Alaska may have its gold rush days long in the past, but it remains a vital site for all sorts of business and industry for the U.S. and international interests. Thus, there is a large demand for CPAs and other accountants. If you want earn an accounting degree, and become a CPA and work in the state, there are certain CPA requirements Alaska has in place and a specific path that you must follow if you want your career to kick off on the strongest footing. All firms in Alaska have policies governing their public accounting and CPA professionals, which require them to meet specific criteria such as understanding regulation, possessing high-level skills, and continuing their educational learning. These are supported by local rules and laws governing accounting personnel and reporting practices.
The largest part of your CPA preparation is your education. If you are serious about becoming an accountant, you will need an accounting degree. Most universities offer an accounting degree program. You will want to have the strongest academic background you can possibly manage. Since Alaska has no residency requirements for its CPAs, you can freely pursue your accounting degree in another state. Alaska policy also allows aspiring CPAs to take their exam prior to completing an undergraduate degree in accounting, provided that you are only 18 semester or 27 quarter hours away from graduation and meet additional education requirements.
Nonetheless, Alaska does require that your transcripts reflect a certain curriculum. Students will need to complete an undergraduate degree with a major concentration based in Accounting and 150 total undergraduate or graduate credit hours. If you choose to pursue your accounting degree and CPA licensure as a student in an MBA program, you will likewise need to reflect a thorough overview of accounting coursework on your transcripts. In particular, the state board of accountancy requires that your academic record be comprised of:
24 semester hours in accounting at or above the intermediate level. Courses include:
- Start here with an Associate degree in Accounting
- Intermediate Accounting
- Accounting Principles
- Tax Accounting
- Government or Non-profit Accounting
- Theories in Accounting
- Fraud Detection
- Financial Accounting
3 hours of business law
3 hours of economics
3 hours of college level math or computer science
Since the CPA examination is one of the most difficult professional exams, you will likely want to take a CPA review courses or a preparation course which can cover general terms and total content or individual questions or sections of review. Alaska will acknowledge these courses and counts them towards your 150 semester hours. These courses must be taken for credit at an accredited institution. Commercial accounting courses might be helpful as reviews later on, but they cannot be taken to satisfy the Board's requirements to sit for the test.
Alaska acknowledges bachelor's degrees from out of state institutions, but the Board will want to see that your accounting degree comes from an accredited college or university. Make sure that your accounting degree is certified by one of the following accreditation agencies:
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- New England Association of Colleges and Schools
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
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Types of Accounting Degrees Online in Alaska
Associate Degree in Accounting
Typically, students with an associate accounting degree do not have enough training to become full accountants. Most students will continue on to a four-year institution and at least undertake a bachelor’s in accounting. Students looking to complete accounting associate degree programs can study for their Accounting A.A.S. at the University of Alaska at Anchorage. Learn More
Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting
Most accounting students will complete a bachelor’s degree in accounting at a 4-year accredited college. Schools in the state that offer bachelor’s degrees in accounting include Alaska Pacific University, the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, the University of Alaska Anchorage. Learn More
Master’s Degree in Accounting
Students looking to acquire the certified public accountant credential, which can be a prerequisite for many top-level accounting jobs, may elect to complete a master’s degree in accounting. This is because the typical bachelor’s program is completed within 120-128 credits, but the CPA exam requires 150 college credits or more. The University of Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Pacific University both offer MBA programs that cover accounting knowledge, but there are no universities offering Master’s in Accounting programs within the state. Learn More
Doctorate or PhD in Accounting
Most practicing accountants do not need to complete a doctorate or PhD program. Those who pursue PhD programs in accounting will look to build academic careers in the field and undergo years of intense research to become an accounting scholar. Although there are options for PhDs in Finance, no Alaskan schools offer PhDs focused on accounting. Learn More
Online Degree Programs in Accounting
Students looking to obtain an accounting degree through online programs should look to the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ BBA in Accounting online program, which is the state’s only accredited online bachelor’s accounting degree program. Those students who are interested in an accounting degree for which Alaska has no option can instead look to online accounting degree programs from other schools to provide them the education they are looking for. Learn More
The exam CPA professionals take is provided by the AICPA, a national association that provides testing, education, and other resources to CPA candidates and practicing professionals. Your life as a CPA will likely include some interactions with this organization. Prior to taking the exam, the Alaska board asks that you satisfy the academic and other requirements to make sure you learn everything you need to earn a good score. As a baseline, the state does require that all CPAs be 19 years of age or older and of upstanding moral character.
