Following his education at Princes, Wheatley studied at Adelaide and Oxford Universities, returning to Adelaide where he was second master at Way College from 1890 to 1901, then a Maths master at Princes until 1904. He spent a year as second master at King’s College, Goulburn (NSW) before commencing a six-year tenure as Headmaster of Rockhampton Grammar School (Qld).
Before WWI Wheatley undertook research work at Oxford University before joining the Navy Office in Melbourne in 1914, where he was in charge of intercepted wireless messages. During this time he discovered the key to the code used by the German Pacific Fleet, providing such important intelligence as the itinerary of the von Spee squadron.
Frederick Wheatley was appointed Senior Naval Instructor at the Royal Australian Naval College, Jervis Bay (NSW) in 1915, and from 1920 was the College’s first Headmaster, a position he held until his retirement in 1931.