Planning for the Future: What gets workers farther: traditional degrees or the school of life?

Author:Davenport, Samantha

There is an array of degrees training workers for Alaska's business community. From business administration to human resources, each individual is an important piece of the whole.

Paula Bradison is the owner and managing director of staffing agency Alaska Executive Search. She obtained her associate's degree in small business administration from the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) and is a fourth generation Alaskan business owner.

While the company recruits some potential employees from the Lower 48, the majority of individuals who use Alaska Executive Search's services are from Alaska, ranging from Bethel to Nome to Kotzebue.

Bradison says that the top three positions in high demand in Alaska are accounting, IT services, and human resources. Having a degree is important in those fields.

Education and Work Balance

"I think a four-year degree is very helpful to especially the sort of younger population. That's a fine balance with actual practical experience... In accounting, IT--those kind of things--the degrees and the certifications are absolute. We can't get past go without those," Bradison says.

Bradison encourages students interested in accounting, IT, and human resources to obtain a degree of some kind, as does Sander Schijvens, president and CEO of Wostmann Associates.

Wostmann Associates is an IT consulting business that was founded in 1984 with the ultimate goal of improving IT in Alaska through technical innovation. Its clients are primarily state and federal agencies, but the company also works with local government agencies and private businesses.

IT is a unique degree, Schijvens says, since people couldn't major it in thirty years ago. People who have been in the industry for a long time might not have a degree, but today individuals working in or entering the IT field usually have a degree or certificate of some kind.

Schijvens says that their clients oftentimes request individuals who have years of experience in computer science as well as a degree.

"In essence, for us, 80 percent of the work we do, having a computer science bachelor's degree is pretty much the standard," Schijvens says.

Schijvens went to school in Europe and earned the equivalent of a bachelor's degree in business engineering. He says that the most valuable degree to his business is computer science, but as the chair for the University of Alaska Southeast Advisory Council, education in any field is valuable.

"I absolutely believe in [the] university...

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