Student Volunteer and Internship Opportunities

National Weather Service – Des Moines

There are many opportunities that exist at the National Weather Service for college students to gain valuable work experience, both as paid employees and as unpaid volunteers. In fact, many current NWS employees began their careers by having participated in such programs themselves while in school. These opportunities provide potential employees an early start to building a foundation within the field of meteorology and a step toward a successful NWS career. Many managers throughout the NWS look for recent graduates with actual NWS experience when hiring new employees. It is also a great way for recent graduates to receive positive recommendations to hiring managers by being able to list NWS personnel as references. 

Paid vs. Unpaid


Student Volunteer (unpaid)

The National Weather Service offers unpaid training opportunities for college students related to the participant’s academic field of study, usually meteorology or atmospheric science (hydrology may be an option, contact us for details). Students have an opportunity to explore their career options, learn about the National Weather Service, and to develop both professional and personal skills. A typical volunteership at the NWS in Des Moines follows a structured outline to introduce the student to warning and forecast operations, hydrology and data acquisition, and provides the student an opportunity to try their hand at aviation, short term and long term forecasting. Usually the student “works” at the forecast office one day per week for a period of 4 hours. The volunteership will last for one semester, with 1 to 2 positions available per semester. The final 2 to 3 weeks of the volunteership, the student will work 8 hours once per week. Independent study credit may be earned through an agreement between the NWS and the student’s university. Application deadlines for the spring semester is usually in late November/early December, while application deadlines for the summer and fall semesters will usually be in April.


The National Weather Service in Des Moines is looking for highly motivated self-starters who desire career experience to enhance their academic course of study.

  • Students must have completed "Introduction to Synoptic Meteorology-MTEOR 311" at Iowa State University (or equivalent at other universities) prior to a volunteer start date. However you may still apply while enrolled in MTEOR 311 (or the equivalent at another university). For example, a student taking MTEOR 311 in the fall semester may apply to be a volunteer in the spring semester because they will have the course completed by the volunteer start date which occurs most likely in January.
  • Proper casual-business attire
  • Conduct ones-self in a professional and respectful manner
  • Complete specified goals of both the school and the NWS
  • Students will not be paid for their time at the office
  • Please note if you are applying for Summer Semester, Fall Semester or Either One

Summer Semester and Fall Semester 2015 Application Deadline: Wednesday, April 15th. Please submit application materials via email to 

Students interested in applying for the student volunteer program must provide:

  • A resume listing your previous work experience, completed college coursework, status as a U.S. citizen, and any other relevant information such as computer and programming skills, significant class projects, volunteer activities, research experience, participation in student clubs, etc
  • A minimum one-page essay answering "Why do you want to make operational meteorology your career?'
  • A transcript from your current university (unofficial is acceptable)
  • Be prepared to participate in a possible short telephone or email interview

Once selected as a student volunteer, administrative paperwork is also required (this process usually takes around one month from when the paperwork is filled out, to when the student is able to begin volunteering). The paperwork includes: 

  • A Federal Government security check, including fingerprinting ($10 fingerprinting fee depending on location)
  • Waivers for Wage Claims and Compensation for Injuries
  • IT Security and Safety modules must be completed

Contact Melinda Beerends, Student Volunteer Program Leader, at if you are interested in being a student volunteer at NWS Des Moines.  


Pathways Student Employment Program (Formerly SCEP/STEP) (paid)

The most common form of paid employment opportunities for students in the NWS is through the newly developed Pathways Program (formerly Student Career Experience Program - SCEP and the Student Temporary Employment Program - STEP). The Pathways program is designed for both undergraduates and graduate students. This program offers participants formal periods of work experience directly related to their academic field of study. Participants in this program may be eligible for permanent employment without competition after successfully completing their education and work requirements. Guidelines and the number of openings are determined on a regional and national scale, and are subject to budgetary limitations. For information regarding the conversion of the SCEP/STEP program into the Pathways program click here. For more information, please check the links below. 

Normally, announcements for former SCEP/STEP openings come out in the late winter or spring. At this time we are unsure if the Pathways Program will follow the same timeline as the initial announcements for this new program were announced in October. Check the USAJobs website frequently for any updates or openings in the Pathways Program within the NWS. They will be listed under the GS-1399 Series and usually graded a 03/04. Melinda Beerends, Student Volunteer Program Leader at the NWS in Des Moines, also broadcasts information widely when announcements come out, typically forwarding them to ISU students and faculty and the Central Iowa NWA Chapter mailing list. Note: Student Employee selections are not made by the local forecast office, but rather by regional committees.

Additional information is available at the following links:


The NOAA Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship Program (paid)

Undergraduate students may apply for NOAA's The Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship program. Once a year NOAA solicits applications for a scholarship program in honor of retired South Carolina Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, who promoted oceanic and atmospheric research throughout his career.

Scholarship students will be eligible for awards that include academic assistance (up to a maximum of $8,000) for full-time study during the 9-month academic year; a 10-week, full-time internship position ($650/week) during the summer at a NOAA or partner facility; and, if reappointed, academic assistance (up to a maximum of $8,000) for full-time study during a second 9-month academic year. Travel expenses are provided to attend and participate in a mandatory orientation and conference. In addition, the scholarship student may receive a housing subsidy for scholars who do not reside at home during the summer internship. For more information on the Hollings Scholarship process please click here. For information on the application process, click here. The application period usually closes by the end of January. Additional information can also be found here.

Applications for the Hollings Scholarship Program are available online, by e-mail at, by telephone to 301-713-9437 x150, or by mail to:

NOAA Hollings Scholarship Program
1315 East-West Highway, Room 10703
Silver Spring, MD 20910


Permanent Employment with the NWS (Paid)

The Meteorologist positions at the NWS are graduated both in responsibility and pay. The entry level position is known as a Meteorologist Intern. At times, a new graduate may apply for the next level up which is the General Forecaster position, but most of these jobs are bid as "Status," which means you must already be within the agency to apply for the job. NWS jobs are on the General Schedule pay scale or GS scale and range from GS-5 to GS-15 depending on the job. Intern jobs are the lowest grades on the scale with a new graduate usually obtaining a Met. Intern position at the GS-5 grade. If you have a Master's Degree in Meteorology, you may be able to get an Met. Intern job at a higher grade such as a GS-7. Meteorology jobs are listed under what is called a series number which is 1340. Therefore if you are looking for NWS jobs on the USAjobs website you would want to search for 1340-GS5/7 NWS Met. Intern job openings as a new graduate. If you have never visited the USAjobs website, please visit the FAQ for first time visitors by clicking here

For more information, visit


More Information on all NWS Careers 











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