College & Career Training in Alaska

You have choices.  In everything you do, you have choices.

When it comes to education and training after high school the biggest choice is what to study or your program of study.  A program of study is a group of courses leading to a diploma, certificate, or college degree.  Often you will hear them called “majors” at a college or university.

Shorter programs focus on the specific skills needed to work in a single occupation, ex. Real Estate and Automotive Technology. Longer programs take more time and often include a college degree or journeyman certification, ex. Biological Sciences, English Language and Literature, Medicine, or Carpentry.

A good rule of thumb is to learn all you can about the programs of study available to you. If possible, choose a program of study before you choose which schools to apply to. Just because a school has a great overall reputation does not mean it will be the best place to study what interests you.

Know Yourself

There are several things you should consider about yourself when you are choosing a program of study. Consider these areas:

  • Interests: Choosing a program of study you like is important. Make sure the program of study will also prepare you for an occupation you find interesting.
  • Goals: Think about both your short-term and long-term goals.
  • Length of Study: Consider how long you want to attend school. Do you want to go full time or part time?
  • Difficulty of Study: Some of the things that come easiest to us are those that we find really interesting. Then again, some things that are easy also get boring quickly.
  • Jobs: Use AKCIS to research the occupations your program of study leads to, and job availability in those fields.
  • Wages: High wages are always appealing. But money alone is not a good reason to choose an occupation.

Apprenticeships – Earn while you Learn!

An apprenticeship is a formal method of training in a skilled occupation, craft, or trade. During the apprenticeship period, the apprentice is employed to learn an occupation through a structured program of on-the-job training with related classroom technical instruction.

The United States Department of Labor recognizes more than 800 apprenticeable occupations. Most apprenticeships are in construction, manufacturing, transportation, and services. Apprenticeship training is the major way to prepare for some occupations, such as plumber or electrician. For many other occupations, such as carpenter, baker, or machinist, apprenticeship is one of several ways to prepare for skilled or "journey level" jobs.

Classroom instruction is designed to provide apprentices with knowledge in technical subjects related to their trade. For example, construction apprenticeships may include course work in blueprint reading, carpentry, iron work, and concrete work. At least 144 hours of related classroom instruction are required during each year of apprenticeship training. Classes are taught by journey worker instructors and are usually held at night through public educational facilities such as community colleges or vocational-technical schools.

The apprentice must show satisfactory progress on the job and in related classroom instruction. To master a particular trade, an apprentice must learn and perfect each skill and bring those skills up to the speed and accuracy required of the job. A good attendance record is also important.

Some two-year colleges offer "credit for experience" for appropriate work experience in an apprenticeable occupation. For information about credit toward an associate degree contact your local state technical college, community college, or university. Programs vary in length from one to six years; four years is the average. A few programs last less than one year.

Apprenticeship pay usually begins at nearly one-half the pay rate for journey-level workers. After six months, the pay rate begins to move up periodically until the apprentice reaches the journey level.

Certificates and Degrees

Not all occupations require a postsecondary certificate, or degree. However, additional education will open up more positions to you. Employers often prefer to hire, train, and advance people who have more education. New skills and longer training/education shows you are skilled and knowledgeable. It also may reduce the amount of training the employer must provide.

Many programs of study offer you the option of earning a certificate or college degree depending on how much time you want to spend studying. A variety of bachelor's degree programs are also offered at the master's and doctoral level. There are also programs that will only be open to you after you earn a bachelor's degree. These programs require several more years of study.

It is important to know how much training is required to work in an occupation that interests you. If you have more education than a job requires, some employers may wonder if you will be challenged or happy in the job. In this case, you might hear “you are over qualified”.  You may also require higher wages than some companies can pay.

AKCIS.org – the Alaska Career Information System

Use the Programs of Study files under the Education tab in AKCIS to learn about the occupations each program may lead to.

Be sure to check out the Related Occupations topic for each program. This topic contains a list of occupations someone might go into after completing the program of study you are interested in. Explore some of those occupations to find out if one of them might be right for you.  The Related Occupations can help hone in on specific areas of study for you.

Most programs place emphasis on both general and specific skills. Many colleges and universities have students begin with general courses and gradually focus more directly on specialty areas. You can change your major, although sometimes it will result in attending school for a longer period of time.

Keep in mind that people change occupations several times during their working life. A single program of study can't prepare you for all those changes. However, a program of study may help prepare you for your first few jobs. Also, choosing a program of study you like will lead you to other areas that interest you.

Making Your Choice – Opening Doors

Whatever your career and salary goals are, chances are they will require some education and training after high school. If you start a job without additional training, it may be difficult to move up to a better position.

Workers with higher levels of education are generally less likely to be unemployed. If you have a higher level of education and become unemployed, it will likely take less time for you to find a new job.

Additional education and training does not guarantee success. However, making a choice of a program of study in training and education after high school that interests you and meets your requirements, because you took the time to Know Yourself, will provide you with tools to move forward in your career, open up jobs in occupations that interest you, and give you greater security.


About the Author

Julia Renfro

Julia Renfro

AKCIS Partnership Coordinator


A military BRAT turned military spouse, Julia likes traveling and meeting new people. Using Personal Learning & Career Plans (PLCPs), she works with students and families to plan futures that will help them enjoy life and their communities.



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