The 9 Highest Paying Summer Jobs in Alaska

There are few places steeped in as much history and natural wonder as the northernmost state in the union. Between the stunning scenery, endless outdoor activities, and, perhaps most importantly, the chance to take a relaxing break, there are tons of benefits to a summer in The Last Frontier (also, there’s no state income tax). If you’re looking to spend a few months in one of the most remote and beautiful places in the world without resorting to an Into-the-Wild, eating-berries-to-survive situation, we’ve put together this list of the 9 highest paying summer jobs in Alaska.

Lodge/Resort Jobs

This is sort of a summer camp job on steroids. As a lodge employee, you could end up doing everything from helping to refuel planes to preparing meals to performing various maintenance tasks — oh, and you’ll likely be in a breathtaking locale in the middle of the mountains. A bonus to lodge work is that usually you’ll be provided with accommodations, so that’s one less expense to worry about during your summer in the wilderness. Employment listings on Google range from a $2.4k per month bartending job (with ~$500 per week in potential gratuities) to a $25 per hour massage therapist position. Like we said, though, these jobs are multifaceted, which means you’ll be responsible for much more than pouring drinks and rubbing shoulders.  

Tour Guide

For someone who comes to Alaska for the numerous outdoor adventures it offers, you could do a lot worse than helping visitors navigate Class IV and V rapids, hike gorgeous glaciers, or enjoy a relaxing train trip through the mountains. Pay will vary, but tour guides are often paid a solid wage, in addition to any tips. And if you’re super lucky, guiding could provide access to some unique, extreme experiences  (e.g., helping guide heli-trips, where you’ll spend your days skiing Alaska’s epic corn snow or surfing its remote waves).

Internships

We know that an office gig is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about living in Alaska for a few months. Internships, however, can be one of the most profitable summer jobs out there. A quick Indeed search turns up dozens of internships in Alaska. And many of them won’t have you confined to a desk, but instead out in the field taking samples, working on an organically run farm, or helping with earthquake mitigation. Particularly in the larger towns like Anchorage, Juneau, and Fairbanks, there are going to be more opportunities for a larger paycheck. The oil and gas industry is the largest (and one of the most generous) in the state, but there will be opportunities in a wide variety of sectors, including environmental conservation, finance, medical, government, etc.

Nurse

The medical field is thriving in Alaska, providing a wealth of options for RNs or similar health services professionals. According to the Nurse Salary Guide, nursing pay in Alaska is “well above the national average,” often well north of $50/hour. These jobs are going to be in very high demand, particularly if you’re only able to stay for a summer; so be sure you’re applying to a variety of positions and staying flexible.

Deckhand/Fishing Guide

The fertile waters in and around Alaska teem with salmon, halibut, and a variety of other species, bringing tourists in droves during the summer months. You can take advantage of this by becoming a deckhand for a commercial fishing company or a member of a guiding outfit. If you have a passion for fly fishing and know some basics, consider helping to put visitors onto trophy trout as a guide. Fishing guides need to be physically fit, good with people, and detail-oriented. Want to help harvest some of the best seafood in the world? Look for work on a fishing boat. Deckhands need to be in even better shape, as the days are going to be quite long and the work can be extremely strenuous. The money can be great for both jobs. Guides usually earn a daily wage and can make even more with generous tips. Deckhands normally get paid either a flat rate or a “crew share” (1-10% of the yield). So, whether you’re working on a commercial boat or guiding, a big haul can mean big money.

Oil and Gas Jobs

When it comes to making money in Alaska, there’s no getting around the fact that energy companies are the largest and wealthiest employers in the state. Whether you’re looking to go into petroleum engineering, majoring in business, or just exploring the oil and gas industry, working for a company like ConocoPhillips or Exxon Mobil can be a very profitable and educational way to utilize a few months off. Alaska’s Department of Labor site is a great resource for info on how to get started and necessary training for working in the oilfields.

National Park Jobs

Okay, the starting pay is only going to be about $18/hr. But helping to protect and conserve some of America’s most beautiful natural places is perhaps the purest distillation of what a summer job in Alaska is all about. And with eight total parks and reserves (Alaska is second only to California in number of national parks), there is ample opportunity to secure a valued post with the NPS.

Bartender/Barista/Server

The summer season ushers in large crowds of people to the more touristy areas of Alaska — and someone has to provide them with fresh seafood, Alaskan White Ales, and hot coffee. Working at a restaurant, bar, or coffee shop is a great way to earn a solid income, meet people, and create a more flexible schedule. And, particularly if you’re working at a higher-end joint, you can make some really good money in the service industry. Note that you’ll likely need to get a food worker card and possibly complete alcohol service training in order to do most of these jobs.

Cruise Jobs

There are a number of seasonal jobs aboard the liners that travel amongst glaciers, mountain ranges, and national parks. According to Ziprecruiter, average cruise ship pay is $23/hour — and Alaska has some of the highest pay of any state — but the numbers will obviously vary depending on which line you’re working and what job you’re performing. These are going to be some of the most competitive jobs on this list, so apply early if you’re looking to spend your summer at sea.   

TIPS

  • Tap into the travel vibes. The tourism industry in Alaska is huge, so taking advantage of that sector is going to be one of your best bets for a summer in AK.
  • Plan ahead. Make sure you apply to jobs well ahead of time and make arrangements for housing (if not already included) and transportation as early as the fall.
  • Find some solitude. Consider one of the more remote, sparsely populated towns where there will often be a higher demand for workers. 

Conclusion

A summer spent with nature, wildlife, and fulfilling work can be one of the most rewarding ways of taking some time away from your life in the contiguous 48. So, nab one of these jobs and you could have an adventure-filled and lucrative summer — because fly rods, bush flights, and king crab don’t come cheap. 

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