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Summer Jobs in Alaska

Updated on October 11, 2013

Grizzly Summer in Denali

Denali or Mt. McKinley
Denali or Mt. McKinley | Source

Work and Play in the Alaskan Summer

Alaska's summer is short. The highlight of the summer months are June, July and August. June and July are the mosquito months. August gets dark and would be a bit cooler; not that the rest of the summer may be cooler or hotter depending where you are. September is pretty much Autumn and most of the summer work is over by the second or third week. Summer in Alaska means plenty of daylight. If you need to sleep your regular sleeping hours without getting bothered by daylight at 11:00 p.m., use dark-colored curtains on your windows or use eye masks.

Most Alaskans soak in the daylight (when it is NOT raining). Summers for the locals are a whirlwind of outdoor fishing, camping, hiking. Alaskans tend to get hyperactive doing the summer, as if there won't be another beautiful day like the present (which in reality, summer can be unpredictable). There are supposedly summer months but are not, because of the generosity of rain.

There is more to the wonderful world of summer in Alaska. It is inviting, rich and a beehive of activities both from people and animals The "state animal," the buzzing mosquito are ferocious. Even caribous hide from them. One thing you have to remember, the bigger mosquitoes don't bite as maniacally as those pesky smaller ones.

I, for one, dislike hiking outdoors. When I go outside to walk my dog, I am covered from head to toe. I am a magnet for mosquitoes because I have "sweet blood." One thing for sure that my dog suffers from the same charisma. Every time we walk, we take a pause so I could shoo the bloodsuckers away from her eyes. This alleviates going home with swollen eyes. It had happened before, and the best way to treat these bites --- rub ice cubes on the afflicted areas.

Adventure in Alaska

Work to earn while in Alaska while enduring its beauty. Most people who chose Alaska wants an adventure of what Alaska offers. The Last Frontier is right on your list if you crave for nature. Anywhere you go in Alaska you are surrounded and reminded of how wildlife and urbane life intersects everyday. If you have the budget and nerve, sign up for expeditions in the isolated interior tundras. You won't have a shortage of grizzly bear scares.

But in Denali, the Denali National Park is in your backyard where a trip to the park could produce a grizzly bear sow with cubs digging roots, a shy lynx drinking from a pond, a resplendant red fox sunning under the sun, or a rare lone wolf on the road.

It's Called Work

As a potential addition to Alaskan's summer population, if you are not planning to be a full-time tourist, but intend to earn some spending moolah for your working vacation, then, sign up for work.

There are plenty of resorts, hotels, fishing lodges in every corner of the state that imports workers. Foreign students from Eastern Europe and Asia are predominant. Check the links below for the companies that sponsor J1 visas. These J1 visas have to be pre-arranged months ahead, so plan early.

Most job openings are advertised in January. This goes for resorts, hotels and lodgings. These companies need to fill the positions by early April because the season generally starts in May.

There are out-of-state people of all ages who want to experience the glory that is Alaska. It is not surprising to find retirees who don't mind being a Front Desk clerk at a hotel. Some of these senior citizens are so full of life and engage themselves successfully with young people. It is apparent to see them enjoying their Alaskan summer with verve. Some of the retirees I talked to had admitted that having a seasonal work with provided board and lodging made their decision to visit Alaska easier.

Job positions vary from management to supervisory to non-management. There are your typical jobs for hotels and restaurants from housekeeping, cooking, customer service, retail, etc.

A Quick Peek of the Glitter Gulch

Denali's Glitter Gulch

Denali is a small town that resurrects in the summer beginning mid-May when most crews have arrived. There are back to back resorts, hotels and restaurants that offer pre-arranged board and lodging.

I worked for four seasons in Denali and basically worked for all the major resorts. Most employees would have signed a contract to finish the season from date of arrival to September 20th. September 20th is the end of season. Denali gets quiet from this day on forward. Here are the major companies to work for in Denali: Princess Cruises, McKinley Chalet, Grande Denali.

