Educational Backgrounds of TV Meteorologists (210)

Thomas A. Green, Jr., NWS Pittsburgh, Moon Township, PA

Carl J. Schreck III, North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies (NCICS), North Carolina State University

Nathan S. Johnson, Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University

Sonya Stevens Heath, WCIV-TV



Successful television weathercasters have a wide range of talents. Perhaps most critical to their careers is the ability to communicate the forecast to a diverse audience.  Their knowledge of the science can be just as important, especially during severe weather events when the public turns to these trusted sources. In the early days of television, most weathercasters lacked formal training in meteorology and relied instead on forecasts from other sources. Over the decades, degreed meteorologists became more common. A third category has recently emerged: people with certificates in broadcast meteorology from Mississippi State University. This certification, and the related broadcast meteorology degrees, provides on-air personalities with a basic understanding of meteorology but without requiring the advanced calculus, differential equations, and dynamics that can be challenging to many students.

This study conducts a unique survey of TV weathercasters using the educational history listed on their station's website or LinkedIn. The backgrounds of 421 weathercasters were examined with the equivalent of a 94% response rate. The sample was selected from five collections of markets ranging from the top five to the bottom 26. Overall, 21% had a broadcast meteorology degree or certification from Mississippi State, 64% had a traditional meteorology degree from Mississippi State or another institution, 2% minored in meteorology or had military training, and 12% listed no or a partial educational background in the field. This study examined these fractions for various subsets of weathercasters and found statistically significant variations by market size, region, ownership group, and gender.