Residents of Alaska can find many opportunities to seek vocational educational in the state. Whether that's in business, criminal justice or computer science, there are different programs available to help build skills to seek entry-level employment. Even healthcare programs can be a consideration for those in Alaska vocational schools and generally take two years or less to complete. Alaska is a draw for many different reasons, including to get outdoors to hike, kayak, ski, and more. There also are broad open expanses to enjoy and at night, most often in the middle of winter, good opportunities to see the Aurora Borealis, or Northern lights.
Vocational education opportunities in Alaska
Students seeking programs in higher education in Alaska will find many choices. These range from diploma-level programs, generally the shortest in length, to associate degrees, which take approximately two years. Some may be found at private vo-tech schools while others will be available at community colleges. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that as of 2012-13 (the latest year information was available) that more than 1,700 students had completed an associate degree in the state, nearly as great as the number completing bachelors degrees.
Some of largest employment sectors in the state, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, include trade, transportation and utilities; government, education and health services; leisure and hospitality services; and professional and business services. Graduates of community colleges and trade schools in Alaska can look for jobs in sundry other fields, too, but a closer look at three of these sectors is given below.
- Transportation: One way to get across Alaska is by train, and that's true for passengers as well as freight. Another way is by long haul, but a specific type of driver's license is needed for this. Whether that means getting freight to Anchorage, Fairbanks, Kodiak or beyond, advanced driving skills are a must particularly when it comes to making sure the truck is ready to go in the cold. Interested students can complete truck-driving programs at specific schools; some programs even allow military veterans to use their benefits to attend.
- Utilities: Particularly in Alaska, there is a need for heat. Students may be able to find undergraduate certificates in refrigeration and heating as well as associate degree level programs. Some of these programs are fast track and can be completed in 10 months or less while others offer continuing enrollment dates. If students want more progressive training, they can look for postsecondary education focusing on sustainable energy, including specializations in biomass, wind, energy-efficient construction and photovoltaic.
- Hospitality: Many people make it a point to visit Alaska for the unique sense of travel and adventure and the chance to see pristine wilderness and wildlife, as well as that Aurora Borealis. In fact, it's reported that nearly 2 million out-of-state visitors travel to Alaska each year. A postsecondary certificate in hospitality can prepare students to understand business fundamentals, the travel and tourism industry, sales and marketing and more. Some of these classes may even later be used to pursue related associate or bachelor's degree programs.
Careers for Alaska trade school grads
According to Alaska's Department of Labor and Workforce Development, some of the most robust job opportunities in the state are available to dental assistants, home health aides, licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses, medical assistants, personal care aides, and more. Most of these require a two-year degree or less.
Alaska also is the leading exporter in the U.S., and supports many jobs in shipping, as well as large engine and diesel maintenance and repair. Alaska's huge oil industry may also provide a range of jobs, and many careers require a minimum of one to two years of vocational or technical school in disciplines such as machine operation and welding. Of course, finding a career that is of interest is important, too. That's why Alaska vocational and technical schools also offer postsecondary education in accounting, business, office administration, construction management, human services, and more.
Financial aid in Alaska
Resources for financial aid in Alaska are varied, but students can start by completing Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) paperwork. This may offer access to school loans, work-study programs and grants, the latter that do not need to be repaid. This aid could be helpful since the average in-state tuition and fees in the U.S. for public two-year institutions were $3,440. (In-state Information was not specifically available for Alaska.)
FAFSA offers three ways to apply, including online, completing a PDF FAFSA or by requesting a paper form. Students also want to make sure they file by the FAFSA deadline, have their social security number on hand, as well as copies of recent federal income tax returns. This information will be needed for parents when students are filing as dependents. There are other ways to find financial aid in Alaska, too, some of which include:
- Alaska Performance Scholarship: Up to $4,475 is available per year for high school students seeking vocational or four-year education. Students need to have a 3.5 high school GPA and meet other requirements to qualify. Students with lower GPAs may qualify for lesser amounts.
- Alaska Education Grant: This grant is available to in-need students and results in award amounts from $500 to $3,000 annually. Awards are given in order of highest financial need with some set apart for those enrolled in workforce shortage programs.
- Alaska Supplemental Education Loan: This loan is available for students to use in-state or out-of-state or also for career training. The interest rate is fixed, but can be dropped by .50 percent for an Alaska presence and another .25 percent for auto-pay.
- Family Education Loan: This loan is available to a spouse, parent or family member to take out to support a student. There is no credit score requirement and there is a .25 percent interest rate deduction for auto-pay.
Financial aid in the form of scholarships, loans and grants can help to lighten the load of students seeking a postsecondary education in Alaska. Students who are still in high school may find more resources by talking to a guidance counselor while those in a career position may find help by speaking with someone in the human resources department.
- Alaska Economy at a Glance, Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 3, 2016. https://catalog.uaa.alaska.edu/undergraduateprograms/#programlistingtext
- Alaska Education Grant, State of Alaska, no date. http://acpe.alaska.gov/FINANCIAL_AID/Grants_Scholarships
- Alaska Occupations by Employment Outlook, Department of Labor and Workforce Development, no date. https://catalog.uaa.alaska.edu/undergraduateprograms/#programlistingtext
- Alaska Performance Scholarship, State of Alaska, no date. http://acpe.alaska.gov/FINANCIAL_AID/Grants_Scholarships/Alaska_Performance_Scholarship
- Alaska State Education Loans, State of Alaska, no date. http://acpe.alaska.gov/FINANCIAL_AID/Loans/State_Education_Loans
- Certificate in Hospitality, Charter College, no date. http://www.chartercollege.edu/programs/business/hospitality
- "Degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions, by level of degree and state or jurisdiction: 2010-11 through 2012-13," National Center for Education Statistics, no date.https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d14/tables/dt14_319.20.asp
- Northern Industrial Training, LLC, no date. http://www.nitalaska.com/Home/tabid/131/Default.aspx
- Refrigeration and Heating, Mat-Su College, University of Alaska, Anchorage. http://matsu.alaska.edu/degree-programs/refrigeration-heating/
- Sustainable Energy, University of Alaska Fairbanks, no date. http://uaf.edu/catalog/current/programs/sustain_energy.html
- Tourism Research, Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, no date.https://www.commerce.alaska.gov/web/ded/DEV/TourismDevelopment/TourismResearch.aspx
- 2015-16 In-District Tuition and Fees at Public Two-Year Institutions by State and Five-Year Percentage Change, The College Board, no date. http://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/2015-16-district-tuition-and-fees-public-two-year-institutions-state-and-five-year
- Undergraduate Programs, University of Alaska, Anchorage, no date. https://catalog.uaa.alaska.edu/undergraduateprograms/#programlistingtext