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Work in Antarctica

Getting Hired Is Difficult, But The Rewards Are Worth It

No matter how deep the world’s uncharted places that zealous travelers go, there is always one destination mocking their efforts: Antarctica. But I found that persistence, paperwork, and good ol’ American self-promotion and luck will get you there. The effort is worth it.

Think of a place where the sun won’t set during your 4-month stay, where the weather is measured in three stages: Clear, Hazardous, and For the Love of Pete, Do Not Go Outside. Where the ocean is frozen and they land planes on it.

In order to allow the scientists to focus on their research, the National Science Foundation hires someone to handle the logistics. Raytheon Polar Services (now The United States Antartic Program) has hires each austral summer to keep McMurdo Station—the main American base and the largest station on the continent—warm and running. The company hires plumbers, cooks, carpenters, waste movers, mechanics, dishwashers, surveyors, and laborers. Here’s how to get hired:

1. Be Willing to Take Any Job. I spent a hundred grand on a college education and took a job cleaning urinals. Many people I worked with in McMurdo leave prestigious jobs and soaring careers for a season of menial labor. My fellow janitors were a former judge, a pharmacist, and an artist with a master’s in painting. I left a "real" job at a major website to go down. Of course it’s possible you’ll get hired doing something you love and are good at, but if your main goal is simply to set foot on the Seventh Continent, be ready to be a dishwasher.

2. Go to the Job Fair. Practically everyone here (myself not included) either knew someone already working in McMurdo.

3. Get a Name Any Way You Can. Realizing I’d missed the job fair, I caught a lucky break when a saintly woman at Raytheon HQ replied to a random email I sent with a list of names and phone numbers.

4. Apply, Apply, Apply. Apply for five, 10, a dozen jobs, whatever you think you’re even remotely qualified for. I applied for eight different jobs and got two interviews and one offer.

5. Be Willing to Make Sacrifices. You’ll have to give up your job, your favorite foods, your pet fish, plant life, your cell phone, and anything resembling natural darkness. But the benefits are colossal. Even if you’re mopping floors, you’ll be mopping floors in Antarctica—where the Weddell seals roam and the penguins and killer whales play. There are amazing things to be seen and done there, things that can be seen and done nowhere else. And McMurdo has a very active and interesting community life.

Web Editors Note: While Raytheon's program was discontinued in 2012, visit The United Stated Antarctic Program for more information.

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