Each of the companies offer employee lodging and meals that are deducted from the payroll. During my tenure over 10 years ago, Princess charged $7 per day for lodging including three meals a day. A bonus of $1 per every hour worked and $1.50 per overtime hour worked for employees who complete their contract and finish the season. The pay is low. It is unimaginable to get over $10 an hour at times with the exception of management and seasoned veterans (returning employees). BUT,,,,and there is a but. If you don't spend your monies, you would have finished the season with savings.

Before I started my very first season in 1997, I was shocked to learn that wages were atrociously meager. It was through prodding by a mentor to let me consider the benefits: Board and lodging was at $7 per day including meals; bonus at the end of the season; spending a Denali summer and getting my culinary chops in gear. And I was off and grateful for those summers.

Checklist Your Alaskan Summer Work

1. Transportation - If you are signed on to work in Denali, your arrangement would go from the Anchorage Railroad Station to Denali free 6 to 8 hours train ride. Denali companies do not pay for airline fares from the Lower 48 to Alaska. But most fishing lodges would shoulder the airfare within Alaska.

2. Lodging - The three major Denali resorts charges a fair amount for your lodging. Depending on your job title, age and status, workers are assigned certain rooms. Higher management and/or veteran employees (former returning employees) may have their own rooms or shared with another person in the nicest rooms. Couples can request a room of their own if there is availability. Young adults are housed dormitory style. All beddings are provided for.

I find the Princess lodging most comfortable during my time because of the en suite bathrooms in the rooms assigned to management and returning employees. The other housing arrangements will have a shared bathroom in the hallway.

3. Meals - You won't get hungry because there will always be some hot and cold food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food will range from mediocre to good to delicious. Every food is prepared by your co-employees. So, if you have talented and skillful cooks, you will have a happier stomach. All the properties have an employee cafeteria where they provide beverage dispenser of sodas, hot water, milk and juices. Cereals are always available.

4. Bonus - Finish your season and you will be rewarded. During my time, the bonus that Princess paid were $1 per worked hour and $1.50 per worked overtime. Bonus are received in October. Management has a different bonus tier.

5. Pay - Don't expect any job for over $10 per hour unless you are a returning management employee.

6. Hours - Eight hours but when it's busy, you will be asked to work more hours. And when it is slow, you can choose to take a hike.

7. Second Job - Some foreign students work two jobs so they could save more monies. I did that too and it is laborious!

8. Recreation - Employees in Denali get discounts to go to Denali National Park . Of course this will depend on your employers' arrangement with the other providers of services. The three companies that I mentioned here have arrangements, so you would have a chance to ride a small plane and see Mt. McKinley, go white water rafting, spend camping in parks, horse back riding and more.

Work in the Alaskan Canneries

I have not worked in any canneries. I met people who did. Tough work, so many hours of work in a day. Most canneries pay for airfare from within Alaska. Board and lodging are also included. Most canneries are dormitory style.

Expect to be in really remote places in Alaska when you work for a cannery.

Fishing Lodges

Fishing lodges need workers, too, Most fishing lodges are smaller in scale than big hotels and restaurants. The same with canneries, fishing lodges are usually in isolated villages in Alaska. Fishing lodges usually pay airfare to their lodge from within Alaska. They offer board and lodging and bonuses if you finish the season. Some lodges may pay hourly and some by salary. There are lodges who have been around for awhile and carry a good reputation as employers. Others are a mystery to me why there are in business. Some customers give you tips personally, and some lodges pool the tips for distribution.

I Will Be Back Alaska

I never thought I would prefer to exchange my cosmopolitan existence. But every time I was somewhere else, my thoughts go back to Alaska.

Alaska is not a drug, it's a lifestyle.

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    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 

      3 years ago from California

      You are so right about Alaska being a lifestyle. After two summers in the bush I am hooked. My husband went this year and after the second day was ready to go home. He isn't kind of guy to quit, and by the second week when we had hot weather he enjoyed the people we were working with. Wow! I wonder what he would say to working in a lodge near Denali? I have only been up on the central west coast. In the Yukon Delta and Anchorage. Nice work. When you add up the benefits you really have something when you work a summer job.


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