Kathleen Gaines
Kathleen Gaines
June 10, 2022 - 7 min read

Travel Nursing in Alaska | Top Paying Specialties & Cities 2022

Travel nursing in Alaska is a dream for most. The northern lights, midnight sun, Denali National Park, and the sheer beauty of the unknown attract hundreds of travel nurses each year. Alaska offers something for everyone, including nature lovers, with outdoor adventures as well as the hustle and bustle of city life. 

If you are ready for an adventure to The Last Frontier then Alaska might be the state for you. Keep reading to find out more!

Speak with a recruiter about travel nursing assignments in Alaska!

COVID & travel nurses in Alaska

As of January 2022, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services has reported 1,113 deaths due to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. For this same period, the US death cumulative incidence was 268 per 100,000 persons, which was approximately 1.8 times higher than the Alaska death rate. Of these 1,113 deaths, 864 (77.6%) were known to have been hospitalized and 324 (29.1%) were admitted to an intensive care unit.

According to statistics, as of January 2022, the state of Alaska is seeing a disparity between age, race, and ethnicity in regard to infection numbers. 

Ethnicity and Race:

  • American Indian and Alaska Native: 23%
  • Asian: 7%
  • Black: 3%
  • Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander: 7%
  • White: 42%
  • Other: 4%
  • Multiple: 4%
  • Unknown: 10%

Sex:

  • Female: 45%
  • Male: 55%

Age:

  • Under 45 – 4.2% (40,951 deaths)
  • 45 to 64 – 21.4% (208,273 deaths)
  • 65 and over – 74.4% (725,058 deaths)

In Alaska, 69% of the state’s overall population has received at least one dose of the vaccine while 61% of the population is considered fully vaccinated. Furthermore, 26% have received a booster dose.  

Alaska has always been very popular with travel nurses partially because there is a very large need for nurses throughout the state. The Alaska State Hospitals and Nursing Home Association recently completed an Alaska Healthcare Workforce Analysis and found there were 1,400 positions available for registered nurses. Approximately 11.3% of healthcare workers in Alaska come from out of state.

“This is the biggest challenge, I would say, facing health care into the foreseeable future,” association President and CEO Jared Kosin said in regard to the workforce shortage. Throughout the COVID pandemic, the need was so high in Alaska that the governor signed multiple contracts to bring in large numbers of nurses. In September 2021, 500 travel nurses were brought in specifically to help overworked healthcare workers and stressed healthcare systems. 

How much do travel nurses make in Alaska?

According to ZipRecruiter, travel nurses make an average of $80,207 per year with a range of $61,822 to $105,696 per year. 

Indeed reports an average base salary of $1,981 per week with top locations in Cordova, Juneau, Anchorage, and Fairbanks. 

Cordova, AK

  • Hourly Wage: $53.55
  • Weekly: $2,286
  • Monthly: $8,846

Juneau, AK

  • Hourly Wage: $47.89
  • Weekly: $2,044
  • Monthly: $7,911

Anchorage, AK

  • Hourly Wage: $47.22
  • Weekly: $2,016
  • Monthly: $7,801

Fairbanks, AK

  • Hourly Wage: $44.85
  • Weekly: $1,915
  • Monthly: $7,410

Looking for travel nurse assignments in Alaska? Speak with a recruiter today!

Highest paying nursing specialties in Alaska

The highest-paid travel nursing specialties depend on a variety of factors including location within the state, demand, and urgency of needs. The demand for travel nurses in Alaska has always been high but it also is one of the most requested states by travel nurses. 

As a result of the increased demand for nurses and the ongoing pandemic, wages that are being offered are steadily increasing. Unfortunately, this is not being seen across all disciplines of nursing. 

Historically speaking the top paying travel nurse specialties are:

  1. Labor and Delivery
  2. Operating Room
  3. Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
  4. Post-Anesthesia Care Unit
  5. Intensive Care Unit

According to SimplyHired, intensive care unit, labor and delivery, and operating room nurses have the highest earning potential in Alaska. Potential average annual salaries include:

  • Intensive Care Unit: $105,369 per year
  • Labor & Delivery: $101,791 per year
  • Operating Room: $96,064 per year

Top 5 hospitals in Alaska

Alaska’s population is more spread out than any other state in the country, with fewer than one million residents as of 2019. U.S. World News and Report ranked and evaluated Alaska’s 26 hospitals, and the top five as of 2021-2022 were:

  1. Providence Alaska Medical Center
    • Location: Anchorage
    • Nationally Ranked: 1 Specialty
    • High Performing: 4 Specialties & 6 Procedures/Conditions
  2. Alaska Native Medical Center
    • Location: Anchorage
    • High Performing: 3 Procedures/Conditions
  3. Alaska Psychiatric Institute
    • Location: Anchorage 
  4. Alaska Regional Hospital
    • Location: Anchorage
    • High Performing: 1 Procedure/Condition
  5. Barlett Regional Hospital
    • Location: Juneau

Cost of living for travel nurses in Alaska

As the national cost of living continues to rise, Alaska’s cost of living has remained fairly consistent because of its isolated location. Cost of living is defined as the amount of money needed to cover basic expenses such as housing, food, taxes, and healthcare. 

