Alaska Colleges & Trade Schools
By Crystal Lee
| Last Updated
Alaska colleges and trade schools offer people like you the chance to expand their vocational possibilities and prepare for growing opportunities. Resource extraction is big business here, but students can also benefit from pursuing careers in sectors such as tourism, health care, business, and more.
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Education & Training
Students at colleges and trade schools in Alaska can enjoy distinctive advantages that are not always immediately apparent.
Key Benefits of the Region for College Students
- Free money for higher education: Eligible students can get help with their educational expenses through the Alaska Education Grant or the Alaska Performance Scholarship.
- Affordable tuition and low student debt: In a U.S. News & World Report study of the best states for higher education, Alaska ranked 10th for average in-state tuition and 11th for low debt among graduates.
- Potential for a more personalized experience: Alaska has some of the country's lowest student-to-instructor ratios at public and private four-year non-profit schools.
How much your education will cost depends on many variables, including the type of program you choose and the institution you enroll in. Below are the average tuition and fees at four-year schools in Alaska, according to National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data from the 2018-2019 academic year:
- Public schools: $8,396 (in-state); $24,454 (out-of-state)
- Private schools: $19,315
The same data shows that room and board average costs at Alaska schools break down this way:
- Public schools: $11,167
- Private schools: $7,473
FAQs About Being a Student in Alaska
What are living costs like in Alaska?
The cost of living in Alaska is higher than the U.S. average. In this state, the average monthly rent is $891 for a studio apartment and $984 for a one-bedroom unit. Both of those figures are less than nine percent higher than the comparable national averages.
Is public transportation available?
Yes. Alaska has 14 different public transit providers that service communities like Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, the Kenai Peninsula, and more. Plus, students at certain colleges and universities in Anchorage are eligible to ride for free as part of the U-Pass program.
What other resources can students take advantage of?
The Statewide Library Electronic Doorway (SLED) provides Alaska residents with access to a wealth of books, journals, and databases that can support their post-secondary studies. It also connects to LearningExpress, which offers help with skills improvement and job search techniques.
The Alaskan economy is largely based on natural resources, but sectors like tourism and health care also provide promising employment opportunities.
The subsectors listed below should see the most rapid rates of job growth between 2016 and 2026, according to projections from the State of Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development:
Ambulatory health care services (25%): The rapid growth in outpatient services means that facilities like medical clinics, diagnostic centers, and dental offices will probably experience a greater need for staff.
Hospitals (23.6%): Alaska will also see an increased need for professionals with the skills to provide assessment and treatment services to patients who are formally admitted to hospitals.
Mining, other than oil and gas (16.9%): Workers who can contribute to the extraction of resources like gold, silver, lead, copper, coal, and zinc could find greater demand for their expertise in the years ahead.
Accommodation (9.4%): The ongoing need to provide short-term lodging for Alaska's tourists could lead to more opportunities for hotel managers, front desk clerks, housekeepers, and related workers.
Food services and drinking places (8.8%): Tourists and locals alike enjoy meals and beverages in the state's restaurants, cafeterias, and bars, which is why this subsector is expected to keep growing.
Careers Related to the Industries Above
Average Annual Wages
- Radiologic techs$77K
- Lodging managers$73K
- Continuous mining machine operators$71K
- Dental assistants$49K
- Restaurant cooks$31K
Other Key Industries
The Resource Development Council for Alaska notes that in addition to mining, other major pillars of the state's economy include:
Oil and gas: Oil production contributed $2.7 billion to state revenues in 2019. This sector accounts for 25 percent of all jobs in Alaska. What's more, annual wages in this sector are more than twice as high as the state average.
Tourism: People from around the world are drawn to Alaska's spectacular natural wonders. More than two million travelers came to Alaska between May and September of 2019, spending money on lodging, food, sightseeing tours, and more. In fact, about 10 percent of jobs in the state are related to tourism.
Fishing: Seafood is the state's biggest export, generating over $5 billion each year. This sector provides direct jobs for 58,700 Alaskans in more than 200 communities.
Forestry: The state has 129 million acres of forested land, and its mills produce things like lumber, shingles, railway ties, and more. Plus, the average wage in forestry is almost $10,000 more than the average for other private-sector jobs.
Careers Related to the Industries Above
Average Annual Wages
- Oil drill operators$79K
- Food service managers$68K
- Forestry supervisors$46K
- Tour guides$32K
Many of the most rapidly growing occupations in Alaska are in the health care sector. But fields like business and the skilled trades are also expected to yield large numbers of good-paying positions.
5.1% from 2016 to 2026
Number of Employers
Mining, oil and gas, tourism, fishing, forestry
- State of Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- U.S. Census Bureau
- Resource Development Council for Alaska
Projections from the state labor department indicate that over the 2016-to-2026 period, the careers listed here should see the fastest rates of job growth (among occupations with 100 workers or more). Wages are based on Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates for Alaska.
Farmworkers and laborers for crops, nurseries, and greenhouses (100%): Contribute to the planting, growing, and harvesting of potatoes, barley, and other commodities. On-the-job training is the usual way to get started.
- Average yearly wage: $32,320
Home health aides (27.1%): Go to people's private residences to offer basic health services as well as help with day-to-day tasks like dressing, cooking, and cleaning. If you want to work for a Medicare-certified home health agency in Alaska, you must become certified as a nurse aide.
- Average yearly wage: $34,740
Nurse midwives (25.2%): Take your nursing career to the next level by becoming a specialist who delivers babies, provides gynecological care, and focuses on the wellness needs of women. After becoming a registered nurse, you'll need to complete a master's-level program and pass a national exam to earn your state license.
- Average yearly wage: $85,920
Dentists (24.1%): Support people's oral health by diagnosing and treating issues related to teeth, gums, and other parts of the mouth. In order to qualify for a license from the Board of Dental Examiners, you will need to complete an approved dental school program and pass a written exam.
- Average yearly wage: $239,930
Clinical lab technologists (24%): Collect, prepare, and analyze biological samples to detect abnormalities that can help diagnose illness or disease. A bachelor's degree is required, and you can boost your employability by obtaining national certification.
- Average yearly wage: $72,690
Good-Paying Careers With the Most Yearly Job Openings
Each year, hundreds of positions open up in Alaska that pay more than the state average wage, but you may need post-secondary training to go after them. The following are just a few examples, drawn from BLS wage data and state labor department projections:
Registered nurses (418 yearly openings): Provide care and comfort to medical patients in a huge range of settings. The Alaska Board of Nursing requires all prospective registered nurses to earn an associate degree or higher credential and pass a national exam.
- Average yearly wage: $90,500
General and operations managers (387 yearly openings): Coordinate the daily activities of a business establishment. A bachelor's degree along with a few years of relevant industry experience are the usual requirements.
- Average yearly wage: $109,290
Executive secretaries (369 yearly openings): Give administrative support to senior personnel by answering phones, performing research, preparing reports, and coordinating meeting or travel arrangements. Many employers prefer candidates who have college-level training.
- Average yearly wage: $61,320
Operating engineers (324 yearly openings): Operate heavy equipment used in construction, such as bulldozers, graders, and front-end loaders. You can improve your employment prospects by completing formal training at a vocational school.
- Average yearly wage: $69,670
Electricians (220 yearly openings): Install and maintain the systems that keep electricity flowing to homes, businesses, and other structures. Completing a trade school program can help you meet the experience requirements for a certificate of fitness from the state labor department.
- Average yearly wage: $75,350
Many Alaskans Benefit From Vocational Education
Alaska colleges and trade schools that offer career-oriented programs are often major contributors to the success of people who seek to improve their personal and professional lives.