[Please note, this post is a little old. For more recent salary data, check out wxsurvey.com. -Dan]
It’s a popular question among college broadcast meteorologists. How much money can I expect to make? With college costs as high as they are it’s worth seeing what kind of return on investment broadcast mets have down the road. As we’ve talked about before, it’s not the kind of job you should get into if you want to make a lot of money. However, if you are really good at it and can handle the big climb, there are jobs out there in this business that do very well.
The data that we have to take a look at is from wxsurvey.com. Every year, broadcast meteorologists who attend the American Meteorological Society Annual Broadcast Conference are asked to fill out a confidential survey. Mark Reynolds takes the time to go over all this data every year and compiles it for his site. He asks more than just salary questions and provides a nice look inside the broadcast weather industry each year. If you haven’t been over to check out his site before, I highly recommend that you do.
Before we take a look at the numbers, it’s important to point out that there are a lot of variables involved in what a broadcast meteorologist gets paid. Markets are a big factor. The larger the size of the DMA, the more potential viewers a station has and more money a station can charge for advertising. It’s obvious that at morning met in Boston is going to get paid more than a morning met in Bangor, Maine, even if the jobs are reasonably the same. Experience is also a big factor. A weekend met who has worked in the market for ten years will likely get paid more than a met in the same spot just coming out of college. A station running first in the ratings might also pay better than a station running dead last. Even when you consider these factors there are always exceptions and you’ll see mets ranging everywhere on the pay spectrum.
Just starting out of college, you are most likely to land a job in a weekend spot in a market 80 or higher (most likely 100 or higher). Of the broadcast meteorologists that were surveyed at the AMS conference, here is what the results show:
From what I’ve seen from my experience, I think the numbers are pretty accurate. Keep in mind that these are the results from mets who got to go to the conference. If you are just starting out, you are likely back at the station filling in. Most broadcast meteorologists starting out can expect to make about $20,000 to $25,000 in their first few years. It’s a little tough to take for some new mets who have stars in their eyes and dreams of fame and money. Sure you’ll likely get recognized in Wal-Mart, but you’ll be still buying the same case of mac and cheese as everyone else. It’s starts this way for just about everyone, and for some it gets better.
If you stay with it and get a few years of experience under your belt, you’ll get the opportunity to move up either in position or market size. That is when you’ll start to see your paychecks increase. The trouble is that the number of higher pay spots is a lot less than the number of lower paying spots at the bottom. Everyone wants them, and it might even been hard staying there once you get there. You’ll also likely have to move up from market to market for the next several years, which can be stressful, especially if you have a spouse and family. They are all things you’ll want to keep in mind. But, if you do happen to get a morning spot in a top 80 market, here is an idea of what you might be able to make:
The numbers start to look a little better here. Chances are though that you won’t break $50,000 unless you are in a market 60 or lower, and you also won’t top $100,000 until you are in a top 30 market. Keep in mind that morning mets work the worst hours of anyone, getting up around 2am in the morning and working just past noon on most days.
Eventually if you are good enough and if you stick around long enough, you’ll get a shot to be a chief meteorologist. According to the survey, this is where the money is. Even in the medium markets, it seems that stations are willing to spend the money for mets who are great at what they do. Here is what the survey shows:
It’s nice to think about, but the majority of broadcast meteorologists that enter the field as college graduates will never become a chief in a top 30 market. There just aren’t enough spots. It resembles professional sports in some ways. There are a fixed number of teams with a fixed number of players with many, many more looking to play. Most of us spend our careers in the minor leagues.
We all want to make a comfortable living, but I encourage students not to get into broadcast meteorology for the money. There are plenty of other careers to consider, even within the meteorology field that will yield a better paycheck, earlier in your career. Special thanks to Mark Reynolds for putting these numbers together, year after year. I think it helps entry-level broadcast meteorologists get a taste of what the first few years of their careers might be like. Check out his site wxsurvey.com, for a lot more information from his annual survey.