Traditionally, the largest employer of meteorologists in this country has been the United States Government. Many work for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which includes the National Weather Service. Some are on active duty with the military services, primarily the Air Force and the Navy, while others are civilian employees of the Department of Defense. Other federal agencies such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Department of Energy, and the Department of Agriculture also employ meteorologists.
Federal government agencies conduct atmospheric research. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) operates a dozen environmental research laboratories. The more well-known labs include the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, which houses the Hurricane Research Division (Miami, Florida); the Climate Diagnostics Center (Boulder, Colorado); and the National Severe Storms Laboratory (Norman, Oklahoma).
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is also involved in a variety of basic research programs at its research facilities: the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, Maryland; the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia; and the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York City falls under GSFC and, in cooperation with Columbia University, has been a leader in global change studies.
The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, also is heavily involved in global change studies, but as one would infer from its title, its research covers a myriad of atmospheric science disciplines. NCAR is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and managed by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR). UCAR is an international community of scientists, engineers, and technicians dedicated to enhancing understanding of the atmosphere. Among other things, UCAR recruits visiting scientists for various government and military research efforts. It also manages the NOAA Postdoctoral Program in Climate and Global Change. This program pairs recently graduated postdoctorates with host scientists at U.S. institutions. The objective of the program is to help create the next generation of researchers needed for global climate studies.
One of the fastest growing areas for meteorologists is the private sector. There are increasing employment opportunities for meteorologists in industry, private consulting firms, and research organizations. Many television stations employ professional meteorologists to present weather information to their viewers.
Private sector meteorologists provide a variety of services to industries and other organizations. Some are consulting meteorologists with their own companies and others worked for corporations. In recent years, a rapidly growing specialty in meteorology has been in the area of information services. Private companies have developed computerized information systems to provide specialized weather data and displays.
Private sector meteorologists also provide local weather forecasts to many radio and television stations that do not employ their own meteorologists. Weather forecasting and observing at a few air force bases also is carried out by commercial companies on a contract basis.
Complementing government research work, a number of private organizations, many of them small businesses, perform research. Most of the larger corporations doing research centered around the atmospheric sciences advertise their capabilities in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society professional directory.
University meteorologists teach and work in atmospheric research programs. In addition to holding a faculty or teaching position, university and college professors often perform research, typically supported by government or foundation grants.
Over 100 universities and colleges in the United States and Canada employ atmospheric scientists. Opportunities span North America from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks to the University of Miami in Florida. There are even non-continental places in the country for employment such as the University of Hawaii in Honolulu and the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez. Continental U.S. institutions of higher learning with programs in the atmospheric sciences range from large state universities to small colleges to specialized institutions.