Online schools in Alaska

Even though the biggest U.S. state has only been in the union officially since 1959, state universities have operated in Alaska since the namesake university was founded in Fairbanks in 1917. Other universities joined the fold in the intervening years, and today a statewide University of Alaska System works to serve the state's major and minor population centers with a spectrum of traditional and online schools in Alaska.

Students at campus-based as well as online colleges in Alaska may find it more enjoyable to pursue their degree in a city with an existing student population, particularly if they're looking for study partners or established educational resources. The cities in Alaska with the highest number of college-enrolled residents, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), are Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau and Seward.

Smaller campus locations affiliated with the University of Alaska System also operate in smaller cities and rural hubs around the state, including Dillingham, Kodiak, Valdez, Bethel, Sitka, Kotzebue and more.

To find out more about the state, its educational options and potential careers, explore the different sections of this guide. They include:

• Online education in Alaska
• In-demand degrees & industries
• Colleges in Alaska

Online colleges in Alaska

Alaska is home to both public and private universities, offering two- and four-year undergraduate degrees as well as master's and doctoral study, and the opportunity to earn many of these degrees online is giving residents in more remote parts of the state unprecedented access to continued education. Ever-expanding degree offerings from online schools in Alaska and elsewhere make it easier than ever for students to pursue the degree they want without the need for regular travel to an in-state campus.

Many of the degrees available at online schools in Alaska are offered under the University of Alaska umbrella, with over 100 online degree and certificate programs available at the associate, bachelor's and master's level. What's more, the online graduate program in education offered by the Anchorage campus ranks in the nation's top 30, according to U.S. News and World Report, and the earth sciences department at University of Alaska - Fairbanks was recently named one of the top 70 worldwide.

If you're interested, start exploring what online degrees might be offered near you by checking out this map, which shows the location of all colleges in Alaska based on 2013 data from the NCES. (Mobile users will need to visit the full Schools.com site to use the map.)

Extended opportunities for online education in Alaska

One of the greatest benefits of the increasing availability of online schools in Alaska is the option for students to reach outside their home state when they can't find the degree they want at a nearby college. For example, if you're looking to earn a master's degree in conservation biology but can't commit to a campus-based education, you'll find a closer match for your needs at the University of Wisconsin than you will at online colleges located in Alaska in 2015.

The online graduate program in education offered by the University of Alaska - Anchorage campus ranks in the nation's top 30, according to U.S. News and World Report, and the earth sciences department at University of Alaska - Fairbanks was recently named one of the top 70 worldwide.

Degrees and certificates in cutting-edge technological fields may be also available online to qualified students. If you've got a passion for robotics, machine learning, natural language processing or another branch of the artificial intelligence field, you can apply to none other than Stanford University in search of a spot in the illustrious California school's graduate certificate program in the discipline.

Online courses for Alaska students at top-ranked universities

Provided that the credits earned through distance education are transferable to their home school, students at traditional or online colleges in Alaska may be able to take some of their courses online from top national universities. The mathematics department at the University of California - Los Angeles was ranked No. 4 in the world by U.S. News in 2015, and while full-fledged degrees from this top-tier department remain unavailable online as yet, students may be able to supplement their mathematical education with courses taught by the same globally renowned professors.

The possibilities don't end there, either. If you're interested in a career in business, working businesspeople in Alaska can take business executive education courses at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, one of the top three business schools in the country. Also, if you're looking to move into educational leadership or policymaking, top-ranked Johns Hopkins University offers online courses, certificates and full degree programs in education at the graduate and post-graduate levels.

Best degrees to get in Alaska

According to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DLWD), the overall statewide job market is expected to grow 10.8 percent between 2012 and 2022, which keeps pace with the national growth projections computed by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Certain professions are expected to be in higher demand than others, however, and students who focus their studies in particular areas may be able to take some of the stress out of finding a job after graduation.

