tends to wear some people down over time.

I hope this is helpful to someone out there slaving away at thermodynamics homework on a Sunday afternoon.