To ensure the strongest possible application to the board, present them with a transcript that includes:
- 24 semester hours in accounting courses at or above the intermediate level
- 3 semester hours of business law that focus on the Uniform Commercial Code
- 3 semester hours in economics – your course should reflect your long-term professional goals
- 3 semester hours in mathematics, statistics, or computer science
Another option allows you to take the CPA exam with a bachelor's degree in accounting and at least one year of supervised experience with a licensed CPA. You will need more experience if your bachelor's degree in accounting does not include the necessary courses.
Once you have completed your bachelor's degree and a major concentration in Accounting, you are ready to apply to the board. Note that your bachelor's may still be in progress, but you must be within 18 semester or 27 quarter hours of graduation. First, complete an application for the Uniform Certified Public Accountant examination that you can download from the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) website. If you find the provided information confusing, simply email the NASBA in order to clarify.
Along with a completed application, have your official transcripts sent from your educational institution to the Board. If you are relying on your supervised experience, provide the board with a signed, notarized letter that reflects:
Your full name
Your dates of employment
Detailed information reflecting your specific experience in areas such as:
- Financial Accounting
- Government Accountancy
- Implementing Control Systems
- Tax Accounting
Letterhead from your employer
Signature of your supervisor or their proxy (such as the HR supervisor)
Prior to becoming a full CPA, you must not only pass your CPA exam(s) but you should complete tenure as an employee in a public accountancy, private business, or government agency. Alaska will want to see that you have fulfilled this requirement with a full accounting of your experience. In particular, you should have practiced providing a service of one (or more) of the following types to your clients or employer:
- Financial Advice
- Managerial Advice
- Consulting Services
- Tax Accountancy
Prior to securing a position as a staffer under a licensed CPA, you should find an employer or institute that will provide you with the sort of experience you desire, an experience that matches your long-term career goals. Your college or university accounting program will likely be able to provide a list of potential employers. It will be helpful if these employers have a record of management working with budding CPAs. They will be the best able to guide you through your two or three years of experience, then will likely help you create the best letter for the Board.
The full requirements for licensure in the state of Alaska cover your education, exam scores, experience, and an ethics exam. Once you have these things, you will want to view the Board's website and download their application. Along with a completed application form, you will need to include the following specific items to the Board:
Official transcripts sent directly from your college or university
Make sure you send the most up-to-date transcripts, including any coursework taken after passing the CPA examination
A check for all fees owed – check the Board's website for up-to-date application fees
If you took the exam in another state, include the Interstate Exchange form that is included with your application packet
Mail all of your materials to: Alaska State Board of Public Accountancy, P.O. Box 110806, Juneau, AK 99811-0806
If you are a CPA outside of Alaska and wish to move your practice to the state, you may do so. Alaska does have a few requirements, including:
- Submit an application for Certified Public Accountant, ensuring that the reciprocity box is checked.
- You must hold a CPA license in good standing
- Proof of four consecutive years of practice as a CPA after passing your examination, within the past 10 years
- Official academic transcripts including all academic work
- Verification of your experience by your supervisor with the proper form, available on the website.
- Out-of-state supervisors must complete Section A of the Supervisor Verification form, then have their licensing board complete the rest prior to mailing it to the Alaska Board
- Complete the Authorization for Interstate Exchange of Examination and Certification Information for both your state of licensure and the state where you took your examination and have both states (if applicable) submit their portion to the Alaska Board.