Typically, the cost of living is less in smaller towns than in major cities; however, in Alaska, this is not the case. Because of the isolation and distance, smaller cities in Alaska can be more expensive than large cities such as Fairbanks and Juneau. 

According to BestPlaces, the overall cost of living in Alaska rates 125.8. The number is well above 100 which means Alaska has a significantly higher cost of living than the U.S. average. The median house cost is $293,400 as compared to the median home cost in the U.S. of only $291,700.

Payscale.com reports on the cost of living in major Alaska cities including the median home price, median rent, and monthly energy bill. 

Juneau

  • National Average: 33% higher
  • Median Home Price: $522,235
  • Median Rent: $1,636/month 
  • Energy Bill: $201.02/month

Anchorage

  • National Average: 28% higher
  • Median Home Price: $510,784
  • Median Rent: $1,600/month 
  • Energy Bill: $173.70/month

Fairbanks

  • National Average: 33% higher
  • Median Home Price: $424,728
  • Median Rent: $1,330/month 
  • Energy Bill: $365.33/month

Wasilla

  • National Average: 18% higher
  • Median Home Price: $392,034
  • Median Rent: $1,228 / month 
  • Energy Bill: $173.70 / month

North Pole

  • National Average: 33% higher
  • Median Home Price: $424,728
  • Median Rent: $1,330/month 
  • Energy Bill: $365.33/month

A great resource to calculate your current salary and town versus a city in Alaska is CNN’s Cost of Living Calculator

Pros & cons of travel nursing in Alaska

With any career, there are pros and cons to the job. Travel nursing is no different. It’s important to take into consideration your own personal circumstances, family obligations, and reasons for wanting to be a travel nurse. Reasons that some nurses might see as a con may in fact be a positive for you. 

Pros

1. Increased earning potential

Travel nurses have the ability to earn significantly more money than staff nurses. Furthermore, they can make more due to reimbursements and incentives. Most travel nurses receive free housing or have a monthly allowance to put toward housing expenses.

2. Travel

One of the main reasons travel nurses start this adventure is to experience different cities and states they may not otherwise get to experience. It also is great for nurses that are not sure where they ultimately want to settle down. 

3. Flexibility

You have the ability to take a contract when you want to and where you want to. If you really want to travel to Alaska you have the ability to find a contract that fits your needs. 

4. Networking

Most don’t consider this a huge pro of travel nursing but it is! With an increase in the number of nurses that go on for an advanced degree, making connections with different hospitals, providers, and nurses can be very important when trying to find preceptors for graduate-level clinical rotations. 

5. Avoid hospital and unit politics

Most don’t like to admit it but bedside nursing comes with drama and politics. It can be as simple as a hierarchy based on seniority or something more serious. Being a travel nurse allows you to avoid all of this as you’re not fully invested in the unit and only helping out for a very specific amount of time. 

Cons

1. Always the new person

Being new to a unit can be exciting but can also be frustrating or even lonely. Not knowing anyone on the unit can affect the type of help you will get in your work environment.

2. Not the best assignments

Some hospitals will assign travel nurses patients just like any other nurse on the unit. Others will assign them the easiest patients, the hardest patients, or the ones that no one wants to deal with. 

3. First to float to another unit

Despite being contracted to a specific unit, most travel nurses will have to float to other parts of the hospital within their skill set. This again will make you the new person which can affect how others perceive you as well as assist you throughout the shift

4. Finding a place to live

All travel nurse companies offer their nurses places to live during each contract. However, it is not always in the location that you want, has the amenities you desire, and/or fits your needs. Contracts will offer a housing stipend instead, which most travel nurses take, but then finding appropriate housing falls on you. 

5. Changing health insurance policies

With each contract may come a new health insurance policy. This will be dependent on the agency that you work with. If you switch between multiple agencies then there will most likely be a lapse in your health insurance. However, nurses can opt for private insurance and pay out-of-pocket. That way, when the assignment ends, you won’t lose your insurance. 

Why Alaska?

Alaska is The Last Frontier and draws adventures, wanders, and travel enthusiasts. More importantly, it attracts travel nurses wanting to experience the great unknown. Alaska is a very large state and much of the population is widespread and even isolated. Communities are without healthcare and there are major gaps in availability. Travel nurses help fill these gaps. 

While the cost of living might be slightly higher than in other states, the higher hourly wages can make up the difference. With an ongoing high demand for travel nurses of all specialties and very competitive wages, Alaska is a great fit for anyone interested in becoming a travel nurse. 

Speak with a recruiter about available travel nursing assignments in Alaska!

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