UAS program prepares students for jobs in fishing industry

Everything you could possibly want to know about fish, from their biological characteristics to the commercial fisheries that harvest and sell them to the governmental entities that regulate them, is available through the University of Alaska Southeast applied fisheries program. Catering to high schoolers, recent graduates and seasoned professionals alike, the school’s online and in-person programs prepare students for jobs in the industry.

Applied fisheries is a workforce development program housed in the UAS career education department in Sitka. Applied fisheries students receive occupational endorsements or associate degrees that can jump-start their careers in commercial fisheries or regulatory agencies. Skilled professionals in fisheries and marine science are in high demand right now, explained Professor Lauren Wild, and students emerge from the program prepared to “meet the need for qualified personnel.”

In recent years, the university has streamlined its matriculation processes, making it easier than ever for students with an associate degree in applied fisheries to transfer their credits and pursue a bachelor’s. “If they change their mind and decide, ‘I want to go back to school,’ everything that was done with us will count,” Wild explained. Students may choose to pursue a career-oriented degree, work for a few years, then return to school for a more advanced degree that could unlock further employment opportunities.

High school upperclassmen can also explore their career options through fisheries dual enrollment. “Even if (they’re) just wanting to wade into whether (they) might be interested in a fisheries career, I encourage high school juniors and seniors to take these classes and really learn about fisheries in Alaska,” said Wild. “When they graduate, they can enroll in the full-time program.”

Fish biology, which Wild teaches, is one of the program’s most popular dual-enrollment courses. “You learn the identification, classification and anatomy of finfish and shellfish,” Wild said.

The class is geared toward online learning — students can watch recorded lectures and complete coursework in their own communities.

Each semester, about three to five Wrangell High School students take UAS dual-enrollment fisheries courses, said biology teacher Heather Howe. Each student chooses a course that interests them, whether its oceanography, fish biology, fisheries of Alaska or salmon culture, and completes their coursework independently. “For the most part, the kids are doing everything on their own,” she said.

One senior is a few credits away from earning a professional certification through UAS and may travel to Sitka in the spring for an in-person lab class.

The grant-funded, dual-enrollment program is free of charge for high schoolers.

Wild also teaches a policy class that focuses on a different management agency or regulatory process each semester. “No matter what you want to do in fisheries … it is so important to understand where the regulations come from and how that works,” she said. This year, her students learned about the ins and outs of the federal subsistence board.

Prospective students have until Jan. 17, the semester start date, to apply. They are encouraged to contact fisheries academic advisor Katie Sill at with questions about the program.


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