A meteorologist — also known as a weatherman or a weather forecaster — is a scientifically trained specialist in the study of weather and weather patterns. Although both meteorologists and climatologists study weather, climatologists focus on the long-term trends and effects of weather, while meteorologists are primarily concerned with short-term weather patterns. A minimum of a bachelor's degree is required to enter the field of meteorology, and a significant number of positions require a master's degree. In the US, over one-third of meteorologists are employed by the US Weather Service, which is part of the government. A meteorologist's salary can depend upon his educational background, experience, type of employer and whether or not his position is media-related.
One of the first factors to consider that affect a meteorologist's salary is education. As noted above, a bachelor's degree in meteorology, atmospheric science or a similar field of study is the minimum preparation to enter this career. Many positions — particularly those with the US National Weather Service — require a master's degree for employment. In the recent past, television weathermen were prepared with bachelor's degrees in journalism, communications or another media-related field, if they had a degree at all. Gradually, television stations began to promote the reliability of their weather forecast over that of competitors by promising not just weathermen, but meteorologists.
Experience is another factor that can affect a meteorologist's salary. The number of years a weather scientist has been employed or has experience in the field is particularly important in government agencies where salary ranges are established by an established ranking matrix. In the private sector, the length of an employee's tenure with a particular company is often positively associated with a higher salary. Common benefits, such as tuition reimbursement, often allow experienced employees the time and financial resources to earn a master's degree or even a doctorate to possibly further increase the meteorologist's salary. Experience — when associated with popularity ratings — is often very helpful to a television meteorologist's salary, particularly during contract negotiations.
A media-related meteorologist's salary depends upon factors completely absent in the careers of other weather forecasters. As with most local television news positions, higher pay is clearly associated with larger urban markets. Most television meteorologists begin their careers in smaller towns with smaller markets and earn considerably less than their urban-based colleagues. Television station market share exerts a significant influence on the resident meteorologist's salary. Potential earnings are now also influenced by whether a media-related meteorologist is employed by a local station or a national one.