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Finding Work in Alaska

Every year thousands of people inquire about working and living in Alaska. This is a short guide to job opportunities in Alaska. Alaska has adequate numbers of qualified people to fill most jobs.

A Caution: Exercise caution when you see books or ads that guarantee "big money jobs" in Alaska. Many simply offer names of companies and require you to find your own job. The information provided is often inaccurate. Companies outside Alaska calling themselves the Alaska Employment Service (or something similar) and offering employment services for a fee are not associated with the State of Alaska, Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Employment Services Program.

Before you come to Alaska: You should have a round trip ticket and cash or credit card resources ($2,000 for temporary and $3,000 for permanent work) to live on while looking for work. Many who arrived short of cash encountered serious hardship and shattered dreams. Public assistance programs cannot be counted on by persons relocating to Alaska without adequate funds. Homesteading is not available now. The climate and unpredictable summer weather generally discourage camper or tent living for extended periods. You cannot travel through Canada without showing customs officials cash and/or credit cards that are good in Canada.

Prepare first: The Internet and vacationing in Alaska are two great ways to learn about the state, and explore job opportunities. Your public library is another resource. Alaska newspapers and magazines report on the economy, industries, housing, food costs, and weather, and they advertise jobs.

Vacationing: Alaska is vast, stretching thousands of miles in all directions, with starkly contrasting climate zones, breathtakingly beautiful scenery, abundant wildlife, and Native peoples with rich cultures. It presents abundant and varied recreational opportunities. No wonder it is a prime tourist destination! So come for a visit, savor the flavor of various communities, experience the weather, and check out the job scene. Visit employers and job sites.

Internet: Myths and misinformation about Alaska are rampant. Study maps. Get the facts. Extensive information is available on the Internet. Research time can provide you with a realistic view of the current job market (it's no longer the wide open market of pipeline days) and direction in locating a job. Learn about the climate, the cost of living, read about our cities, towns and rural villages, and where the jobs are (and aren't.) Several sites on the Internet list job openings. Read the classified ads in the Anchorage Daily News, Juneau Empire, Peninsula Clarion . A few shortage occupations with the State of Alaska are open to applicants from out of state. If you find a job vacancy to your liking, negotiate with the employer via phone, e-mail or fax, and you may land a solid job offer before coming to Alaska.

Job Market Overview: Alaska ranks 20th among the states in per capita income. Cost of living comparisons are imprecise, but one study ranks Kodiak, Juneau, Fairbanks and Anchorage among the survey's 10 most expensive cities to live in. Unemployment in Alaska is above the national average. The employment growth rate is slow, below one percent. All in all, recent economic growth has been slow.

What? No roads? The highway system in Alaska is very limited. Juneau, Ketchikan and other Southeast communities are accessible by air and water only. Vast areas of interior and northern Alaska are reached by air, and may be supplied by summer sea shipments. The high cost of air travel and supplies shipped by air has dramatic impacts on the cost of living.

Anchorage: Alaska's largest city, with a population of 300,549 on the shores of Cook Inlet, is the hub of the Anchorage/Matanuska-Susitna region in South central Alaska. Anchorage has the most job openings and a relatively reasonable cost of living.

The Kenai Peninsula: The cities of Kenai, Soldotna, Seward and Homer have populations between 2,760 and 7,170. This is a popular recreation area. Seasonal work in tourism or seafood processing may be available. Kodiak Island, off the tip of the Peninsula, has a large seasonal fishing industry.

Valdez: The terminus of the Alaska Pipeline on Prince William Sound, east of Anchorage, has a stable economy where tourism is taking up the slack from the oil industry.

Fairbanks: The state's second largest city has long, warm summer days and long, cold winters with temperatures of minus 50 degrees. The population of the Fairbanks North Star Borough is 97,972. Fairbanks is home to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and government is a major employer here.

Juneau: The state capital has a population of 33,026. State government is the largest employer, and tourism is a source of seasonal employment. Apartment rental prices in Juneau are among the highest in the nation, averaging $1,154 for two bedrooms without utilities. (Add first and last month's rent and deposit.)

Western and Northern Alaska: These areas are mainly off the road system. In the north, winters are severe, and the sun makes only brief appearances. Midsummer days have no nightfall. Villages outside the hub communities of Nome, Kotzebue and Barrow often have difficulty finding qualified professional and technical employees. The western Alaska towns of Bethel and Dillingham are sometimes in need of qualified medical, city government and education professionals. Food and other purchases in the bush can cost twice their price in urban areas.