Garth William Paltridge completed a BSc with honours at the University of Queensland (1961) before moving south to Melbourne. Paltridge was awarded an MSc and PhD (1965) from the University of Melbourne. In 1966, Paltridge took up a post-doctoral fellowship at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in the USA. He changed continents again in 1967 and became a senior science officer at the Radio and Space Research Station in the UK.
Paltridge returned to Australia in 1968 to the CSIRO Division of Meteorological Physics (eventually re-named as the Division of Marine and Atmospheric Research). He began as a research scientist and was promoted over the following eleven years to reach the level of chief research scientist. In 1990 Paltridge became professor and director of the Institute of Antarctic and Southern Ocean Studies at the University of Tasmania (1990-2002). He was then instrumental in setting up one of the first Cooperative Research Centres, the CRC for Antarctica and the Southern Ocean (1991). He was director of the Antarctic CRC until his retirement in 2002. He then became an emeritus professor and honorary research fellow at the University of Tasmania and a visiting fellow at the Australian National University Research School of Biology.