So, you want to live and work in Antarctica? Sounds good! I’ve lived and worked in Antarctica a number of times (2012-13 South Pole and 2014-15 WAIS Divide), and have fielded countless questions about the best way to get down to the ice. Getting my position down on the ice was no easy task, and took a solid four and a half years of effort. Here’s how I did it, along with all of the resources I used. My first bit of advice would be to read through the complete documentation of my experiences, which will give you a good idea of what it takes, and will answer a lot of your questions. The best starting point for reading everything I’ve written about Antarctica is at https://JeffreyDonenfeld.com/Antarctica
How I got a job in Antarctica.
It wasn’t easy, and took me many years of effort. However in the end, every bit of time and energy I put into it was absolutely worth it. Here’s my personal story: Getting A Job In Antarctica: My Long Journey 2009-2012
Getting my job the second year was difficult as well – I managed to transitition from a support worker to working directly on a funded science team. Here’s the details of that transition: I’m Going Back To Antarctica To Work At The West Antarctic Ice Sheet Field Camp
What it’s like to work there.
Now that you know what I went through to get a job at the South Pole, here’s my incredible experience actually living and working on the ice. It really was amazing, and I did my best to document every aspect of it, including travel to and from.
Where to find job postings.
Jobs on the ice are run by a number of different organizations, including organizations on both the science side and the support side. Here are a few of the larger hiring organizations. Note that this is a shortened copy of Bill Spindler’s list. This is the version of the list updated by Bill on 20131015. Cool Antarctica also has a job resource page. I’d advise you to Google these companies, and then apply for the jobs you’re qualified for. Lots and lots and lots of people apply for these positions every year – so make sure your resume is specifically tailored to the job you’re applying for, and that you your skills and experience exactly aligns with the skills and experience listed for the job.
- Lockheed Martin (L-M)
Program Management and Integration, Site Management, Functional Area Leadership, Technical Management & Administration (TM&A), Science and Technical Project Services (S&TPS), Information Technology and Communications (IT&C), Infrastructure and Operations (I&O) and Transportation and Logistics (T&L):
- PAE Government Services, Inc (PAE):
Infrastructure and Operations (I&O), Transportation and Logistics (T&L):
- GHG Corporation
On-site Information Technology and Communications (IT&C):
- University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB):
- Best Recycling:
Waste Management and Recycling:
- Gana-A’Yoo Services Corporation (GSC, partnered with ESS Support Services):
Food Services, Housing & Janitorial Services, Retail & Postal Services
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some of the questions I’ve been asked about working in Antarctica. Hopefully these will help you too.
Non-job related, but interesting nonetheless: Frequently Asked Questions about life at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, Antarctica
Frequently Asked Questions About Getting A Job In Antarctica:
I understand from your writings that March is the best time to apply. Are there any other hot spots for applications during the year?
Jan-March is the best time to apply for Summer positions, however jobs are posted throughout the year. It’s best to keep checking back on a regular basis.
Is applying in bulk really the best strategy?
Applying in bulk is not the best strategy if you have indispensable and unique qualifications and experience for one particular job.
Also, I have served in the Greek Airforce, in the airport defense unit for 18 months and underwent significant amount of warfare and survival training. Do you think that is worth mentioning or will it not be advantageous (since it was not the US army)?
If your military experience directly relates to the job you will be doing on the ice, then it’s totally worth mentioning. However, extraneous qualifications are not looked at very much. So many people apply for each job, they’re looking for solid, reliable, focused people who will be both a perfect fit for their job, as well as the culture.
I am still eligible to work in Antarctica as a US citizen (dual nationality actually) regardless of having served for the Greek Airforce but quiet unsure if I could turn that to my advantage.
I’m not an American Citizen – can I still work in Antarctica?
Yep. There are lots of other Antarctic stations run by other countries’ Antarctic program. Here’s a big list of other bases and programs to whom you might want to reach out: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Research_stations_in_Antarctica
Also, consider joining a science team from your country. McMurdo, South Pole, and other spots around Antarctica host science groups from all over the world.
Is there anything you’re willing to share with a girl who’s willing to work her fingers to the bone, to help with anything anyone needs, just so she can get there and see how audacious a soul has to be to cope with everything Antarctica can throw at it?
