How do Alaskans make money?

Are you planning to move to Alaska? You might want to have questions about the people living in the Land of Midnight Sun, including how they make a living. So, how do Alaskans make money?

Alaska has a GDP of over $50 billion, with several sectors contributing to its economy. Alaskans make money by working in sectors such as agriculture, fishing, oil and gas, tourism, timber, government and public service, mining, etc. The state’s average salary is one of the highest in the country.

However, most sectors here are seasonal due to the extreme weather conditions and climate. So, the best time to find jobs here is in the summer. Here, we discuss how Alaskans make money.

Major Employers of Labor in Alaska

Several sectors contribute to the Alaskan economy, and they’re all employers of labor. The major ones are:

1.      Agriculture

The demand for agricultural products in Alaska far exceeds the supply in the state. This means that the state imports substantial farm products from the mainland US. But farming is quite profitable too. The state has four major farming areas. These are Tanana Valley, Manutska valley, Kodiak Island, and the land near Homer.

Most farming here is for dairy, poultry raising, and general farming. Most farmers combine multiple forms of farming, especially dairy farming, for commercial purposes with vegetables and food crops for their families. The Alaska Rural Rehabilitation Corporation owns some of the farms here. It’s also possible to lease farms and undeveloped government land.

About 15 million acres of land in the state is suitable for farming, and only 1 million acres are currently in use. Due to the long daylight hours in the summer, vegetables here are usually very big, and cabbages in the Matanuska Valley can be as big as 90 pounds.

2.      Fishing

This is an essential sector in Alaska. The most important fishing centers in the state include Bristol bay and southeastern Alaska. There are several fishing companies in these parts of the state. The state is the largest producer of wild salmon in the world. Its salmon industry is only deemed sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. Every year, the fishing industry harvests about 6 billion pounds of seafood.

3.      Mining

Alaska contains several mineral resources. These include half of the coal reserves in the country and the largest silver and zinc mines. The state also has gold mines, and panhandlers still hunt for gold along its streams. The mining and extraction industry here is one of the biggest employers.

4.      Oil and gas industry

This is the biggest industry in Alaska and accounts for about 85% of its revenue. Since the discovery of oil here in Prudhoe Bay in 1968, it has become the major source of income for the state. It’s also one of the major employers of labor, with over 100,000 residents here working in the industry. The oil and gas industry here depends on energy prices. So, while the rest of the US complains about high energy prices, Alaska gains from it in the form of more revenue.

5.      Tourism

The tourists contribute significantly to the Alaskan economy, and jobs here are easy to find. About 2 million tourists visit here every year. However, the tourist economy here is mostly seasonal. This means it booms during the summer and is fairly quiet for the rest of the year. So, it’s possible for some people not to be employed for some parts of the year. Nevertheless, the tourism industry is the state’s second-largest employer of labor. If you’re not born in Alaska, the most likely reason you’ll want to visit the state is for tourism.

6.      Timber

The logging industry here is also very big. There are 28 million acres of commercial forests in the state which means the state is one of the biggest suppliers of logs, pulp, lumber, and forest products in general.  

7.      Government and Public Service

The government is also one of the biggest employers of labor, especially in the villages and remote areas. Whether it’s people working in education, healthcare, wildlife, transportation, etc., there’s usually a connection to the government. This could be working directly for the government, with a company working for the government, or the US Army. Both federal and state governments are the biggest employers in Alaska.

8.      Others

Other sectors are growing here too. The healthcare industry here is also developing quite fast, making it one of the best paying in the state. Healthcare roles such as physicians, registered nurses, pharmacy technicians, respiratory therapists, etc., are in high demand.

Another area that’s growing is air cargo operations. Due to the strategic location of Anchorage, it has become sort of a stopover for aircraft transporting cargo from one part of the world to another. This makes air cargo supervisors one of the fastest-growing careers in the state.

Finding Work in Alaska

If you’re looking for a job in Alaska, summer is the best season. Work is easy to find during this period as that’s when most tourists come. Low entry jobs such as bus drivers, clerks at resort and hotel desks, bartenders, and more are usually in high demand. In addition, most Alaskan industries operate based on season, which means that it’s possible to find yourself switching jobs during the season.

Wages are usually high to compensate for the high cost of living, and grubstake is a popular culture here. This generally means buying essentials on credit during the off-season and paying for them during the busy period.

Average Salary in Alaska

According to  ZipRecruiter, the average annual wage here is $74,057. Most salaries here range between the 25th to 75th percentile, which is between $50,212 and $75,318. The top earners here, i.e., the top 10%, earn above $100k annually.

The survey also identified the highest paying cities here to be:

  • Juneau
  • Badger
  • Knik-Fairview
  • Wasilla
  • Lakes
  • Ketchikan
  • College
  • Anchorage
  • Fairbanks
  • Tanaina

In Conclusion

If you’re considering moving to Alaska, you want to know about its economy and what you can do here to make money. Fortunately, there are a lot of vibrant sectors here that employ most of the population. Beyond that, anyone with skills such as tradespeople can easily find a job, especially in remote areas.