How to Become a CPA in Alaska

After deciding that accounting is truly for you, there are several steps to becoming a CPA in The Last Frontier. The Uniform CPA exam is a big step, but not the only one. Besides, the requirements to even become eligible to sit for the exam vary from state to state. 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 organization that is tasked with creating the Uniform CPA Exam. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) is responsible for administering it in each state. Joint oversight in this way ensures that the CPA exam is up to date each testing year, and only testing applicants on relevant material.

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 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

For Alaskans who wish to become Certified Public Accountants, they must first complete a college or university program in accounting. For undergrads who are interested in accounting, there are three schools who offer a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. Those schools are the University of Alaska Southeast, University of Alaska Anchorage, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. As far as graduate degrees, there are no Alaska-based schools that offer master’s level or higher degrees in Alaska. If one lives in Alaska but attends an online or distance learning program, they must keep a close eye on the Alaska state requirements for licensure. Without a sense of what is required, students could miss an opportunity to structure their accounting degree to be useful for them after graduation.

A 120 credit hour bachelor’s degree in accounting enough schooling to sit for the CPA exam in Alaska, but it is not enough to eventually become a licensed CPA. For licensure, applicants must have completed 150 hours of accounting and business education before they are eligible for licensure. The national requirement of a minimum standard of 150 credit hours of education and one year of accounting related work experience is not enough to complete a CPA’s preliminary responsibilities in Alaska. They require 2 to 3 years of experience also required after graduation. This experience can be paid or unpaid, like an internship. The acceptable fields are government, personal finance, attestation, auditing, and taxation. Finally, applicants must pass all four sections of the Uniform Certified Public Accountant examination by earning a 75% in each section. These three steps are known as the education, experience, and exam.

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 business coursework, 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 can follow this quick guide for AK 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, fifteen semester hours of which must be in Accounting. Alaska Board of Public Accountancy allows applicants to sit for the CPA exam as long as they are 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. This can be a benefit to people as they begin their experience portion of their requirements, to have some time to work in the field that overlaps with completing their educational requirements.

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. This document can be submitted on the State Board’s website. Another option to complete the educational requirement of 150 coursework hours in business and accounting is to complete a Master’s degree in Accounting.

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

Not long after the new millennium, various accounting oversight organizations decided to change the longstanding rules about interstate work options for CPAs. Previously, you were required to work in the state you were licensed, as an attorney might. After 2007, federal regulations made it so CPAs in Alaska could easily maintain clients from Boise to Culver City. This is coming in handy particularly for those corporate clients may have firms or offices all over the U.S., or for the individual client who is telecommuting to a state, neither they nor the CPA lives in. The regulating and oversight bodies who passed this regulation are the AICPA and NASBA.

The process is called “mobility” and the change in laws referred to as the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA). Now, instead of CPA licensing being like a State Bar membership, only valid where issued,  CPA licenses behave more like driver’s licenses, functional across state borders. Unique to Alaska, CPAs must apply for and receive a “reciprocal license” to practice in the state if they passed the CPA exam, and are licensed in a different state. They can complete an Authorization for Interstate Exchange of Examination and Certification Information application and send to their home state, who then sends it on to Alaska.

Content Source: BLS Data