National Weather Service offices regularly provide opportunities for college students to gain valuable work experience, both as paid employees and as unpaid volunteers. Many NWS employees participated in such programs themselves when they were students and remain grateful for the experience. For this reason, they understand how beneficial such programs can be, and they are eager to return the favor. This is true even if a student ends up not working for the National Weather Service.
Of course, the NWS benefits greatly from these programs as well. Not only do we gain a little extra 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 often would like to select someone who has actual NWS experience -- and the positive recommendations to go with it!
One form of paid employment (and scholarship money!) is offered through the NOAA Hollings Scholarship. This scholarship program was established in honor of retired South Carolina Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, who promoted oceanic and atmospheric research throughout his career. NOAA solicits applications for this program once per year, usually between September and January. Application materials and the most current deadlines are available here.
Scholarship students 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 StudentScholarshipPrograms@noaa.gov, by telephone to 301-713-9437 x150, or by mail to:
NOAA Hollings Scholarship Program
Attn: Student Scholarship Team
1315 East-West Highway, Room 10734
Silver Spring, MD 20910-6223
Note: Although selections for the Hollings Scholarship are not made by the local forecast office, we can serve as a host office for students who have already been accepted into the program and are seeking a summer internship. Staff members occasionally list potential summer internship projects in the SSIO database, and Hollings Scholarship students may also directly contact potential mentors at WFO St. Louis to discuss creating a project based on mutual interests.
NWS St. Louis also offers an unpaid work experience through the Student Volunteer Program. 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 for each semester are made locally at NWS St. Louis. Factors for selection as a student volunteer are less formal than for a paid position. These factors may include:
Students don’t have to be studying meteorology in order to be considered for a volunteer position at NWS St. Louis. We are also eager to host students with skills in Hydrology, Information Technology, Geographic Information Systems, or other related fields.
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. We ask that student volunteers average at least 8 hours per week during the semester (fall/spring terms) or 20 hours per week during the summer.
We also recommend that students try to work at least part of their time during normal business hours, Monday through Friday. This gives the student greater exposure to a wider variety of weather and potentially allows the student to interact with a greater number of forecasters. A student will spend their work time on a variety of activities. Especially at first, some of the time will be spent shadowing forecasters and other staff members. Eventually, the student will work on specific local office projects. Here are a few examples of projects that student volunteers have worked on in the past:
The projects vary widely from year to year based on office needs and which staff members are available to mentor students.
Students may wish to check with their college or university about earning credit toward graduation for the time they spend 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 United States 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: "If an agency may not hire citizens of a particular country, citizens of that country may not serve as student 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". College students who are in their senior year and wish to volunteer over the summer after graduation must be enrolled at least half time during the semesters immediately before and after the volunteering period. For most college seniors, this means that they must already have been accepted into a graduate program for the upcoming fall semester by the time they begin volunteering at WFO LSX in May/June. In the rare event that a student is selected as a summer volunteer but later discovers that he/she will not be enrolled for the upcoming fall, the student would not be allowed to continue volunteering.
If you are interested in being a student volunteer at NWS St. Louis, you must fill out an application (summer).
The application period for summer 2015 is now open. Applications are due by 11:59 pm CST on February 28th, 2015.