Written by Accounting.com Staff Writers


Nicknamed "The Last Frontier", Alaska hosts the third-lowest state population despite its geographical size. Of Alaska's higher education students, 52.9% attend school online, and several of Alaska's higher education institutions offer online accounting degree programs.

Alaskan accounting graduates can work as financial managers, accountants and auditors, or bookkeeping and auditing clerks.The latter two careers enjoy positive growth projections in the state, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Accounting-related careers also offer above-average salaries nationwide.

This page discusses relevant economic trends, educational statistics, and accounting program information for prospective Alaska accounting students. Read further to determine whether an Alaska education suits your needs, goals, and interests.

Alaska at a Glance

Population 734,002
Per Capita Income $35,735
Fortune 500 Companies 0
Number of Higher Learning Institutions 9
Climate

Average Annual Temperature: 26.6 ℉

Annual Precipitation: 22.5 inches

Major Sports Teams Alaska Aces, Anchorage Bucs, Anchorage Glacier Pilots
Accountants in Alaska 2,180

Top Alaska Schools for Accounting

  • University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • University of Alaska Anchorage
  • Alaska Pacific University
  • University of Alaska Southeast

Why Go to College for Accounting in Alaska?

Adventurous, nature-loving students often enjoy attending school in Alaska. The largest state in the union, Alaska boasts nearly 100,000 glaciers, over 100 volcanoes, and the nation's five highest mountains. For many Alaskans, the rich panoply of natural wonders makes up for the relatively sparse number of schools and jobs.

Alaska currently houses just nine higher learning institutions, several of which offer accounting degrees. University of Alaska's Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Southeast campuses feature top accounting programs. Alaska Pacific University also runs a highly ranked accounting program. Over half of Alaskan college students attend school online, although some online programs may require periodic trips to campus.

Alaska's private four-year college tuition averages over $11,000 less per year than the national average. Out-of- state tuition at four-year schools in the state costs nearly three times more than in-state tuition, so students can save money by obtaining Alaskan residency.

Students planning to work in Alaska may improve their networking and job prospects by attending local schools. Given the above-average demand for cost estimators in Alaska, pursuing concentrations in cost or management accounting may pay off for Alaska accounting graduates.

Education Statistics for Alaska

Alaska offers fewer school options than most other states. However, tuition in the state is relatively affordable. Over 11% of Alaska's tax revenue goes to higher education, and education appropriations per student are double the national average.

The educational-attainment statistics in the table below indicate that Alaska's population lags slightly behind national attainment rates. Consequently, bachelor's and master's degree-holders may enjoy a competitive edge when applying for jobs.

Higher Education Statistics in Alaska
Alaska Data National Data
Number of Four-Year Colleges 6 3,004
Number of Two-Year Colleges 3 1,579
Percentage of Students Enrolled in Distance Education 52.9% 34.7%
Postsecondary Education Appropriations per Full-Time Student $16,164 $8,196
Percent of Tax Revenue Allocated to Higher Education 11.7% 5.8%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With an Associate Degree 8.4% 8.4%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With a Bachelor's Degree 18.4% 19.4%
Percentage of Adults Over 25 With a Graduate Degree or Higher 10.8% 12.1%
Sources: NCES, SHEEO, U.S. Census Bureau - American Community Survey

Accreditation for Alaska Schools

Prospective students should note a schools' institutional accreditation status when evaluating accounting programs. The Council of Higher Education Accreditation approves certain accrediting agencies to evaluate and certify educational quality. These accreditors assess features such as faculty credentials, library size, and learning outcomes.

Only students attending accredited schools qualify for federal financial aid, and regionally accredited schools typically only allow transfer credit from similarly accredited institutions. Regionally accredited schools meet higher academic standards than nationally accredited schools, and therefore warrant more respect.

Each of the nation's regional accrediting agencies covers a particular area. The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) regionally accredits Alaska schools. Students can verify a school's accreditation status through NWCCU's list of accredited higher education institutions.

Programs within a school may also hold accreditation. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business accredits accounting programs.

Considerations for an Accounting Degree in Alaska

Sifting through accounting degree program options may prove less overwhelming in Alaska than in states with more schools, but prospective students should still consider many factors to identify the best program fit. The sections below discuss key considerations, such as accounting degree options, financing opportunities, and delivery formats.

Accounting Degree Levels

The following list outlines various accounting degree levels. As you research prospective schools, note that some colleges do not offer every level of accounting degree.

Associate Degree in Accounting
This introductory accounting degree prepares graduates for entry-level accounting careers, like bookkeeper, and to transfer to related bachelor's programs.
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Bachelor's Degree in Accounting
Bachelor's programs cover more advanced accounting principles and practices than associate programs, and they meet the minimum education requirements for many accounting-related careers.
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Master's Degree in Accounting
Master's programs provide specialization opportunities and help graduates qualify for certified public accountant (CPA) credentials and managerial roles.
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Ph.D. in Accounting
Accounting Ph.D. students complete dissertations, typically preparing to work as professors or researchers.
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Accounting Concentration Options

Many accounting programs at the bachelor's and graduate levels offer specialization options. Common concentrations include financial accounting, management accounting, auditing, and public accounting.

