Email Print Share

Opportunities For Participation in the United States Antarctic Program

Each year the United States deploys to Antarctica about 700 people to perform scientific research and about 2,500 people to operate and maintain year-round research stations and provide logistics in support of this research. These persons include research teams from academia, industry, and government, military personnel, and contractor employees.

The National Science Foundation is the federal agency responsible for funding and managing U.S. activities in Antarctica, but the Foundation does not directly hire individuals for this work. Most are selected by participating organizations and institutions as described below. Successful applicants will have been prepared through specialized study, training, or experience in polar-related topics. Opportunities fall into these categories:


Scientific opportunities in Antarctica center on research that must be performed, or is best performed, in Antarctica. Research can span across various disciplines including, but not limited to terrestrial and marine biology, meteorology, glaciology, earth sciences, ocean sciences, atmospheric sciences, and astronomy and astrophysics. Additional research opportunities include utilizing existing Antarctic samples, data and models, Polar education, and collaboration with cyberinfrastructure researchers. Eligibility is generally limited to U.S. scientists with advanced degrees, who initiate proposals submitted by their employing organizations. Students at all levels are typically embedded within science teams. Post-Doctoral individuals are encouraged to submit proposals to the Polar Programs Postdoctoral Research Fellowships (OPP-PRF). The procedure for preparing and submitting proposals is described in the Foundation's Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) and Antarctic Research Solicitation.


Embedding with a science team: All interested graduate students, undergraduate students, high school students, and other interested individuals should contact the Principal Investigators (also known as the PI) about their interest. Recently awarded project descriptions, including the PI's contact information, can be found in the Awards Search on Each team requires different skills and may have very specific skills they are looking for in their team members.

Logistical support to science teams: It is rare to be conducting the science in these roles and more likely to be facilitating the science. Logistical employment opportunities can be found on the Jobs and Opportunities page of

Supporting the funding/awards process: At the National Science Foundation, there are temporary positions called Science Assistants. Individuals in these roles help the Program Officers in the Merit Review Process, which is the assessment process for all submitted research proposals. These positions are hired through


Because of the far flung and difficult environment of Antarctica, the program has many people in support roles. These people operate stations, laboratories, machinery, helicopters, and research ships, build or renovate facilities, maintain vehicles, outfit field parties, and manage camps. Many trades and levels of skill are involved. Contractors to the Foundation hire individuals and award subcontracts for performance of these tasks. The prime support contractor is the Leidos Antarctic Support Contract (ASC). Employment inquiries should be directed to Leidos Antarctic Support Contract (ASC). Direct inquiries to the contractors, not the Foundation.


The New York Air National Guard operates LC-130 (ski-equipped) airplanes in the Antarctic Program. The Coast Guard operates icebreakers in Antarctica to escort supply ships and to support science. Employment with these organizations generally is limited to active duty and reserve service personnel. Direct inquiries to an Air Force recruiter or the Coast Guard, Department of Transportation, Washington, D.C. 20590.


Each year the Foundation endeavors to host in Antarctica members of the press and radio or television crews to observe and report on U.S. activities. Selection is based on ability to understand and present scientific subjects, written commitment from employing organization, and expected size of audience. NSF's Office of Legislative and Public Affairs administers this program, which has an annual application deadline several months before the austral summer season begins. For information about applications for participation during a field season, please contact Mike England, or UPDATE: There are no 2021-2022 Antarctic media visits.


To enable the interpretation and presentation of the Nation's Antarctic heritage, the Foundation's Polar STEAM Program(formally known as the Antarctic Artists & Writers Program) considers requests from particularly well-qualified writers, historians, artists, and other scholars in the liberal arts to work in Antarctica. This opportunity provides field support, but no direct award of funds. The successful candidate will be well-established and working full-time in the appropriate field and will have a means of presenting his or her work to the public. The past participants page provides information about earlier projects. More information can be found on the Polar STEAM website.


Because some types of activities are not considered to contribute to the U.S. mission for Antarctica, NSF will not consider or approve applications for participation in the program in these categories: private expeditions by mountain climbers or adventurers, visits to promote commercial products, photography (except as in one of the above categories), "space-available" passage on support aircraft flights, and sightseeing or other superficial visits. The support organizations are also bound by this National policy. The Government does not provide support to private expeditions, but does not discourage citizens from participating in such expeditions if they are self-sufficient and meet environmental standards.


The National Science Foundation and its contractors and grantees are equal opportunity employers. Women and members of minority groups are encouraged to apply for participation in all aspects of the U.S. Antarctic Program. A number of NSF programs specifically encourage such participation and can be found on the the Foundation's web site by searching the funding database at Funding Search.