Alaska is a big place with a small population, so CPAs here form a small, tightly-knit community. When tax season lands in the dead of winter, you can be sure they’re all at work untangling tax issues for wealthy land owners and the titans of the mining and extraction industries that have set up shop in the last frontier.
You’ll need some grit to make your way as a CPA in Alaska. Your clients will be oil roughnecks, fish boat captains and bush pilots. White shirts and ties like you find in the lower 48 are replaced by Grundens and Xtratuffs. It takes a special caliber of accountant to go from talking salmon runs to crunching depreciation on Form 4562.
Don’t let the fact that folks dress down fool you, though. Alaska is a great state for business. It ranks near the top of the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index, coming in at number three overall. Money up here sloshes around like a heavy swell in St. Paul harbor, and the economy is buoyed by the oil and gas industry, which generates 90 percent of state revenues.
In that kind of environment, you better believe that every last dime needs to be accounted for. Everyone wants the best accounting professionals they can find.
Follow the steps in this guide to learn exactly how to become a CPA in Alaska.
- Get your Education in Alaska
- Take the Uniform CPA Exam in Alaska
- Gain the Necessary Experience in Alaska
- Get your Alaska CPA License
- Continuing Education in Alaska
1. Get Your Education – Meeting CPA Degree Requirements in Alaska
a. Get information from colleges and universities offering accounting programs in Alaska. The Alaska State Board of Public Accountancy requires that certified public accountants in the state have a bachelor’s degrees with 150 total semester hours of college credit.
With the standard bachelor’s degree in accounting consisting of 120 semester hours, going on to earn a master’s in accounting or post-baccalaureate certificate is the most tried and tested way to get those 30 additional credits you need to become a CPA in Alaska. Many of these programs are available entirely online. You can also find specialized five-year CPA track programs that offer a blended bachelor’s and master’s curriculum designed specifically to give you the 150 semester hours you need to meet CPA requirements in Alaska.
b. The Alaska State Board of Public Accountancy recognizes all accounting programs and relevant credits earned through colleges and universities in the U.S. that hold basic institutional-accreditation from one of the six regional accreditors sanctioned by the Department of Education:
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools–Commission on Colleges
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges–Commission on Institutions of Higher Education
- Higher Learning Commission
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges–Commission for Senior Colleges
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
Did you attend school outside of the United States? If so, your academic credits must be evaluated by a member of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services, Inc., by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy International Evaluation Services, or must be recognized by the University of Alaska. Contact the foreign credential evaluation service directly to request an evaluation of your credits.
c. Meet Alaska’s specific CPA degree and coursework requirements. Within the 150 semester hours of college credit you earn through your bachelor’s degree and any other credits earned at the undergraduate or graduate level, you will need the following courses:
- 24 semester hours of accounting subjects such as:
- Intermediate accounting
- Accounting principles
- Cost accounting
- Income tax
- Advanced accounting
- Governmental accounting
- Accounting theory
- Fraud detection
- 3 semester hours of business law
- 3 semester hours of economics
- 3 semester hours of one of the following courses:
- Computer science
- 24 semester hours of accounting subjects such as:
- CPA review courses may be used to meet the 150 semester hour requirement
- Commercial CPA review courses are not acceptable
- CLEP, correspondence and online courses are acceptable if you receive credit for them at an accredited college or university
- Community or two-year college courses are acceptable
2. Take The Uniform CPA Exam
You are eligible under Alaska State Board of Public Accountancy rules to sit for the Uniform CPA Exam after completing your bachelor’s degree (first 120 semester hours of the 150 total required for licensure) as long as you are at least 19 years old and meet one of the following educational/experience requirements:
- Condition 1: You have completed a bachelor’s degree and a concentration in accounting, including:
- 24 semester hours in accounting courses
- 3 semester hours in business law
- 3 semester hours in economics
- 3 semester hours in statistics, computer science or college mathematics
- Condition 2: You have completed a bachelor’s degree and a concentration in accounting, including:
- 15 semester hours in accounting courses
- Condition 3: Your bachelor’s degree and accounting concentration are in-progress and:
- You are within 18 semester hours of completing your bachelor’s degree
- You have completed 15 semester hours in accounting courses
- Condition 4: You have completed your bachelor’s degree and qualifying experience, including:
- One year of experience in public accounting under the direct supervision of a licensed CPA
If you meet one of these conditions:
a. Go to CPA Examination Services (CPAES) to register online or download application forms.
b. Submit the necessary documentation with your completed Uniform CPA Exam application, including:
- Request your official college transcript directly from your college, who must send it directly to the Board. This transcript should show either that you have earned your bachelor’s degree or that it is in progress.