Alaska job outlook data indicates positive growth projections for cost estimators. accountants, and auditors, so Alaska accounting students may benefit from degree specializations in these fields. See below for brief descriptions and linked resources for these promising concentration options.

Accounting Concentrations

On-Campus Versus Online Program Options

Partly due to commuting challenges in this massive and sparsely populated state, over half of Alaska students take advantage of distance learning options. Take some time to consider which attendance format best suits your learning style, lifestyle, and schedule and location constraints.

On-Campus

On-campus degree programs often work best for students seeking structure and networking opportunities. These programs typically offer more social interaction, in-person discussion, and collaborative learning than online equivalents. On-campus students also enjoy easier access to campus facilities, student services, and extracurriculars.

Online Programs

Distance learning typically offers considerable flexibility. Many online programs allow asynchronous attendance, permitting students to watch class lectures and post to discussion boards at their convenience. Some programs also feature self-pacing options. Successful online learners usually work well independently and are highly motivated, organized, and disciplined.

Hybrid Programs

Combining on-campus meetings with online coursework, hybrid programs offer the flexibility of distance learning and the structure and accountability of on-campus learning. These programs may feature regular or only occasional on-campus requirements, depending on the program.
Percentage of Students Enrolled in Distance Education
Enrolled Exclusively in Distance Education Courses Enrolled in Some but Not All Distance Education Courses Not Enrolled in Any Distance Education Courses
Alaska Students 25.5% 27.4% 47.2%
United States Students 16.3% 18.4% 65.3%
Source: NCES

Paying for Your Accounting Degree

Alaska schools boast lower-than-average tuition rates, particularly private schools in the state. Attending college is a substantial financial investment, but Alaskan students can find various ways to finance their accounting education.

Students can determine their eligibility for federal financial aid, such as loans, grants, and scholarships, but submitting the FAFSA. Loans require repayment, whereas grants and scholarships do not. However, the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education offers low-cost supplemental education loans that can help pay tuition bills.

Many schools, professional organizations, and private foundations also grant scholarships to qualifying students based on factors like financial need, academic achievement, study area, and identity. Some graduate schools also offer fellowships that cover tuition costs in exchange for research or teaching work.

Average Cost of College Tuition and Fees in Alaska, 2017-2018
Alaska National
Average In-State Tuition and Fees (Public Four-Year) $7,221 $9,037
Average Out-of-State Tuition and Fees (Public Four-Year) $21,284 $25,657
Average Tuition and Fees (Private Four-Year) $19,360 $30,731
Source: NCES

In-State Versus Out-of-State Tuition

The data above suggests that many Alaska students enjoy below-average tuition rates, which may be partly due to the state's various efforts to attract and support students. The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) runs a Western Undergraduate Exchange that allows students in other western states to pay in-state tuition rates in Alaska.

In collaboration with the Lumina Foundation, WICHE also provides extra education funding to Alaska schools in the Native-Serving Institutions Alliance. This initiative works to increase educational access and success for native students.

Alaska's Cost of Living

When budgeting for their accounting education, prospective Alaska students should consider the state's cost of living. With a cost index of 129.9 (compared to the national average of 100), Alaska ranks 45th in the World Population Review cost-of-living index.

Alaska ships many of its goods and services from Canada and the lower 48 states, and Alaskans often pay high prices for the many groceries and goods not produced locally. Transportation, housing, and utilities also prove costly in Alaska, partly due to lack of economic development and infrastructure.

Other School Selection Criteria

Many other key factors can influence the selection of the right accounting degree program, such as school size, program length, and alumni networks. The following list outlines several of these factors.

School Size

Larger schools often provide more specialization options, more diverse student resources, and larger alumni networks. Meanwhile, small schools typically boast smaller class sizes and more individualized attention.

Student-to-Teacher Ratio

Smaller student-to-teacher ratios often translate to more supervision, attention, and mentorship from faculty.

Staff Credentials/Diversity

Top schools often boast diverse, accomplished faculty who hold doctoral degrees and current, global perspectives on course material.

Program Length

Many accelerated programs cut graduation timelines in half by running shorter, intensive terms throughout the year. Part-time programs take longer than full-time programs, but they provide flexibility for busy adults.

Alumni Network

Some schools maintain wider or more active alumni networks than others. Attending local schools can enhance alumni networking opportunities.

Competitiveness

Top accounting programs receive many applicants, so students should check acceptance-rate statistics to make realistic application decisions.

Required Admission Materials

Many programs require submission of standardized test scores such as the SAT, ACT, GRE, or GMAT, but some schools waive these requirements.

Earning Potential for Graduates

Many accounting and business degree program websites highlight post-graduation salary rates. Such numbers can indicate a high return on investment.

Careers for Accounting Graduates in Alaska

Perhaps due to its remote location, sparse population, and complex environmental constraints, Alaska currently does not boast a very robust or diversified economy. The state's economy ranks 46th in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report. Ranked 47th in employment and 48th in growth, Alaska's numbers lag behind most other states.

