From eighth-grade science class to TV news meteorologist

How Did You Get Here?

Profiles of working professionals share how their education prepared them for their careers

Meteorologist Ryan Johnson spoke with my529 about how math, science, and a passion for weather can become an engaging career.

Johnson, a native of the Twin Cities, currently broadcasts weather on weekends as a meteorologist at Fox 21 News TV in Duluth, Minnesota. He earned a Bachelor of Science in meteorology at St. Cloud State University with a minor in Creative Writing.

my529: What classes and/or activities in school made you interested in pursuing meteorology as a career?

The most influential class for me was my eighth-grade earth sciences class. Weather was one of the subjects we covered, and it strengthened my interest in meteorology.

How did your college education prepare you for your career?

First, as a broadcast meteorologist, it’s important to have a solid understanding of meteorology. This is why most meteorologist jobs in broadcasting require a meteorology degree. Forecasting is an important part of the degree program and has been necessary to be successful in my career.

Second, the opportunity to practice at our college TV station made a huge difference. In the case of a broadcast meteorologist, the more you can practice at a green screen, the better!

What made you interested in studying—and sharing—the weather?

When I was a child, I was terrified of severe weather. One of our local news stations did a story about a tornado that went through the Twin Cities (in 1986). There was a lot of footage of the meteorologist cutting into programming to keep people up to date with that dangerous situation. I became obsessed with tornadoes. I knew then that I wanted to be the person on the TV keeping people safe.

What advice do you have for K-12 students interested in science and/or meteorology?

Know and practice your math! Math and physics are the most important things to know. Meteorology is a real science, which is complicated to understand and forecast. Also, take as many opportunities to speak in front of people that you can.

It doesn’t need to be about weather, but speech classes will help, as well as taking seriously your opportunities to present projects in school. It feels different in front of the camera versus in front of a group of people, but there are many opportunities to speak to school groups and at other events. It is important to be comfortable with groups and people.

How do you educate people about the weather/weather-related information? Are you required to have a work-related social media presence?

There are opportunities to share brief information while I am presenting my show, but it is also important to post information on social media. This is required to some extent. … There are also opportunities to go into the community and teach about weather safety and weather careers.

What’s your “favorite” weather to talk about?

Hands down, tornadoes! They are fascinating and dangerous.

What do you love about what you do?

I love the weather! I love being able to study it, and I love being able to share it. I do enjoy the public aspect of it. It’s fun to meet people … and know, too, that I am helping people know the weather and hopefully make choices to stay safe.

Relevant School Activities

  • Job shadow with professional meteorologist
  • College internships with TV meteorologist, radio station forecast company
  • Volunteer for local SKYWARN Storm Spotter program through the National Weather Service—Johnson still volunteers for this program
  • Broadcast experience at university TV station
  • Science—specifically earth science and physics—math and speech classes