Find work on the ‘ice’

Consider a gap year in Antarctica

Find work on the ‘ice’

Are you adventurous and interested in seeing the world? Looking for ideas for a gap year? Or do you need a part-time job to help save money for college? Contract over-seas jobs conducting scientific research are a great idea to get paid and gain an intriguing addition to your resume. 


Antarctica is the coldest, driest, windiest place on Earth. Yet it is also one of the most pristine, making it ideal for scientific research. The National Science Foundation (NSF) manages the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) by funding hundreds of scientists to conduct research throughout the continent. Everything from atmospheric studies and astrophysics to glaciology and global climate change are studied there. That’s why the program needs hundreds of contract workers to provide logistical support for scientists. Sample jobs include housekeeping, electricians and pilots.


Who can go?

You have to be 18 or older to apply. If qualified, you must then pass physical and dental exams, as well as clear a drug test and a background check. Positions are mainly filled between March and August.Living thereThere are three permanent U.S. stations in Antarctica, as well as numerous remote field camps and two research ships, The Polar Sea and the Polar Star. The largest station, McMurdo, is located under New Zealand.


Working in Antarctica can be addictive

Some people make “the ice” their life-long career. Nancy Farrell, a 17-year veteran, says she keeps coming back because she “really liked what she was doing.” As the work order supervisor for the USAP, she spends half of her time actually on the “ice,” and the other half in Colorado, working for Raytheon, which specializes in defense, homeland security and other government markets throughout the world. Farrell says she “liked all the unique people she comes in contact with every year.”


Work week and recreation

Employees work a minimum of 54 hours weekly (nine hour days, six days a week). This still leaves lots of time for extra-curricular activities. There are countless forms of entertainment and recreational activities to keep you busy. Check out the assorted sports, exercise equipment and safe cross-country skiing and hiking routes. A library, educational classes and science lectures are available. BenefitsOn top of a weekly salary, personnel are supplied with free room and board, health, dental and vision benefits. Transportation to and from Antarctica, as well as travel funds, are supplied. 


Why this idea for gap year?

An opportunity like this is an excellent short-term way to save money, whether for college, a car or house, or to pay off school loans. And it is an eye-catching addition to your resume. As Farrell puts it, “Where else can you work six months and then take the following six months off if you want to?” 


Valerie Carroll of the Raytheon Communications Department offers this bit of advice: “Experience and skills are necessary, but personality and attitude weigh heavily.”So, get out there and see the world! Make some money. And have the experience of a lifetime during your gap year! 


How do I apply? 

Information on the U.S. Antarctic Program is available at


Kristin Malara worked at McMurdo Station, Antarctica.


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