How to Become a CPA in Alaska

The steps to take to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in Alaska, like those in every other state, are highly regulated. The exam is the same, or uniform, in every state, but the requirements before being eligible to sit for the exam vary. Alaska CPA requirements can be broken down into three basic steps; education, exam, and experience. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is the body that creates, edits when necessary, and oversees the administration of the Uniform CPA Exam. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) is responsible for administering it in each state. The great thing about this kind of joint oversight is that the organization that makes the test is not caught up in the administration, and vice versa, leaving them to focus on the parts of making you a CPA they do best.

A LITTLE ABOUT ALASKA’S ECONOMY

The economy of Alaska has been driven by the oil industry since the early 1970s. Nearly 85 percent of the state income relies on oil revenues completely. Even with oil at as large a contributor to the state’s gross domestic product, the largest contributor to gross state product (GSP) growth in Alaska in 2017 also included mining and quarrying, mostly of precious gems and industrial use stones. Alaska had a per capita personal income of $56,042, also in 2017. Even though the largest export for the state is oil, the largest industry in Alaska is government and government enterprises. These entities make 20 percent of the GSP.

*source BLS data

BECOMING A CPA IN ALASKA

Professional fields that are highly skilled and require licensure to practice, often require a highly detailed process to even understand how to get started, let alone achieve the thing. CPAs in Alaska must complete state-specific education before they are allowed to practice. Even though most of the job they do is the same across the country, and the resulting test is uniform, CPAs are state-licensed because there are many state-specific tax and financial laws that CPAs must contend with. Being licensed to be trusted to handle someone else’s money is a pretty important thing to get right. Almost every state allows their CPAs to practice outside of the licensing state. States put certain restrictions on this practice to maintain order, and keep the field state specific. They may not be able to work more than a certain number of hours, or there is a limit on the how much CPA can earn doing certain accounting jobs outside of their licensing state. The state board websites provide information on what the regulations are from their state to another. Depending on the state you are traveling to for work from Alaska, different rules apply, due to agreements the states have with each other.

The national requirements to become a CPA include a minimum standard of 150-semester units of post-secondary education, one year of accounting related work experience, and passing the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination. Once you are licensed as a CPA in any state, interstate CPA licensing requirements begin to apply, regardless of the type of client services you perform, and regardless of how well you know about the laws in the next state over. Educational programs in accounting include sections on inter-state laws regarding accounting practice.

ACCOUNTING DEGREES IN ALASKA

To become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in Alaska, specific eligibility requirements must be met beyond those of the national minimums. The Alaska State Board of Public Accountancy updates their website to inform people in the world of accounting about these requirements, with links to accounting laws that pertain to Alaska specifically, contact information to relevant people and programs, and downloadable and electronic submittable forms for CPA applicants.

Unique to Alaska, CPA Exam applicants must have a Bachelor’s Degree, 24 semester hours or equivalent quarter hours in accounting (intermediate accounting can be included). They must also have 3 hours each of business law, economics, and college math/computer science. To sit for the CPA exam in Alaska, the candidate must not only have 150 credit hours of postsecondary education, but it must include the completion of a B.A. degree, or at least be within 18 semester hours of completing the B.A. The applicant must also have completed two years in public accounting or, three years in private or government accounting. After completing the Uniform CPA Exam, the new CPA must also pass the AICPA Professional Ethics Exam for initial licensure. No CPA can get licensed in Alaska without passing the ethics exam.

content source: colleges and universities websites

CPA LICENSURE IN STATE, STEPS TOWARD ELIGIBILITY

To be eligible for CPA licensure in State, candidates must meet these following qualifications:

Content Source: National Association of State Boards of Accountancy

Alaska offers other options for the education requirements that are suitable for CPA licensure, which includes a completed bachelor’s degree, and fifteen semester hours in Accounting. Alternately, the applicant can be within 18 semester hours of completing a bachelor’s degree, or its equivalent, from a regionally accredited college or university, and upon graduation will have completed 15 semester hours in Accounting.

They could also have a completed bachelor’s degree and completion of one year of public accounting experience under the direct supervision of a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). To qualify based on experience, you must submit a Verification of Supervised Work Experience form and a Verification of Licensure for CPA Supervisor form as part of your application.

CONTINUED PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS

All CPAs must continue their accounting education to maintain licensure after it is obtained. In the field, they call this Continued Professional Education (CPE) and it is required each year, but the amount varies from state to state. The CPE Reporting Period is also different in each state. In Alaska, the period is from 1/1 to 12/31 biennially ending on odd years. General requirements for CPE include 80 hours, with a minimum of 20 per year for those two years. There is also an annual CPE in ethics requirement for most states including Alaska. The requirement, in this case, is four hours in the area of accounting professional conduct and ethics.

For those accountants who teach on the topic in college or university, they can receive 30 CPE hours per year for teaching. Credit is equal to presentation plus preparation. Preparation is limited to two times presentation and repeat instruction is only accepted if the material is substantially changed. They can also receive 20 hours maximum for authorship on any published material, such as accounting textbooks, work on state boards publications et cetera. For those CPAs who have gone back to school for more accounting education, one semester hour equals 15 CPE hours, and even non-credit courses, each classroom hour will equal one qualifying hour.

Alaska accepts CPE credits for programs offered by National Registry sponsors.

BEST CITIES IN STATE TO WORK AS AN ACCOUNTANT (SALARY)

Content Source: BLS Data

Federal regulations in 2007 were designed to make it easier for a CPA to maintain clients who move away or live in another state. Historically the accountant and the client had to live and work in the same state, and that client moved to the next state over or took a job just over the border, or (a newer scenario) the client is telecommuting to a state neither of them lives in, that CPA could continue working with that client, even though the clients finances are now the concern of a state the CPA is not licensed in. The regulating bodies who govern accounting, and who passed this new regulation are the AICPA and NASBA.

The regulation itself is referred to as Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA) and the section dealing with mobility across state lines is section 23, or “no notice, no fee, no escape”. Section 23 is often compared to the driver’s license model. Any driver who is licensed in a U.S. state can, without penalty, drive across the country without applying for new driver’s licenses in each state she visits. If she were to disobey the traffic laws of the state she is visiting outside her licensing state, she can be disciplined by the state where the infraction occurred. The same applies to the UAA, and specifically section 23. The UUA in its entirety was developed and is maintained, reviewed and updated by the AICPA and NASBA. It provides a uniform approach to regulation of the accounting profession.

Content Source: BLS Data

Each State has a board of State Society or professional organization for accountants. The Alaska Society of Certified Public Accountants website has all sorts of helpful information for future and current CPAs, as well as CPE requirements and information for conferences and CPE events that are specific to Alaska. Membership in a state professional organization will also ensure that CPAs are up to date on any tax law changes, which happen constantly, and give working professionals a great way to network and meet colleagues.