Here's a list of some of the best degrees available at campus-based and online schools in Alaska, using DLWD employment projections and occupational salary averages from the BLS:

    • The health care field is growing and changing in cities all over the country, and graduates with a two-year degree or certificate in a health technology discipline like radiology, sonography, MRI technology or dental hygiene are expected to be in high demand as the industry evolves. Each of the fields mentioned above are expected to see between 22 and 28 percent growth in Alaska by 2022, and the mean annual salaries for all four positions fell between $68,800 and $82,800 in 2014. Most work in the health tech field requires that you learn the machinery through hands-on study, which typically requires at least a few courses at a brick-and-mortar campus or lab facility, but accompanying courses in biology, medical terminology, anatomy and other primarily academic subjects may be available in the virtual classroom.
      • Studious artists in just about any state can derive some value from a degree in digital media, but Alaska creatives have the additional benefit of an expanding market for the knowledge and skills gained in the process of earning one. Employment of multimedia artists and animators in Alaska is projected to grow 23 percent between 2012 and 2022, which outpaces the projected national average growth by more than double. Many employers focus their attention on the strength of your portfolio when hiring for creative positions, so be sure to keep an eye out for a degree program that balances vital technical coursework with adequate time in the studio to practice your craft.

      According to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the overall statewide job market is expected to grow 10.8 percent between 2012 and 2022.

      • The right strategy to help manage disability or illness can be vital to a patient's overall well-being, and practitioners skilled in recreational therapy offer fresh, fun and emotionally holistic approaches to promoting mental and physical health. Alaska's market for trained recreational therapists is projected to grow 24 percent by 2022, nearly double the national average employment increase in the field, and the mean annual salary for recreational therapists in the U.S. was reported as $46,060 in 2014. The Occupational Information Network reports that a bachelor's degree is required in all but a small percentage of cases, and post-baccalaureate certificates exist for prospective career changers who have already earned a bachelor's in an unrelated discipline.
        • Students who want to focus on improving human health through research and clinical investigation can study medical science, which is distinct from general practice or specialized medicine in that its practitioners focus on studying the big picture of medicines and ailments rather than working to treat individual patients who become injured or fall ill. Careers in medical science typically require a doctoral or professional degree, and the national mean salary for the field in 2014 was $90,160. Alaska job growth figures indicate an expected employment increase of 29 percent among medical scientists between 2012 and 2022.
          • If you prefer a more hands-on approach to health care, the value of nursing degrees is hard to ignore. Approximately 1,000 new positions for registered nurses are expected in Alaska by 2022, thanks to a growth projection of 20 percent in the field, and advanced nursing positions such as nurse midwife and nurse practitioner are expected to see employment increases of 24 to 28 percent in the same period. Salary expectations for nurses are particularly high in Alaska, as well, with registered nurses earning a mean of $85,740 in 2014 and nurse midwives and practitioners taking home annual salaries of $101,350 and $115,670 respectively.

            While it's important to mention that no individual academic or professional degree can serve as a guarantee of employment once you graduate, approaching your education with an understanding of the needs of the workforce may reduce the culture shock that students sometimes experience in the first six months after leaving college and entering the workforce.

            Alaska colleges

            Here's a list of some of the traditional and online colleges in Alaska, along with some information about notable degrees offered both on campus and in the virtual classroom:

            Institution name Online degrees? Top programs
            University of Alaska - Anchorage Yes Business, engineering, nursing, graduate education (online), occupational therapy, social work, public affairs
            University of Alaska - Fairbanks Yes Earth sciences, business, engineering, biological sciences, fine arts, math, physics
            Alaska Pacific University Yes Public affairs, sustainability studies, environmental science, business administration (online)
            University of Alaska - Southeast Yes Health sciences, public administration, social sciences, natural sciences, teacher education
            Ilisagvik College No (some online courses available) Business, early childhood education, information technology, Iñupiaq studies
            Kenai Peninsula College Yes Accounting, natural sciences, medical technology, nursing, human services, history, math

            For more insight into program and degree opportunities in Alaska, we encourage you to request information from the schools listed below.


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