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Program Description

More than ever before, research critical to humanity’s survival is taking place in the Arctic and sub-Arctic. In recent years, as climate change has threatened the global environment, the world’s eyes have turned to the Arctic, where the pace of warming is more than double that elsewhere in the world. Similarly, threats from environmental pollution are also magnified in the Arctic.

Residents of the circumpolar north don’t have to imagine how climate change and environmental pollution might affect them in a decade or two. Communities are already experiencing the devastating effects of coastal erosion, sea ice melt, crumbling infrastructure resulting from melting permafrost, and the most destructive wildfires on record, while toxins accumulate within their traditional foods.

This fully online program provides students the opportunity to study these and many other compelling issues in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. By connecting with supportive faculty experts in history, political science, Alaska Native studies, anthropology, English and geography, you will develop knowledge of the circumpolar region and become an expert in your chosen field of concentration, while sharpening your analytical, critical thinking and writing skills.

Choose to concentrate on Arctic Politics and Policy or pursue an individualized concentration, which allows maximum flexibility in selecting coursework that complements and supports your research interests.

Students have chosen wide-ranging research topics including:

  • Alaskan salmon fisheries history
  • Arctic Council
  • Arctic security
  • Arctic shipping
  • Athabascan astronomy
  • big mountain tourism
  • cultural tourism
  • education issues
  • historical cartography
  • Indigenous histories
  • literary analysis
  • oil and gas corporate social responsibility
  • rural water and sanitation access
  • sexual and domestic violence in the North
  • visual culture analysis

Courses (30 Credits)
Choose one concentration:
  • Arctic Politics and Policy
  • Individualized Study
Major Requirements (6 credits)
  • Perspectives on the North
  • Research Methods and Sources in the North
Choose four of the following courses corresponding to your concentration (12 credits):
  • 20th Century History of the Circumpolar North
  • Alaska Government and Politics
  • Arctic Politics and Governance
  • Comparative Indigenous Rights and Policies
  • Government and Politics of Russia
  • Modern Scandinavia
  • Polar Exploration and Its Literature
  • Political Economy of the Global Environment
  • U.S. Environmental Politics

Choose two electives at the 400- or 600-level (6 credits), with faculty approval.

Complete a thesis or project (6 credits)

Under the supervision of your graduate student committee, you must conduct original research and write a thesis or project that is approximately 100 pages or longer.

Comprehensive exams

While completing your course work, you will take two comprehensive exams that are individualized to complement and support your field of study. You will be able to arrange the timing of the exams, usually taken weeks or months apart, with your faculty advisors. These three-hour exams are graded on a pass/fail basis.

Refer to the UAF Catalog for the full list of course requirements.

Cost Breakdown
Tuition Fees Other Expenses
$513/credit $6/credit UA Facilities Fee $75 Application Fee
$21/credit Network Fee $50 Graduation Fee
$50/credit UAF Consolidated Fee Costs for course materials will vary.

Estimated Cost of Program Based on Current Rates: $17,825

For more about UAF costs, visit our Financial Aid website.

Careers in Which Our Graduates Excel

This degree can lead to careers in a wide variety of fields in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Many graduates go on to earn doctoral degrees, most of which have led to careers in academia, and some have gone on to law school.

Our graduates have pursued careers in:

  • Alaska Native and other non-profit management
  • anthropology research consulting
  • cultural resource management
  • information technology
  • journalism and broadcasting
  • museum curation
  • National Parks Service
  • public and higher education
  • state and private agencies/offices including
    • legislative members’ offices
    • fisheries management
    • subsistence
    • health services
    • family and child services
    • environmental conservation
  • tribal governments
  • university administration
  • and various private sector enterprises

Explore more related careers and salaries at the University of Alaska Career Coach.

Special Opportunities
Model Arctic Council

Arctic & Northern Studies Co-Directors Mary Ehrlander and Brandon Boylan oversee the Model Arctic Council (MAC) program. MAC is an academic program in which students from universities throughout the circumpolar north and beyond actively participate in a collaborative, experiential learning exercise, simulating the work of the Arctic Council, to expand their knowledge of salient challenges and concerns in the Arctic. The program is a Thematic Network of UArctic and is organized through collaboration among faculty at UArctic institutions.

The objectives of the Model Arctic Council are to: 1) develop students’ knowledge of the Arctic as a region, of circumpolar politics, and of Northern Indigenous peoples; 2) increase students’ understanding of Arctic Council objectives and processes; 3) prepare students to assume leadership roles in the circumpolar north; and 4) enhance student and faculty collaboration among UArctic institutions. The program stresses authenticity in replicating as closely as possible Arctic Council procedures and norms. In pursuit of this goal, delegates to the Arctic Council and U.S. State Department personnel provide guidance and in some cases participate in programs.

For more information, visit:

Trans-Arctic Change: Extending Interdisciplinary Collaborations on the Environment (TRACEICE)

Sometimes special opportunities arise, such as the TRACEICE. Supported by the High North Programme, Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Education and co-administered by UAF’s Brandon Boylan, a graduate-level academic program on energy uses in the Arctic took place in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, in June 2017, and on biological and other natural resource development in the Arctic at UAF in August 2018.

Admissions Requirements

To apply, you will need to submit the following:

  • Undergraduate transcripts
  • GRE (only if your undergraduate GPA is less than 3.0)
  • RĂ©sumĂ©
  • Three letters of recommendation (preferably from former professors)
  • Statement of goals and objectives. This approximately two-page essay should address:
    • Your academic and related work background
    • Your proposed focus within the program (be clear and thorough)
    • Your post-graduation goals, including a description of how this degree will help you attain your academic, personal and career goals
  • A writing sample (preferably a paper written for a class, and ideally one on a topic or in a discipline you want to pursue within Arctic & Northern Studies)

Note about concentrations and delivery modes

In addition to the Individualized Study and Arctic Politics and Policy concentrations, which are fully online, UAF also offers a Northern History concentration that is mostly online. The Northern History concentration requires one teleconference class that is offered in the evenings (Alaska Time). If you are interested in learning more about this concentration, include that when filling out the contact form on this page.

If, in general, you are interested in modes of delivery other than online, there are a lot of options available to you. Connect with us and we can help you choose what’s right for you.

This online degree helps anyone around the world learn about one of the most remote places on this planet, which is increasing in importance due to climate change. There is no better place to study Arctic and Northern Studies than Alaska.

Kerstin Schley

Commercial Pilot in DĂĽsseldorf, Germany

Get more information

I accept text messages.


This online degree helps anyone around the world learn about one of the most remote places on this planet, which is increasing in importance due to climate change. There is no better place to study Arctic and Northern Studies than Alaska.

Kerstin Schley

Commercial Pilot in DĂĽsseldorf, Germany