Posted on Tuesday, 8th March 2016 by

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Federal Meteorologist Jobs Overview:

The meteorologist (GS-1340) has to have knowledge in very specialized areas such as meteorology/atmospheric sciences and advanced mathematics (calculus).  This job series falls under the Physical Science Group. This group includes all classes of positions, the duties of which are to advise on, administer, supervise, or perform research or other professional and scientific work or subordinate technical work in any of the fields of science concerned with matter, energy, physical space, time, nature of physical measurement, and fundamental structural particles; and the nature of the physical environment.

There were 31,566 federal workers employed in Physical Science Group within all Executive Branch departments, and in many large and small independent agencies with 261 employed overseas. The largest employer is the Department of Interior with 5,850 followed by the Department of Commerce with 5,534 and the Department of the navy with 4,195 civilians employed. A number of large independent agencies hire in this group including the EPA with 2,750 employed.

Phillip Manuel is a meteorologist who is a senior forecaster (GS-1340) with the NWS located at Blacksburg, VA.

 

NOAA Phillip Manual

Phillip Manuel specializes as a National Weather Service Incident Meteorologist (IMET), assisting Federal and State Incident Management Teams on large wildfires.  This picture was taken at the Stouts Creek Fire in southwest Oregon in August 2015.  IMETs Phillip Manuel and Scott Weishaar are getting ready to launch a weather balloon to gather weather information to help them make weather forecasts for the incident.

Manuel served as a general forecaster and is currently a senior forecaster and he explains that “Both positions are listed as being a “Forecaster,” but as a Grade 13 you assume more Supervisory Controls.  The GS-13 position requires you to serve as the shift leader, routinely supervising at least one GS-12 full performance level meteorologist (General Forecaster) and one GS-11 Hydrometeorological Technician.   As the shift supervisor, you are ultimately responsible for all NWS products, warnings, and advisories produced on that shift, and for their coordination with other NWS offices.   Senior Forecasters lead and coordinate staff efforts and provide direction, guidance, instruction, and assistance to the shift staff.”

Q&A with Phillip Manuel

What were your reasons for becoming a Forecaster?

Public service. I enjoy forewarning people about the weather, especially extreme weather. I also get an adrenalin rush during high impact weather events and it is important for me to predict when these events are going to occur.

Forecasting has always been a passion. As far back as I can remember, I have been captivated by the weather. As a child, I loved being outdoors and would spend countless hours staring at the sky. Thunderstorms were my favorite and I would risk life and limb for the thrill of being outside during the storm to watch the cloud formations, see the lightning, and hear the thunder.

Extreme weather such as hurricanes and the crippling ice storms from the 1970s had similar effects on my psyche. It was nothing unusual for these storms to knockout the power for weeks at a time, forcing my family to use oil lamps for lighting and wood stoves for heating and cooking.  This sort of living forced us to pay special attention to the weather. For whatever reason, I felt a need to warn my family and neighbors when these events were about to occur.  As a teenager I became obsessed watching weather reports on television and would then relay this information to others.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job as a Forecaster?

The biggest challenge is working rotating shifts. Demand for weather data, forecasts, and warnings is a “24/7” sort of business. The vigilance and situational awareness required to do the job is only effective if I can get enough sleep to remain alert.  There is no fun in forecasting if I can’t stay awake. The shifts and work deadlines are typically out-of-sync with the rest of the working world which means there are times I have to be awake when everybody else is sleeping.  In addition, in order to remain proficient and relevant as a Senior Forecaster, I need to work both day and night shifts in order to provide the best direction, guidance, and instruction to better serve the staff and external customers.

What is the most interesting part of your job as a Forecaster?

The daily interaction with people and the variety of forecast challenges.  The job never gets boring.

Being a forecaster is kind of like being an emergency room doctor, you are exposed to everything imaginable and every shift is different.  The weather is constantly changing, which keeps the job interesting. In addition, you get to interact with people that need help.  People need weather information in order to make decisions. Their level of need is different. This makes it interesting for me because I have to communicate my forecast in a way they can understand.

What is unique about your job as a Forecaster?

The cool thing about being a forecaster is that you can specialize in a particular interest or field of study.  Within each forecast field office there are approximately 10 forecasters. Each forecaster may specialize in a particular forecast interest, such as severe weather, marine weather, winter weather, radar, aviation, hydrology, etc.  You become the “focal point” or “program leader” within the office for that field of study.  The other forecasters within the office will then seek you for advice or training concerning your expertise.

I am the fire weather program leader for my office. This is unique for me because I interact with other partner agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service and similar land management agencies, supporting their need for weather forecasts to help them when suppressing wildfires or conducting prescribed burns. What is really unique about my job is I also serve as an Incident Meteorologist (IMET). I travel nationwide in support of Federal and State Incident Management Teams for incidents which may involve large wildfires, HazMat, or disaster cleanup. This requires that I keep a bag packed at home ready for travel at all times. When deployed I may remain away from home for weeks at a time.

