National Weather Service offices regularly provide opportunities for college students to gain valuable work experience, both as paid employees and as unpaid volunteers. A number of current NWS employees participated in such programs when they were students, and remain grateful for the experience. For this reason, we understand how beneficial such programs can be and are eager to return the favor!
Of course, the NWS benefits greatly from these programs as well. Not only do we gain additional help for a few months, but we also give potential future employees a running start toward a successful NWS career. When deciding which recent graduate to hire, a manager in the NWS places emphasis on actual NWS experience, and the positive recommendations that go with it!
Students may work either in a paid or unpaid capacity. However, the process of gaining a paid position is more formal, more competitive, and more limited in the number of positions, and typically requires a greater commitment from the student. Nevertheless, all paid and unpaid positions are invaluable experiences for students.
The most common form of paid employment for students at NWS Louisville is through the Student Career Experience Program (SCEP). Designed both for undergraduates and graduate students, SCEP offers participants formal periods of work experience directly related to their academic field of study. Students in this program may be eligible for permanent employment without subsequent competition after successfully completing their education and work requirements.
If you are interested in the National Weather Service's Student Career Experience Program, e-mail NWS.email@example.com for more information.
Note: SCEP selections are not made by the local forecast office, but rather by regional committees.
Another form of paid employment (and scholarship money) is offered through the NOAA Hollings Scholarship. 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. More information on this scholarship can be found at NOAA's Office of Education. Deadline for scholarship submission is June 15, 2010.
Students awarded this scholarship will be eligible for up to $8,000 of academic assistance per year for full-time study during their junior and senior years; a paid 10-week, full-time internship position during the summer at a NOAA facility ($650 per week); a housing subsidy for scholars who do not reside at home during the summer internship; and travel expenses to attend and participate in a mandatory orientation and conference.
Applications for the Hollings Scholarship Program are available online, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, 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
NWS Louisville also offers unpaid work experience through the Student Volunteer Service. This program offers work experience related to the participant’s academic field of study. Students have an opportunity to explore their career options and to develop both professional and personal skills.
Student volunteer selections are made locally at NWS Louisville, and are usually for volunteering during the summer, but can also be for other times of the year. Factors for selecting a student volunteer are less formal than for a paid position. These aspects may include:
Students do not have to be studying meteorology/atmospheric science in order to be considered for a volunteer position at NWS Louisville. We are also eager to host students with skills in Hydrology, Information Technology, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), or other related fields. We would be really eager to host students who have all of these skills!
We understand that student volunteers have many other commitments, including their academic work and perhaps actual paid employment. For this reason, we are flexible about the specific hours that a student works as a volunteer, though we ask that volunteers average at least 8 hours per week. They may work much more than this as well, if desired.
We recommend that students try to work at least part of their time during normal business hours, Monday through Friday. However, since many NWS employees work rotating shifts, students are encouraged to work a few shifts, as well, to obtain a better appreciation of life in the NWS, and to gain greater exposure to a wide variety of weather, work duties, and different forecaster experiences.
Students will spend their work time on a variety of activities. This may include shadowing forecasters and other staff members, understanding and participating in NWS forecast and warning operations, editing or writing content for office webpages, working on various projects, visiting our radar site, participating in storm damage surveys as needed, receiving science training, and various other tasks.
Students may wish to check with their college or university about earning credit toward graduation for their time spent volunteering. Specific policies vary by institution. For example, some schools may require the student to work more than 8 hours per week in order to earn credit. Otherwise, it does not matter to the NWS whether a student is volunteering for credit or not.
The National Weather Service, as an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC), is bound by the laws, policies, guidelines, and procedures regarding voluntary and uncompensated services as summarized in DOC Administrative Order 202-311. This is important information for potential volunteers. For example, Section 2.03.d in this document explains the citizenship requirements for volunteers. Also note the Student Volunteer Agreement at the bottom of that document. The first point requires that: "The student is enrolled at least half time at an accredited school, is recommended by the school, and is acceptable to the agency."
Contact John Gordon, Meteorologist-in-Charge, at John.Gordon@noaa.gov if you are interested in being a student volunteer at NWS Louisville. The best time to do this is early in the semester prior to the one in which you hope to volunteer (for summer volunteers this would mean January-February). Prepare and send a resume listing your previous work experience, your completed coursework, status as a U.S. citizen, and any other relevant information such as computer and programming skills, significant class projects, volunteer and leadership activities, research experience, participation in student clubs, professor references, etc. You may be asked to visit our office or have an interview before acceptance as a volunteer.