- If you are still enrolled in college, submit a Certificate of Enrollment form, signed by you, to your college. A college official must complete the form, sign it and send it directly to the Board.
- If you are taking the examination based upon one year of experience, complete the top portion of the Verification of Supervised Work Experience form, and give it to your supervising CPA to verify and sign and send directly to the Board
- If you are taking the examination based upon one year of experience and your supervising CPA is licensed in another jurisdiction, submit the Verification of Licensure for CPA supervisor form to the Board where the supervising CPA’s license is held. That Board must submit the completed form to the Alaska State Board of Public Accountancy (if your supervisor is licensed in Alaska, you need not submit this form)
- Submit check, money order or credit card form for application and examination fees, payable to CPA Examination Services
- Mail the above noted items to: CPA Examination Services – AK, P.O. Box 198469, Nashville, TN 37219
c. The Notice to Schedule (NTS) the Uniform CPA Exam will be sent to you by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) by mail, fax or email (depending upon the method of notification you chose when you applied).
d. Go to Prometric’s website to schedule your examination at a convenient testing site.
e. Arrive at least a half hour early at your selected Prometric testing site on examination day ready to test.
f. Within 48 hours after taking the exam, you may check your scores online. A score report will be sent to you via U.S. Mail once prepared.
g. You must also pass the ethics self-study course, Professional Ethics: The AICPA’s Comprehensive Course. Information on purchasing the materials for this course can be found at the website or by contacting the AICPA at Order Department, P.O. Box 2209, Jersey City, NJ 07303-2209, or via phone at (800) 862-4272. Passing the ethics course is a prerequisite to licensure.
If you need to arrange testing accommodations or desire additional information, contact the Alaska Coordinator of CPA Examination Services at 800-CPA-EXAM.
For detailed information on the Uniform CPA Exam, click here.
3. Gain The Necessary Experience
All candidates for CPA licensure in the state of Alaska must fulfill experience requirements, which are based upon one’s education. You are given “experience points” based upon your educational status:
- Option 1: If you have a bachelor’s degree with a 24 semester hour accounting concentration, you must fulfill four experience points
- Option 2: If you have a bachelor’s degree without an accounting concentration, you must fulfill six experience points
- How to earn experience points:
- One year of experience in public accounting under the supervision of a licensed CPA equals two experience points
- If you qualify under Option 1, you would need two years of public accounting experience
- If you qualify under Option 2, you would need three years of public accounting experience
- One year of experience in private accounting or government accounting under the supervision of a licensed CPA equals 1 1/3 experience points
- If you qualify under Option 1, you would need three years of private or government accounting experience
- If you qualify under Option 2, you would need 4 ½ years of private or government accounting experience
- Regardless of your experience points, you must have at least 500 hours of experience in attestation under the supervision of a licensed CPA
- Regardless of your experience points, your experience must involve providing one (or more) of the following types of services:
- Financial advisory
- Management advisory
- One year of experience in public accounting under the supervision of a licensed CPA equals two experience points
A few things to keep in mind:
- Your college’s career center can assist you in finding a suitable experience
- Your supervising CPA must verify all experiences. Use the Verification of Accounting Experience form (found within the Application for Certified Public Accountant located below). Complete Section A, then give the form to your supervising CPA to complete Section B. The supervising CPA must sign and send the form directly to Alaska State Board of Public Accountancy, P.O. Box 110806, Juneau, AK 99811-0806
- If your supervising CPA is licensed in a state other than Alaska, complete the CPA Supervisor Verification (also found within the Application for Certified Public Accountant located below). Complete Section A, then send the form to the state Board that holds your supervising CPA’s license to complete the form and return it to the Alaska State Board of Public Accountancy.
4. Apply for Your Alaska CPA License
Once you have completed all educational requirements, passed the Uniform CPA Exam, passed the AICPA Ethics Exam, and fulfilled the necessary experience requirement, you may apply for CPA licensure in Alaska.
a. Complete the Application for Certified Public Accountant.