My main advice to you would be to hang in there, and keep trying. It’s very very very difficult to make it work, but you can do it if you really try. Working in Antarctica is not meant to give you a travel or tourism experience. It’s mean to WORK to support the operations of the program. Don’t expect special concessions to give you tourist comforts – expect to work your ass off.
Is there anything or anyone you think I should know or talk to?
Definitely look at my posted job board links, and get in touch with the hiring manager who is handling the positions you are best suited for and applying to. Unfortunately I can’t pass along individual contacts, but you should be able to establish contacts with enough drive and determination.
How you manage to pay for you travels?
I actually worked at a job when I was there, so I was paid to be there. This is a JOB, and not just a tourism trip. Sure, Antarctica is unbelievably beautiful, and I had a great time working there, but at the core of it, I was there to put in genuine work and contribute to the program. I know that totally sounds like a line, but it’s true – I really love supporting the program, and doing my part.
I read your article and I have a couple of questions about what exactly helped your resume stand out from the others. What did they tell you they were looking for in candidates?
They’re looking for resumes that exactly match the job requirements – sometimes an automated system is used that screens out ones that don’t have the right keywords, language etc. So be sure your resume matches exactly what they’re looking for.
I read your blog and your diligence inspires me and would inspire anyone who reads it. I have recently applied with PAE for a few positions in Antarctica. Any advise?
Make sure you have all of the qualifications for the job listed in the job description, be motivated to do the actual job, and followup once you’ve submitted your application. Also make sure your resume is easily scannable and clearly conveys that you meet or exceed every single job requirement.
I have been trying to get a job with PAE for project coordinating in Antarctica because I like to travel. Do you have any advice? I been applying thru online sites , but I would like to ask u since you have the inside knowledge.
First thing, don’t be looking to work on the ice just because you like to travel. You’re applying to do a very important job in a very remote and harsh place. Apply because you’re genuinely interested in supporting operations on the ice, are specifically and highly qualified for your particular job, and are interested in making a contribution to the community and program. If you’re simply going for a travel experience, there are lots of ways to get to Antarctica without a job.. detailed at the bottom of this post.
For a while I have been very interested in getting a job in an area such as a field camp similar to the one you worked at. I am currently 16 years old and a sophomore in high school. What can I do now to increase my likelihood of being given a job?
Pick a job role or field you’re interested in, and focus on building the skills necessary for that. How about becoming a real life scientist and doing scientific research on the ice!
I`m a soon to be collage graduate with a degree in Electrical Engineering and the idea of working in that icy rock always fascinated me but, seeing how you tried for 4 years before succeeding really but things in perspective, Mr.Jeffrey Donenfeld be honest with me does a 23 year old with no job experience has chance to work in Antarctica???
Yes, if you develop the necessary job skills for the particular job you want to do.
I am desperately trying to acquire a job in Antarctica. I have been trying for 2 years now. I have a BS degree in Biology. I have vast warehouse, hospitality, and management experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated and compensated.
Since you’re already in a science field, I suggest you stay on that path and work on a science project that deploys to the ice. There’s a huge amount of biology and life science study happening in Antarctica, and this would be a great way to further your career as a Biologist, and contribute to the NSF’s work in Antarctica.
If you’d rather pay your way to the ice.
If you’re not looking to put in the required effort to land an actual job there, don’t have the time, or skills, you still have options on getting to the ice. I’d highly recommend looking at Adventure Network International. They run a couple very high quality tours to Antarctica, both to the coast as well as to the South Pole. During my time working at the south pole station, I had the opportunity to give station tours to a bunch of the ALE groups, as well as hang out at their camp. Writeups on tourists and tourism at the south pole:
- Adventure Network International Sets Up Camp At The South Pole
- Tourists at the South Pole
- Welcoming Skiers to the South Pole
I see every message in my email, and love hearing stories. Last season when I was at McMurdo, I ran into a bunch of blog readers who had been successful in getting jobs on the ice – that was so cool! I’d very much appreciate it if you’d read through everything I’ve posted online before contacting me with questions. I love answering new, well-researched questions, but it’s kind of insulting to receive questions that I’ve already answered online. So take a look at https://JeffreyDonenfeld.com/Antarctica and click through all of my Antarctica content first.
BEST OF LUCK, hope to see you on the ice soon!