Climatologists, also called climate scientists, work to understand how Earth's climate is changing. They also study what effects these changes may have and how human beings can slow the process of climate change. A career as a climatologist typically requires a master's degree in atmospheric science, though individuals seeking academic research positions may need a PhD.
National Average Salary
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies climatologists as atmospheric scientists. As of 2012, atmospheric scientists reported an average annual salary of $90,010. Half of all atmospheric scientists working in the United States reported salaries ranging from $64,870 to $110,220 per year. The highest-paid 10 percent of atmospheric scientists reportedly made $134,730 or more per year.
Pay by Employment Sector
According to the BLS, climatologists and other atmospheric scientists employed in research positions at colleges and universities earned an average of $87,970 per year. Those employed by private research and development firms reported an average salary of $96,460 per year. The federal government was the largest single employer of atmospheric scientists, and paid a wage comparable to the private sector, an average of $96,990 per year.
Pay by Region
In general, atmospheric scientists working in the West and Northeast tended to make the most, as of 2012. New Jersey reported the highest average salary of any state for this occupation, $111,120 per year, followed by Colorado at $103,630 per year. Other high-paying states for this occupation included California at $98,450, Missouri at $98,420 and Oregon at $97,850. Among metropolitan areas, the highest income in the country was reported in the Baltimore-Towson section of Maryland, where atmospheric scientists averaged $130,600 per year. New Hampshire reported the lowest average state salary for this occupation, $58,150.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, aspiring climatologists should expect strong competition for jobs between 2010 and 2020. Jobs for atmospheric scientists are expected to increase at a rate of 11 percent during this period, leading to only 1,000 new positions -- many of them for meteorologists. This rate of growth is somewhat low, as the bureau expects the American economy to add jobs at an average rate of 14 percent during the period. Competition is strong for research positions at colleges and universities, and government jobs are expected to be available only when current workers retire.
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