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.
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.”
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.
Two of Alaska’s nonmetropolitan areas were among the top paying areas in the country for rural accountants in 2014 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Southeast Alaska nonmetropolitan area was the second highest paying, while the Railbeit/Southwest Alaska nonmetropolitan area had the third highest average salary of any rural area in the country.
Forensic accountants were instrumental in helping to unravel a high-level fraudulent investment scheme in Alaska. In 2011, prominent Anchorage businesswoman Dorothy Samantha Delay-Wilson faced federal charges of defrauding investors of $7 million in a Ponzi scheme that ran for over a decade. Thanks to the efforts of Alaska’s forensic accountants, in 2012 a federal judge sentenced Delay-Wilson to seven years in prison for her crimes.
Accounting is a growing field in Alaska, and the state’s Department of Labor and Workforce expects the number of accounting jobs in the state to increase by 9.4% between 2012 and 2022.
According to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce, accountants in Alaska earned a median salary of $72,738 with top earners averaging $114,629 in 2014.
Accountant and Auditor Salaries in Alaska’s Cities and Rural Areas
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that the salaries of general accountants and auditors were relatively similar throughout Alaska in 2014. The median salary was slightly higher in Anchorage than in other parts of Alaska. Top earners in Anchorage in the 90th percentile of their occupational category also had higher salaries than their colleagues in the rest of the state:
Tax Preparer Salaries in Anchorage and Railbelt
In 2014, the median salary for tax preparers in Anchorage was 6.9% higher than in Alaska overall (US Bureau of Labor Statistics):
Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2014. Figures represent accumulated data for all areas of specialty within the field of accounting and auditing.
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.