Nevertheless, Alaska job outlook data indicates positive growth projections for cost estimators, accountants, and auditors. The data in the following sections also indicate that Alaska pays accounting-related professionals high salaries. Alaska's accounting firms typically cluster in cities such as Anchorage, Juneau, and Fairbanks.

Many accounting graduates work in the state's leading industries, including oil production, research and development, fishing, government, and tourism. See below for data on Alaska employment trends, including descriptions of promising accounting-related careers in Alaska.

Select Accounting Careers in Alaska

Bookkeeping and Auditing Clerks

These clerks use computer software and basic mathematics to process and record transactions, review financial records, and create reports. They often hold associate degrees in accounting. Types of clerks include accounting clerks, which may be called receivable clerks or payable clerks depending on their specialized roles.

Job Outlook in Alaska: +5.5% (2018-28)

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Cost Estimators

Often employed in manufacturing, construction, or services industries, cost estimators calculate the necessary materials, labor, and time for products and/or services. These professionals analyze business operations and advise managers regarding cost-cutting measures. Cost estimators usually hold related bachelor's degrees.

Job Outlook in Alaska: +10.5% (2018-28)

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Accountants and Auditors

These professionals perform financial reporting, data analysis, and compliance checking. Accountants may advise management on the efficiency of operations and financial reporting processes. Auditors often ensure work to eliminate organizational waste and prevent fraud. Accountants and auditors usually hold bachelor's and/or master's degrees in accounting or auditing.

Job Outlook in Alaska: +6.2% (2018-28)

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Alaska Employment Trends

Projected Job Growth for Accountants

1,930 Employees2018
2,050 Employees2028
Alaska 6.2% increase
1,424,000 Employees2018
1,514,700 Employees2028
National 6.4% increase

Source: Projections Central

* Associate Degree Recommended     ^ Bachelor's Degree Recommended     ~ Master's Degree Recommended

Explore more careers here

The table below indicates that many accounting and financial professions in Alaska garner a higher-than-average annual salary. Budget analysts, personal financial advisors, and payroll clerks each average a few thousand dollars more than their counterparts across the nation. Cost estimators and tax examiners and collectors do particularly well, earning $20,000-$30,000 more than the national average.

An associate degree can help candidates land credit counseling jobs that bring home about $56,000 a year, and bachelor's degrees sometimes lead to lucrative employment as cost estimators or tax collectors. Meanwhile, a master's degree in accounting can help graduates qualify for the highest-paying careers above. Financial managers, the only professionals that earn significantly less in Alaska than in many other states, still make an annual mean salary of $110,410.

Alaska Requirements for Certified Public Accountants

Aspiring Alaska accounting professionals should review the state's CPA requirements. To earn CPA credentials in Alaska, candidates must meet the following requirements.

  • Examinations: Alaska CPA candidates must pass the American Institute of CPA's CPA Exam and Professional Ethics Exam. To sit for the exam, applicants need to be within 18 credits of graduation from a bachelor's program or equivalent. Applicants also need one year of supervised, related professional experience or at least 15 completed accounting-related credits.
  • Education: CPA candidates must hold a bachelor's degree that includes 24 credit hours of accounting courses and nine credit hours related to math or computer science, economics, and business law.
  • Experience: Alaska accountants need two years' relevant, CPA-supervised professional experience to qualify for licensure.

Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Is accounting a good career in Alaska?
Only 2,180 accountants and auditors work in Alaska. However, the BLS projects a steady growth rate of 6.2% for these Alaska professionals.
How much do accountants earn in Alaska?
Alaska's accountants make an annual mean wage of $79,300, according to BLS state data. Accountants who become managers stand to make considerably higher salaries.
What accounting jobs are there in Alaska?
The most common Alaska accounting jobs include bookkeeper, auditing clerk, accountant, auditor, and financial manager. Other jobs include payroll clerk, cost estimator, and personal financial advisor.
Can I get an accounting degree in Alaska?
Yes, several major Alaska schools offer accounting programs at multiple levels, including Ph.D., master's, bachelor's, and associate programs.
Does Alaska have online accounting programs?
Yes, many Alaska accounting students attend school online. Distance education options prove essential in this large, sparsely populated state with few schools.

Alaska Accounting and Education Organizations

  • Alaska Society of CPAs Uniting accounting professionals in the mission of promoting and upgrading their profession, AKCPA features courses, leadership opportunities, referral services, and various professional events for accountants.
  • Alaska Society of Independent Accountants Committed to promoting professional standards and ethics, ASIA performs advocacy and provides continuing education for tax and accounting practitioners.
  • Alaska Association of Collaborative Professionals A subset of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, this association of Alaskan legal, social, and financial professionals offers clients collaborative solutions to family matters such as divorce or custody agreements. The organization also offers professional training, events, and resources.
  • University of Alaska Accounting Club This club supports accounting students, connecting them to local communities, faculty, and school administrators. Members benefit from networking and professional development opportunities.

Accounting Programs in Alaska

Aspiring Alaska accounting students should review the following alphabetized list of accredited Alaska schools offering accounting degrees to find the best program for their needs. Based on data drawn from Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, the list summarizes the education options available to Alaska's accounting students.