Continuing professional education
In order to maintain your accounting license with the state of Alaska, you must continue to update your education with coursework and seminars. The state asks that you complete a minimum of 20 hours per year and a total of 80 hours every two years. At least four of the 80 continuing education hours must cover ethics and Alaska's statutes and regulations regarding accountancy.
There are many ways to achieve your CPE credits. You might enroll in for-credit classes from your local institution of higher education, including a community college. You could also take advantage of contemporary advances in education and take courses from colleges and universities online. In fact, you could take advantage of the CPE requirement and use that time to complete a master's degree in accounting or business. First make sure that the institution is fully accredited by a board-approved agency. In Alaska, one semester hour in a college course will count for 15 hours of CPE time.
You can also take courses through the AICPA, engage in an independent study course, publish books or articles, or teach a course yourself. Teaching or leading discussions can only count for a maximum of 30 CPE hours every two years.
Make sure that you fully account for your CPA time and energy by keeping complete records. If the course or lecture offers a CPE certificate, make sure you get that. You will also need to take note of vital facts such as:
- Time/place of course
- Course sponsorship
- Proof of publication – for articles or books (valid URLs or ISBN numbers may suffice)
- Transcripts from educational institutions
Note that you will need to renew your license every two years and your CPE hours must be a part of that biennial renewal process.
Accountant Career Concentrations & Salaries in Alaska
The public accounting career pathway focuses on teaching accountants the technical skills required to handle tax reporting and other public accounting issues. This pathway requires accountants to pass the CPA exam. Students can complete a bachelor’s degree in accounting at the University of Alaska Southeast, University of Alaska Anchorage, or University of Alaska Fairbanks, but will not be able to complete the 150 hours of accounting and business education without completing further education. Learn More
This accounting concentration is typically a fit for those looking more for a generalist role post-graduation, rather than a specialist role. Many accounting programs in Alaska offer a business management-focused degree program, including Charter College and University of Alaska Anchorage’s bachelor’s programs in business management, which covers accounting curricula.
Computerized accounting programs focus on work that involve software programs and spreadsheets that allow companies to set up income and expense accounts. In Alaska, Alaska Pacific University offers a bachelor’s in information systems and Charter College offers an associate program in computerized accounting.
Alaska has a relatively small population spread across a vast amount of territory. For that reason, the overall demand for accountants is only about half the national average. However, the annual compensation is significantly higher than in other states. Most uniquely, accountants and auditors can make more in Alaska by working in rural rather than urban areas. The best-paid accountants in the state make well over six-figures, and due to the high demand for their services they are able to price them aggressively.
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Alaska Accounting Frequently Asked Questions
What types of accounting jobs are available in Alaska?
For job seekers with 0-3 years of accounting-related work experience, many local companies and government agencies in Alaska are hiring for accountant, staff accountant, and senior accountant positions. For job seekers with a longer accounting career, career options are typically available at the accounting manager level, with limited spots available for accounting director and VP of accounting.
What is the earning potential of a graduate with an accounting degree in Alaska?
The average salary range for an Alaskan Accountant I, usually an early career job title for accountants with a few years of experience in the field, is between $56,300-$68,100. As hires gain more experience in accounting and are promoted to more senior titles like senior accountant, the average salary range is closer to $81,600-99,900, making accounting a lucrative and stable job choice.
Who is hiring accountants in Alaska?
Many organizations will need an accountant to help keep their financials in shape. Aspiring accountants or experienced ones looking to move to Alaska can look to become in-house accountants at a private company, join a full-time accounting firm, or work for the government. Job openings range from positions with companies like Teck Resources Limited, to the U.S. Navy, to professional accounting firms like Thomas Head & Greisen.
What important support groups are available for accountants in Alaska?
Accountants in Alaska can join the Alaska Society of CPAs and the Alaska State Board of Public Accountancy. These organizations will help accountants stay up to date on the latest state and federal accounting regulations and provide important avenues for networking and career advancement.
Do colleges in Alaska offer online degrees?
Yes, students in Alaska have the opportunity to get an accounting degree 100% online programs through accredited institutions. The University of Alaska at Fairbanks offers a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting through its eCampus.