- Along with your completed application, submit:
- Proper fees (see application for details) payable to the State of Alaska
- If your college transcript has changed since you took the Uniform CPA Exam, have a new official transcript reflecting these changes sent from the college directly to the Board
- Make sure that your supervising CPA has mailed the Verification of Accounting Experience form to the Board
- Request that the AICPA sent official verification that you have passed the Ethics Exam to the Board
- If you passed the Uniform CPA Exam in another state, complete the Authorization for Interstate Exchange of Examination and Certification Information (included within application packet). Send this form to the Board of the state where you passed the Exam. That Board must send the completed document to the Alaska State Board of Public Accountancy.
- Mail all above listed items to: Alaska State Board of Public Accountancy, P.O. Box 110806, Juneau, AK 99811-0806
b. Wait to receive notification. Once all documents, completed application and fee(s) have been received, the Board will process your application. It may take eight to twelve weeks to receive notification from the Board that your application has been approved and for your permanent license to be issued.
Interstate Reciprocal License
If you hold a CPA license in another state or U.S. jurisdiction (other than Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands), you may qualify for a reciprocal CPA license in Alaska, provided that you meet the following prerequisites:
- Have four years of qualifying accounting experience after passing the Uniform CPA Exam, within the past ten years
- Hold a valid CPA license in good standing
- If you meet these qualifications:
- Download the Application for Certified Public Accountant form (located above). Check the proper box that you are applying for certification by reciprocity.
- Have an official college transcript mailed directly to the Board
- Have your supervising CPA complete the Verification of Accounting Experience form (included within application packet). This must be sent by your supervisor directly to the Board
- If your supervising CPA is licensed in a state other than Alaska, complete the CPA Supervisor Verification (also found within the Application for Certified Public Accountant). Complete Section A, then send the form to the state Board that holds your supervising CPA’s license to complete the form and return it to the Alaska State Board of Public Accountancy.
- Complete the Authorization for Interstate Exchange of Examination and Certification Information (included within application packet). Send this form to the Board of the state where you took the Uniform CPA Exam. That Board must send the completed document to the Alaska State Board of Public Accountancy.
- Make another copy of the Authorization for Interstate Exchange of Examination and Certification Information. Send this form to the Board of the state that holds your CPA license. That Board must send the completed document to the Alaska State Board of Public Accountancy.
International Reciprocal License
There are no special rules in Alaska for CPAs who hold a license in a foreign jurisdiction. You must still meet the state’s education, experience and examination requirements as listed above.
5. Stay Current Through Continuing Professional Education in Alaska
CPAs who wish to keep their Alaska license current must fulfill the state’s continuing professional education (CPE) requirements.
a. Complete 80 CPE hours every two years
- At least 20 CPE hours must be completed each year
- 4 CPE hours every two years must be in ethics and Alaska statutes and regulations
b. Sign up for approved program formats, such as:
- College courses
- One semester hour of a credit course equals 15 CPE hours
- Noncredit college courses
- One semester hour of a noncredit course equals one CPE hour
- AICPA professional development programs
- Professional development programs of national or state professional accounting organizations or societies
- Programs of organizations on the NASBA National Registry of CPE Sponsors
- Technical sessions of meetings of AICPA, national or state professional organizations, or organizations listed on the NASBA National Registry of CPE Sponsors
- Formal, organized educational programs focusing on enhancing an accountant’s skills
- Other professional, industrial or accounting programs
- Individual study
- Being a discussion leader or instructor (may not account for more than 30 CPE hours every two years)
- Publishing books or articles
c. Maintain records of your CPE hours for at least four years, including:
- Record of completion
- Sponsor of course
- Course location
- Title/description of content
- Dates of course
- Number of CPE hours claimed
- Transcript (if a university or college course was taken)
- Evidence of publication (for books, articles etc)
d. Report your CPE every two years at the time of license renewal on the Application for Biennial Renewal of Certified Public Accountant License
Now that you’re a CPA in Alaska
You have studied hard and worked to fulfill the requirements of the Alaska State Board of Public Accountancy to become a licensed CPA in Alaska! The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) would welcome your membership. This national professional organization of certified public accountants sets the standards for the industry and helps to keep CPAs informed on current legislation and regulatory affairs, and also offers continuing professional education opportunities. Also consider becoming a member of your local Alaska Society of Certified Public Accountants.
Have you considered specializing? If you are interested in a sub-specialty within the accounting field, now is the time to pursue it. Possibilities throughout Alaska include financial accounting, management accounting, forensic accounting, internal auditing, and risk consulting.