Careers in the Antarctic

Expeditioners checking the thermometers at Casey station
Brian and Bill checking the thermometer readings (Photo: Denis R)
An expeditioner works in the Red Shed plant room at Casey station.Expeditioner wearing a face mask putting ice in plastic bagsExpeditioner wearing a safety mask works with a blowtorch in a workshopTwo people in the kitchen.

Antarctic stations provide a useful microcosm of many of society's jobs since they operate as small, self-sufficient villages or communities. The following activities lead students to a greater understanding and awareness of job and career opportunities, not just in Antarctica but in Australia.

The activities are designed to give the students a greater awareness of their own interests and capabilities and to equip them with rudimentary skills that will enable them to make career decisions and find out how to get information on careers. The simplified vocational guidance test will highlight students' talents and interests and the sorts of jobs that could suit them best.

Using specific activities about Antarctic positions, and the detailed information in the expeditioner profiles, teachers will be able to flesh out many jobs and provide a framework for students to consider the range of jobs that need to be done in a community. It also provides a springboard to explore the ways in which people cooperate with, and depend upon, one another in their work.

Profiles of some current expeditioners are on the AAD Station webpages. Here is the team at Casey station.

  • Discuss with the students the factors that influence the types of jobs that people do. Ask them why they think some people become a teacher, and others a salesperson…
  • Divide the students into groups and provide each group with a selection of the Antarctic expeditioner profiles. Have them research how many of the profiled people pursued the interests or careers they had been drawn to at the age of 13.
    • What influenced them in their choice and desire to go to Antarctica?
    • Have students report their group's result to the class and then draw up a list of these factors.
    • Which ones are the most commonly mentioned?

A typical station population in Antarctica nowadays comprises a station leader, doctor, chef, carpenter, plumber, diesel mechanics, a communications technician, meteorological observers and technician, an electronics engineer, a couple of scientists (biologists, physicists, glaciologists) in winter and dozens in summer, helicopter pilots and engineer, and building trades supervisor.

  • Again in groups and using the expeditioner profiles (or the expeditioner positions outlined on the Australian Antarctic Division's website) list the different occupations at an Antarctic station and the duties the expeditioners carry out. Have students report their group's result to the class and then draw up a list of expeditioner positions. Students should then write a short piece about the job they would most like to do and why.

Planning a career

  • Have students complete the simplified vocational guidance test part A [PDF] and vocational guidance test part B [PDF]. After scoring the vocational guidance test [PDF] discuss with students their 'personal interest groups' and the sorts of jobs (as listed on the mini job chart [PDF]) that are likely to suit them. This vocational guidance test is based on John Holland's Self-Directed Search, the most widely used vocational guidance test conducted by career practitioners, and on the Department of Employment, Training and Youth Affairs' Job Guide's Personal Interest Groups (though it amalgamates the 11 groups). It classifies personalities into six types and then looks for a (fairly simplistic) match between job and personality. It is important with children so young to stress that no one job, or even job type, is 'right' for them. Note that positions, like people, can be a mix of types (for example a doctor is not just 'helping' but also 'scientific') but for the purposes of career planning it is helpful to categorise occupations according to their dominant features.
  • Have students look at the list of expeditioner positions and career types [PDF].
    • Which positions correspond to their 'personal interest group'?
    • Which jobs are not represented in Antarctica (i.e. many within the 'Creative', 'Administrative' and 'Helping' personal interest groups)? Why? (Many of these roles are filled back in Australia - e.g. counsellor, HR people, financial and purchasing jobs, wives, artists and writers - or simply not needed in the Antarctic - e.g. many clerical jobs.)
  • Ask students to discuss the other jobs that still need to be done on a station - e.g. cleaner, fireman, dentist, hairdresser, policeman or nurse? Who would do them? Which of these would you like to do?

    The Australian Antarctic Division does not employ cleaners or dishwashers or garbage contractors. Everyone at Australia's stations is expected to share the chores of the station community. All take turns at being the 'slushy' - helping with kitchen duties and washing up, and allowing the chef Sunday off each week. Everyone also supports the scientific programs, and assists in unloading and loading the ship. Expeditioners volunteer (and are trained) for many other specific additional jobs such as anesthetist, hairdresser, librarian, postie, member of the fire team, brewer and station photographer. Particular positions carry with them the responsibility for additional roles: e.g. the doctor is also the dentist, the electrician is the fire chief, the plumber looks after waste management.

  • Have the students think of other self-contained communities; e.g. mining towns, oil rigs, ski villages, small remote outback towns. Have them list the similarities and differences. What do these mean for the composition of occupations in each of these places?
  • Ask the students to choose a suitable Antarctic career from the list of expeditioner positions and career types [PDF] based on their score. For those who cannot find a job that interests them there, ask them to find a job they like on the mini job chart [PDF] that could be profitably done down there. For those who don't want to go to Antarctica, have them think of a job that could support the Antarctic program from Australia. You could also give them a list of extremely unlikely jobs and have them tie them in to Antarctica, such as advertising executives using Antarctic images to sell their products.
  • Have students consider the positions the Australian Antarctic Division might need for a remote field camp which is accessible only by helicopter and located to support glaciological or geological research programs. Having agreed upon the positions required, students could develop selection criteria, and advertisements to go into the media, and discuss how they might make selections. They could develop interview questions for the positions and conduct mock interviews. This should also involve consideration of the personal qualities required for remote area work and the difficulties of assessing them. (You can view the actual selection criteria for Antarctic positions.)
This page was last modified on July 3, 2014.