Would you recommend being a Forecaster as a good job to pursue?

I highly recommend this position to anyone who likes the science of meteorology, loves to interact with people, and is open-minded to feedback, especially when your forecast does not go as planned. People are critical with respect to weather forecasts, and you must be willing to use this feedback to make the needed adjustments to improve your job performance.

Here is another way to look at it.  Making a good forecast is like a Field Goal kicker on a football team kicking the ball through the uprights (the fans cheer).  If you make a bad forecast, it’s like the same kicker missing the uprights.  Your job evaluation and satisfaction will become based on how consistent you are at getting the ball through the uprights (a good forecast), and especially when the game is on the line in order to win the game (a forecast warning which may save lives).

The GS-1340 seriesincludes positions that involve professional work in meteorology, the science concerned with the earth’s atmospheric envelope and its processes. The work includes basic and applied research into the conditions and phenomena of the atmosphere; the collection, analysis, evaluation, and interpretation of meteorological data to predict weather and determine climatological conditions for specific geographical areas; the development of new or the improvement of existing meteorological theory; and the development or improvement of meteorological methods, techniques, and instruments.

The federal government employs 2,966 meteorologistsof which 34 work overseas. The Department of Commerce is the largest employer with 2,558 followed by the Department of the Air Force with 1`51 and the Army with 96. About half of the cabinet level agencies employ small numbers of meteorologists along with several large independent agencies including 19 with NASA.

Positions in this occupation require full professional knowledge and application of meteorological methods, techniques, and theory.

Mary Beth Gerhardt is a meteorologist forecaster (GS-1340) with NWS and located at College Park, Maryland.

 

NOAA Mary Gerhardt

NOAA’s National Weather Service meteorologist Marybeth Gerhardt being interviewed about winter weather for CBS News affiliate from Pittsburgh. October 2015. (Photo: NOAA)

Q&A with Mary Beth Gerhardt

What were your reasons for becoming a Forecaster?

A sheer passion for the weather steered me towards a career in meteorology, and the idea of forecasting for an agency whose mission involves providing forecasts for the “protection of life and property” is what motivated me to specifically apply for a forecasting position with the National Weather Service.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job as a Forecaster?

Attempting to predict a chaotic atmosphere will always be my biggest challenge as a forecaster.  Although forecasting can be stressful due to the heavy responsibility of the National Weather Service mission, the satisfaction of delivering a spot on weather forecast that people received, understood and heeded, which saved lives, is a satisfying feeling.

What is the most interesting part of your job as a Forecaster?

Everything!  Honestly, everything from learning about the latest advances in the science and technology to actually forecasting a major winter storm and then watching it unfold across the nation continues to intrigue me.

What is unique about your job as a Forecaster?

The people I get to work with are probably the most unique aspect of my job as a forecaster.  We are such an eclectic group, and yet our shared fascination with the weather allows us to work extremely well together.

Would you recommend being a Forecaster as a good job to pursue?

I would recommend being a forecaster to anyone who is passionate about weather, but with the warning that NWS forecasters are often required to work weekends, holidays, and night shifts.  Also, because forecasting jobs are highly sought after even securing an entry level position can be extremely competitive.

Job Requirements of a Meteorologist (GS-1340)

  • Must be a U.S. citizen
  • $92,145.00 to $119,794.00 / Per Year
  • Degree in meteorology, atmospheric science, or other natural science major.
  • At least 24 semester hours in meteorology/atmospheric science.
  • There is a prerequisite or corequisite of calculus for course work in atmospheric dynamics and thermodynamics, physics, and differential equations.
  • For the GS-13 Grade level -you have to have least one year of specialized experience equivalent to the next lower grade/ band level (GS-12) that includes: performing a wide range of assignments in forecasting, or techniques development, or real-time support and monitoring of meteorological data and models; Knowledge of computer programming languages such as FORTRAN and C;  knowledge of a variety of UNIX and LINUX operating systems, and an understanding of supporting operational real-time data flow and data processing.

The federal meteorologist job occupation is both a greatly complex but very rewarding. You will get both real job satisfaction and be on the forefront of leading technology advancements.

Credits

  • Maureen O’Leary, NOAA Communications and External Affairs at the National Weather Service.
  • Photos by the National Weather Service.
  • National Weather Service website:Weather.gov

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The information provided may not cover all aspects of unique or special circumstances, federal and postal regulations, and programs are subject to change. Our articles and replies are time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic human resource guidance and factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM, the postal service or any federal entity. You should consult with school counselors, hiring agency personnel offices, and human resource professionals where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

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