A State By State Accounting Guide

Steps to Becoming an Accountant in Alaska

By an AccountingEdu contributing writer
Updated August 2015

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Becoming an accountant with CPA credentials in Alaska requires a bachelor’s degree at minimum from a college or university recognized by the Alaska State Board of Public Accountancy and a total of 150 semester hours of college credit. However, CPA candidates don't need to complete all credit hours in order to sit for the exam. If they have completed at least 15 semester hours in accounting subjects they are considered eligible when within 18 semester hours of satisfying undergraduate requirements. One year of public accounting experience is also required prior to licensure. While satisfying the experience requirement, many would-be CPAs also begin working to earn a master’s degree in accounting to fulfill the full 150 semester hour requirement for CPA licensure. While the bulk of on campus programs located in Anchorage, Alaska's vast space and dispersed population have made the many online educational programs very attractive for CPA candidates.

Almost all of the large accounting firms in Alaska are centered in Anchorage, the state's financial capitol. “Big Four” international CPA and professional services firm KPMG has offices here where they serve the state’s huge mining, commercial fishing, and petroleum exploration industries.

Featured Undergraduate Program

*Accredited accounting programs are available in a flexible online format that puts an undergraduate degree in accounting well within reach. Prepare to earn your CPA license and develop the skills employers are looking for with a bachelor’s degree in accounting.

Featured Graduate Program

*Qualifying for a CPA license requires a bachelor’s degree at minimum and a total of 150 semester hours of college credit to include coursework in accounting, business and ethics. Since bachelor’s programs typically result in just 120 semester hours of credit, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) maintains that earning a Master of Science in Accounting is the best way to achieve the full 150 semester hours you need to become licensed.

Still, there is a significant number of independent accountants and smaller accounting firms in the state that service the smaller business that operate within these massive industries. In fact, in a recent interview, Michael Curnow, head of The Alaska Society of Independent Accountants, characterizes the industry as wide open in America's final frontier. In response to questions related to employment opportunities, Curnow was quoted as saying “There are plenty of jobs up here. We have more work than we can handle.”

Major Industries and Employment Trends for Alaska’s Accountants

Alaska's economy is based on its major resources: petroleum, timber, fish, minerals, and gold. Gold mining prospects and claims have increased dramatically as the price for a troy ounce has quadrupled in recent years. These industries, along with logging and tourism, constitute Alaska’s industrial base.

The United States Department of Labor predicts that the number of accountants working in Alaska will increase from 1,730 in 2012 to 1,890 by 2022, which equates to a 9% employment growth rate. According to this employment projection, accounts can anticipate approximately 50 annual job openings during this timeframe.

Jobseekers might find especially great prospects in Alaska’s Southeast nonmetropolitan area, as this region held the second highest concentration of accountant jobs in the country in 2014.

Accountant Salaries in Alaska

According to the United States Department of Labor, accountants in Alaska net an average annual salary of $78,480 and an average hourly wage of $37.73. An accountant’s salary often deviated from this state salary average depending upon their level of work experience. For instance, entry-level accountants were paid an average annual salary of $50,700, while more experienced accountants made an average annual salary of $72,700. However, the most experienced accountants achieved a much higher average salary of $114,600.

Although statewide salary statistics are a good indicator of accountant pay expectations in Alaska, it is important to remember that salaries tend to differ across different locations of employment. For example, in 2014, accountants in Fairbanks were awarded an average annual salary of $80,730 and an average hourly wage of $38.81. Entry-level employers earned $49,040 annually, while mid-career accountants earned $71,800 annually.

Accountants in Anchorage earned an average annual salary of $79,340 and an average hourly wage of $38.15. Entry-level accountants collected $50,950 annually, meanwhile those in mid-career were paid $73,140. The most experienced accountants in anchorage received $117,920.

Accountants in Alaska’s Southeast nonmetropolitan area earned an average annual salary of $75,930 and an average hourly wage of $36.51, which made this region the second highest-paying nonmetropolitan area for accountants in the country. Entry-level accountants took home $50,820 annually. Yet, mid-career accountants were compensated $71,270 annually on average. The most experienced accountants in this area received $102,640.

Accountants in Alaska’s Railbelt/Southwest nonmetropolitan area earned an average annual salary of $75,440 and an average hourly wage of $36.27, which made this region the third highest paying nonmetropolitan area for accountants in the country. Entry-level accountants accepted $49,250 annually, while those in mid-career obtained $72,060 annually. The most experienced accountants received $111,680 annually.

Degree Options in Accountancy

Students don’t have to go out of state to receive excellent training in the field of accounting. There’s a wide array of accounting programs available to students and professionals of all levels through online universities as well as Alaska’s campus based accounting schools.

Practical experience is key in the accounting job market. As such, an associate’s degree and some administrative or bookkeeping experience can give students an excellent launching pad for an accounting career.

A bachelor’s degree in accounting provides students with extensive training in accounting principles and practices. The rigorous and rewarding curriculum of such a program covers a wide range of business and finance topics, including financial accounting, cost accounting, tax accounting, auditing, and business law.

Master’s degree programs are typically a mix of coursework and research designed to give students an expert level of authority in the field of accounting. An advanced accounting degree is also an efficient way for aspiring CPAs to clock the extra semester hours required by the Alaska Board of Public Accountancy to sit for the CPA exam.

For accountants in Alaska interested in teaching at the college level, or for students and professionals who simply require the highest level of academic achievement of themselves, Alaska’s major universities and colleges offer doctorate degrees in accounting. A doctoral candidate must complete advanced coursework, pass comprehensive examination and defend an original dissertation in the field of accounting. Professionals that hold a doctorate degree in accounting command the utmost respect from their professional and academic peers.