Want to Work in Antarctica? How to Get Paid to Live on the Coldest Continent
Missed the application deadline for the job dodging penguins in Antarctica? Don't worry, because there are plenty of other opportunities to work in Antarctica this austral summer (the time known to those of us in the northern hemisphere as winter).
The British Antarctic Survey and the U.S. Antarctic Program are just two of the government programs that send employees to “The Ice” each year to conduct research and support the various programs and projects on the bottom of the world. We've talked about how to land seasonal jobs before and, while some of these opportunities are seasonal in nature, some are longer-term, full-time positions.
Here are several open jobs in Antarctica, as well as information on how to seek out even more opportunities on The Ice.
U.S. Antarctic Program Jobs
The U.S. Antarctic Program is a great source of jobs, as they put over 3,000 people on The Ice each year. Most employees are hired as support personnel through one of several main companies:
This contractor primarily hires people for McMurdo, Palmer and South Pole stations. They’re recruiting for a wide variety of positions, and salaries are similar to the same positions in the U.S. -- though you’ll also get transportation to Antarctica and room and board (in shared dorms with cafeteria-style meals) during your work contract.
Lockheed Martin primarily handles the management and science support hiring, including facilities engineers, laboratory assistants, database administrators, project managers, winter site managers and more.
This company hires for station services, including bakers, dining attendants, hairstylists, janitors, cooks and retail clerks. Here’s a full list of their jobs in Antarctica, including roles from lead accounting clerk to postmaster. They’re looking for “flexible multi-taskers” who must “thrive in remote sites and who can pass a Homeland Security background review.”
This company provides IT and communications services, hiring workers in positions ranging from IT supervisor to satellite-commucations engineer to antenna rigger. Though they don't have any Antarctica postings listed as I write this, keep an eye out for openings on their website.
PAE hires logistics and operations staff for McMurdo, Palmer and South Pole stations including firefighters, facility engineers, maintenance, linemen, welders and other skilled employees. Check out the numerous open positions on their website including water plant operator, power plant mechanic, safety engineer and more.
This company provides waste management services, including recycling and hazardous waste removal, to the Antarctic research stations. They hire staff to handle those needs, and post open positions on their website.
If you’re trained as a health professional, you have plenty of opportunities to work in Antarctica. UTMB provides medical services, including nurses, physicians, radiology technicians and pharmacy technicians.
As I write this, they’re seeking a variety of medical professionals for McMurdo station, including a dentist, physician and radiology technician. They are also looking for a practitioner for field camps, and physicians for a couple of other stations.
British Antarctic Survey Jobs
To apply for a position with the British Antarctic Survey, you must be eligible to live and work in the U.K. This typically means you should be a resident of the U.K. or a citizen of one of the European Economic Area countries or Switzerland, but the BAS may consider non-citizens if there are no other qualified applicants (more information here).
Winter Communications Manager: $36,000 Salary
The 18-month, fixed-term winter communications manager is responsible for maintaining communications and IT systems in the Antarctic. In this role, you’d make sure communications are working correctly between the various Antarctic operations, including the bases, ships, field parties, aircraft and the Cambridge office.
Duties include the operation, maintenance and servicing of a wide variety of equipment (including radios, phones, computers, telephone systems and more); maintaining computer hardware and software; providing technical support; and maintaining the email system. The winter communications manager must also oversee and complete any required installations, as well as train staff on how to use the equipment and perform many other tasks.
Selected applicants live and work at two remote Antarctic stations. Rothera Research Station is on 87-mile long Adelaide Island, located 1,100 miles south of the Falkland Islands and covered in heavily glaciated mountains. The station is open year-round, and is accessible by both plane and ship. During peak season it hosts about 100 people, and during the April-October winter season, a skeleton staff of 22 stays on. This is the major logistical center for British Antarctic field science.
Halley Research Station is a unique relocatable research station composed of several modules, including areas for dining, recreation, labs, offices and other key facilities. The station monitors atmospheric conditions and weather out in space. In winter, 16 people live there and during the austral summer, 70 make it their home -- so you’d better be alright with getting to know a small group of people very well.
How much can you make? This position offers a starting salary of £23,937 (about $36,000) per year, with a 10% bonus after completing the contract. All training, tools, equipment and Antarctic accommodations are provided.
Applications are March 22. Here’s where to apply.
Mobile Plant Technician: $36,000 Salary
You have to be handy for this job, as duties include repairing and servicing both vehicles and the mobile plant and making sure everything is kept in safe working condition. You’ll also have to manage snow clearance and station maintenance, as well as maintain an adequate inventory of spare parts.
The mobile plant technician position is an 18-month fixed term appointment in Cambridge and Antarctica. Plant technicians are responsible for maintaining equipment that supports the scientific research, including snowmobiles, tractors, tracked cranes, bulldozers and sno-cats. If you’ve got experience keeping farm equipment or heavy machinery in good running order and a certification in mechanical trades, you might be a good fit for this job.
How much can you make? This position offers a starting salary of £23,937 (about $36,000) per year, with a 10% bonus after completing the contract and a raise after each year of service. All training, tools, equipment, winter clothing and Antarctic accommodations are provided.
Marine Assistant: $36,000 Salary
Love biology, science and diving? This might be the role for you.
The British Antarctic Survey is seeking a marine assistant to run biological and oceanography programs, including maintaining chemistry labs, sampling seawater, monitoring biological data, observing ice, trapping sediment and collecting samples for scientists.
You’ll also be recording census data on marine mammals and seabirds, and performing biological monitoring by SCUBA diving and taking care of aquariums. (You read that right: You’d be SCUBA diving in Antarctica.)
To apply, you should have a degree in marine science as well as an appropriate diving certification (HSE IV or Advanced European Scientific Diver, or the sport equivalent, Rescue Diver).
How much can you make? Your salary would start at £23,937 (about $36,000) per year, with an increase after a year and a 10 percent bonus after completing the 18-month contract. All training, tools, equipment, work clothing and Antarctic accommodations are provided.
Your Turn: Would you apply to any of these jobs in Antarctica? Or would you not want to live on The Ice for that long?
Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.