The people who study climate are called climatologists.
No matter your stance on global warming, it’s hard to deny that the climate keeps on changing. Some years are warmer, while others are wetter – and it varies around the globe. Predicting what may come with the ever-shifting climate is often left to climatologists, atmospheric scientists who study the historical patterns of the earth’s weather. Climatologists typically require a bachelor's degree, but those in research often need master’s or doctorate degrees.
In 2011, half of all atmospheric scientists earned at least $89,790 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10 percent of earners earned $136,120 or more, while the bottom 10 percent earned less than $47,950 annually. None of these figures, however, accounts for specialty, such as climatology.
Brigham Young University estimates the median wage for climatologists at closer to $87,780 a year – comparable pay to atmospheric scientists as a whole. But not all climatology specialists can expect this salary. Earnings can range anywhere from $45,000 to $132,000 a year, depending on education, years of experience and choice of employer.
As with any career, location affects your earnings and employment prospects. Climatologists and other atmospheric scientists should see the most opportunities in California, but not the highest salaries. Those working in Maryland made the most in 2011, averaging $112,470 a year. Those working in New Jersey were a close second at just over $110,000 a year. Illinois-based climatologists and other atmospheric scientists were the third-highest earners, averaging almost $104,000 annually. In Connecticut, though, the average salary was just $61,180.
Through 2020, climatologists and all other atmospheric scientists can expect an employment growth of just 11 percent, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is slower than the national average for all U.S. occupations – a projected 14 percent. Being a relatively small field, the 11 percent growth rate should work out to about 1,000 new jobs. For recent graduates, this could be troubling, as there are now fewer jobs than qualified candidates. Holding a graduate degree in climatology or meteorology should improve job prospects.