Psychology Master’s Degree Programs in Alaska

Huge in terms of territory, Alaska is actually a pretty small place when it comes to people, the stock in trade of psychology practice. Accordingly, there are only three universities in the state that have psychology departments, and only two of those have master’s degree programs.

The University of Alaska at Anchorage and Alaska Pacific University are the institutions that Alaskans look to for resources, and for graduates capable of handling the counseling and psychology needs across the state.

And that’s where the challenges of the vastness of Alaska come into play. Trying to deliver psychological services in Alaska poses challenges like nowhere else in the country. Telehealth and airplane rides offer the only access to remote communities like Unalakleet, Cold Bay, or Kako. It’s a struggle to deliver services to such remote places, but working among such tightly knit groups can be as rewarding as it is challenging.

All of this calls for community and individual counseling on a scale as large as the state itself. And a master’s degree is the most popular credential to qualify you to offer these services.

Local Communities Rely On Local Psychology Schools for Licensing Qualifications

Although there are only two master’s programs in psychology in the state, they are the go-to schools for practitioners heading into any specialty. The UAA program is in clinical psychology and offers the research and clinical analysis skills to prepare students to go on for the PhD necessary to become a licensed psychologist in the state. APU offers a master’s in counseling psychology, which puts you on the track to become a licensed professional counselor in the state.

Either master’s program can also set you up to become an LMSW (Licensed Master’s Social Worker) or LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) in Alaska. A master’s is also all the qualification you will need for a school psychologist credential in Alaska.

Meeting The Challenges of Practicing In Northernmost State in Every Specialty Area

Because Alaska is such a big place and psychology professionals few and far between, it shouldn’t be a surprise that just about all of them are called upon to handle just about anything that comes up.

Travel Counseling Is The Preferred Mode of Delivery On the North Slope and Coasts

Although telehealth services were pioneered in Alaska, it’s a challenge to build a psychological rapport with patients through a screen. Consequently, the old ways are sometimes best, and the state leads the nation in job listings for travel counselors. By plane or boat, these psychology professionals go where they are needed.

Even around the larger metropolitan areas like Fairbanks and Anchorage, outlying villages and towns without a resident professional often need the services of psychologists or school psychologists. Alaskan psychologists can expect travel time in some stunning territory to come with the job.

Counseling and Clinical Psychologists Fight Depression Around The State

The latitude of the state introduces unique challenges. With around 80 days a year that the sun barely sets and 80 more where it barely rises, seasonal affective issues are rampant. The isolation, cold, and often difficult working conditions also take a psychological toll. The state has the highest per capita suicide rate in the nation. Among the large population of Alaska Natives, the rate is even higher.

Almost ten percent of Alaskans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, and the ratio is even higher in northern regions such as Barrow, north of the Arctic Circle. For every 5 degree increase in latitude, the suicide rate jumps by nearly 20 percent.

That’s a serious challenge for counselors and psychologists, who are shorthanded in those regions already. But the demand continues to rise.

Depression, Loneliness, and Boredom Create The Right Environment for Drug Addiction

When access to psychological services is hard to come by and alcohol and drugs are easy to get, self-medication is a solution many lonely and depressed people are sure to try. So it’s unsurprising that Alaska is one of the top states for illicit drug use in the United States.

The fallout from the addiction crisis creates a big demand for addiction treatment and recovery experts with psychology master’s degrees. With a wave of Federal funding heading for the state to address the crisis, new jobs and opportunities are opening up in this specialty all the time.

Alaska has many challenges for psychology professionals but it’s also a beautiful state with fiercely independent, highly capable people who are a joy to know and work with. Earning a master’s degree in psychology in Alaska will put you among them and in some of the most gorgeous territory on the planet.

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