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There are many opportunities that exist at the National Weather Service for 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 to network with NWS employees and build references for future employment.

The National Weather Service in La Crosse offers unpaid training opportunities during the summer months for college students majoring in meteorology as well as information technology. Students have an opportunity to explore their career options, learn about the National Weather Service, and develop both professional and personal skills. The volunteer program introduces students to warning and forecast operations, hydrology, data acquisition, aviation and fire weather, research meteorology, graphics production, and decision support services. The application process is competitive and applicants are expected to meet eligibility requirements prior to beginning their volunteer work.

Students interested in applying for our volunteer program should fill out an Application.
For the summer of 2024, the NWS La Crosse will be hosting up to 2 student volunteers.

Important Dates

Application Deadline: March 15, 2024
Applicants Notified of Selection: Early April 2024
Selectee Security Background Check: April - May 2024
Volunteer Period: June 1 - August 10, 2024; 4 to 8 hours per week


Meteorology/Atmospheric Science Students: Must have at least taken an introductory meteorology course in college. Preferably the applicant would have taken at least one semester of their core Meteorology courses. An unofficial copy of your college transcript showing enrollment and a meteorology program professor/instructor contact will also need to be provided.

Information Technology Students: Must be in at least year two of your college education. An unofficial copy of your college transcript showing enrollment and an I.T. program professor/instructor contact will also need to be provided.

All Selectees: Will be subject to background security checks, which includes fingerprinting. This process takes 6-8 weeks and will require you to take actions to fulfill the requirements. Once selected, volunteers are expected to wear proper business casual attire and conduct themselves in a professional and respectful manner.

Independent study credit may be earned through an agreement between the NWS and the student’s university.


Job shadow opportunities exist for students of all grade levels. These shadows typically last 2 to 4 hours and allow students to view the forecast creation process and discuss career opportunities with office personnel.

If you are a student interested in a job shadow opportunity, send us an email for more information.


NWS employee working at a computerThe most common form of paid employment opportunities for students in the NWS is through the Pathways Program. This program is designed for both undergraduates and graduate students and offers participants formal periods of work experience directly related to their academic field of study. Participants 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.

There is no set schedule for the announcement of NWS Pathways openings at this time. Therefore 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 hired at the GS-03/04 pay scale.

Application Guidelines (Note: Official guidelines can be found in each job announcement.)

  • 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 transcript from your current university (unofficial is acceptable)
  • Proof of Enrollment from your university
  • Proof of accomplishments/questionnaire answers must be included within your application/resume
  • Availability to work at the location in which you are applying

Additional information is available at the USAJobs Pathways page


Undergraduate students in their sophomore year may apply for the NOAA's Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship, named in honor of retired South Carolina Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, who promoted oceanic and atmospheric research throughout his career.

Scholarship recipients will be eligible for academic assistance (up to a maximum of $9,500/year for 2 years) for full-time study during the 9-month academic year and a 10-week, full-time internship position ($700/week plus a housing stipend) during the summer at a NOAA facility. The internship between the first and second years of the award provides one with "hands-on"/practical educational training experience during which they work with NOAA scientists and aid in ongoing research. The scholarship includes travel funds to participate in an orientation and conference in Silver Spring, MD where students present their research work. The application period usually begins in September and closes by the end of January.


NWS group visits a local hydro damInterested in working at a weather forecast office? Our office employs not only meteorologists, but a hydrologist, IT/electronics support personnel, and an administrative assistant. Entry level meteorologists must have at least a Bachelor's degree in meteorology/atmospheric sciences. Work experience that showcases leadership, creativity, and problem solving skills will further increase your chances of gaining employment in the agency. Meteorologists typically enter the agency at the GS-5 or 7 pay scale, possibly a GS-9 (dependent on previous job experience, education level, and/or being an NWS Pathways student/volunteer), but quickly advance up to a GS-12 pay level within 3 to 4 years. Federal employment comes with many perks, including paid leave, great health benefits, and retirement savings plans. You must apply to any NWS openings through USAJobs. Please read through the application requirements carefully!

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