Seasonal Opportunities In Alaska’s Tourism Industry
The tourism industry is vital to Alaska’s economy. According to the Department of Commerce for the state, 1.5 million out of state visitors enter the state of Alaska between May and September every summer. The majority of these visitors are cruise ship passengers. These tourists come to the state for its beauty and nature. Alaska is home to some of the largest stretches of wilderness in North America, including the U.S.’s largest National Park System unit, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve. The state is home to charismatic wildlife – moose, caribou, wolves, and bears – and to close-knit communities, including many of people who still live off the land, a rarity in the modern world.
As a result of this thriving tourist industry, there is a need for all kinds of employees during the summer months. These jobs range from nature and adventure guides to seasonal biologists, to cooks and hotel workers.
Gift shops need to be manned, and bus lines need more ticket agents, drivers, and behind-the-scenes workers. If you enjoy being outdoors, nature, and the hospitality industry, you should think about pursuing a summer job in Alaska. Keep in mind, though, the jobs are competitive and the work is hard. But the experience of working in Alaska is worth it to the seasonal workers who return year after year. (If you came here seeking Alaska nursing jobs or teaching jobs in Alaska, then we’ve got bad news…you’re in the wrong place!)
Types of Summer Jobs Available
As mentioned, the majority of the summer jobs available in Alaska are related to the tourism industry. However, the fishing industry also plays a major role in the Alaskan economy, and they also often employ people over the summer.
Commercial fishing companies may employ people to man fishing boats or for packing and shipping duties. There may also be opportunities at the state’s nature preserves and parks, although most positions are staffed by volunteers. If you’re a student looking for experience that will look good on a resume, consider an internship in Alaska. There are often paid and unpaid summer internships in many fields, especially for biologists, geologists, and naturalists. Here’s a list of some of the most common summer job listings in the beautiful state of Alaska.
- Nature guide
- Hiking guide
- Rail tour guide
- Harbor cruise guide
- Adventure tour guide
- Restaurant host
- Gift shop cashier
- Restaurant cashier
- Restaurant busser
- Hotel/motel desk clerk
- Hotel/motel porter
- Hotel/motel housekeeper
- Restaurant bartender
- Cruise ship housekeeper
- Cruise ship waiter/waitress
- Cruise ship bartender
- Cruise ship steward
- Casino staff
- Cabin attendant
- Commercial fishing jobs
- Salmon canneries and processing jobs
This is not an exhaustive list. There are many additional jobs available. However, this is a good representation of the most common summer jobs.
Common Job Responsibilities
Of course your job responsibilities will depend on the job you get. If you’re lucky enough to land a job as an adventure or outdoor tour guide, your main task will be to guide your guests on their tour, ensure their safety, and make sure they have fun. If you’re a nature guide, you may be expected to have some knowledge about Alaska wildlife that you can pass on to your tourists. Some facilities may train their guides. If your tour is on a boat, you may be required to know how to operate the boat. That is also true for a bus or other motorized vehicle you will operate during the tour. This will depend on the size of the vehicle the tour uses. For example, very large buses usually employ both a driver and a tour guide, while small buses utilize one person, who does both.
If you’re working in the hospitality industry, your main priority will be caring for guests, whether that means serving them food, keeping their room clean, or serving them liquor or other beverages. You will need to enjoy working with people, and have a desire to provide good service. This is especially true if you get a job on an Alaskan cruise ship, where you stand to make good money in tips if your guests are pleased with the job you do.
As a commercial fisherman you’ll work on a fishing boat each day, helping to haul out the lines and bring in the fish. Once ashore, you will be needed to help transport the fish to their next destination. At a salmon canning facility, if you’re working in the production end, you may be helping to prep the fish, or work in the boxing and shipping end of things.
Many of these jobs involve manual or physical labor. There are other seasonal jobs, such as accounting personnel, clerks, etc. in which you’ll work at a desk inside. These jobs are not as prevalent as the other jobs, and they may require you to have at least a few years of experience.
What You’ll Earn
Pay ranges for seasonal jobs in Alaska vary a great deal and are rarely high, but many employers provide free or discounted room and board, making it possible to save some of your wages. Cruise ship jobs have the most potential as far as pay goes, because in addition to your salary you will also earn tips, which can almost double your salary. This is also true for hospitality staff members at restaurants, but they typically don’t earn as much in tips as cruise ship employees. You can expect to earn a higher salary for commercial fishing jobs and jobs in salmon canneries, but these jobs involve harder work, and can be harder to get.
In general, you probably won’t get rich in most of these jobs, but you’ll have amazing experiences and the opportunity to explore Alaska during your time off. Who knows? Maybe you’ll decide to stay.
Work in Alaska for a summer and you could guide guests into the backcountry, serve gourmet meals, or track caribou herds across the tundra. Take a chance and challenge yourself with an unusual experience.
In the pages that follow, you’ll learn about some of Alaska’s parks, different types of employers and jobs, how to find a job, and tips on applying, as well as interviews with employers and employees. Fishing jobs in Alaska are covered in the Alaska Fishing Job Section of JobMonkey.
JobMonkey provides one of the best resources to learn about Alaska jobs online. Read this entire section to learn more about Alaska summer employment.