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Best Accounting Schools in Alaska in 2021

October 14, 2021 | Staff Writers

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The Best Accounting Schools in Alaska for an Accounting Degree 

Accounting is one of the quickest routes to the top echelons of business, which explains why many students choose this path. But whether you have a passion for crunching numbers or are interested in pursuing a career in a business-related field, an accounting certificate, especially a degree, is a good call. 

Accounting professionals are in high demand. Students with sound knowledge of accounting have good prospects in the government and business communities, especially in Alaska. A fulfilling career in accounting doesn’t only end with earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Candidates who go further to earn a master’s degree or doctorate in accounting are more desirable to employers. 

In any case, becoming a Certified Public Accountant puts you on a fast lane to enjoy better career prospects in Alaska, where there is usually a high demand for knowledgeable accounting professionals. Accounting students who pursue management or cost accounting concentrations are likely to find jobs quickly after graduation, considering the high demand for cost estimators in Alaska.

This article is particularly useful for prospective students considering accounting degree programs in Alaska. You will find all the information you need to choose the right accounting degree program and the top institutions offering these programs.

Benefits of Earning an Accounting Degree in Alaska

The quality of education in all accredited higher learning institutions are generally the same. However, schooling in Alaska offers a few unique benefits, especially for accounting students.

Why Earn Your Accounting Degree at an Alaskan College?

Attending school in Alaska is an excellent choice for students looking to study in an environment full of natural wonders. The splendid and extensive collection of mountains, glaciers, and volcanoes makes the largest state in the US one of the best places that naturally supports a quiet study environment. It also gives adventurous students the chance to explore nature.

Alaska has fewer higher learning institutions relative to other states in the US. It has only ten colleges and universities, comprising two for-profit private institutions, three nonprofit private schools, and five public institutions. While the state has a sparse number of schools, tuition in Alaska is comparatively affordable. That’s because more than 11% of the state’s tax revenue goes to higher education. 

The national average tuition is about $11,000 higher than the tuition for private four-year colleges in Alaska. That huge difference alone is enough reason to consider attending an accounting program in Alaska. Tuition and fees are not the same for in-state and out-of-state students. 

In-state tuition at four-year colleges is roughly three times cheaper than out-of-state tuition. For this reason, students who would like to save money should consider getting residency before applying to any of the top accounting degree programs.

What are the Benefits of Studying Accounting in Alaska?

Some of Alaska’s best higher learning institutions offer accounting degree programs both in traditional brick-and-mortar and online formats. Schools like Alaska Pacific University, University of Alaska Anchorage, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks run highly ranked accounting programs that prepare the accounting student to become a CPA

While the Northwest Commission regionally accredits the top schools in Alaska on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), some of the best accounting degree programs also have programmatic accreditation, such as the prestigious Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE).

Attending local schools also come with the benefit of improving your job prospects and expanding your professional network. Although there is no hard and fast rule about this, local employers tend to prefer graduates from local institutions considering that they may already have a fair understanding of the environment’s unique business challenges. 

Alaska’s few school options might also present a lesser-known opportunity for accounting students, especially bachelor’s and master’s degree candidates. That’s because the educational-attainment statistics for the state’s population are comparatively behind the national attainment figures. This creates a competitive edge for undergraduate and graduate degree-holders when they apply for jobs.

Cost of Living for Accounting Students in Alaska

Prospective students who want to earn their accounting degrees in Alaska must carefully consider what it costs to live in the state and factor that into their budgets. The state’s cost index is significantly higher than the national average. 

With many of its goods and services shipped from other states, prices of groceries and other goods produced outside the state are typically higher. Housing cost is also on the pricier side because of Alaska’s obvious lack of infrastructure relative to other states. The lag in economic development also means the cost of transportation and utility are comparatively higher in Alaska.   

Types of Accounting Schools in Alaska

Accounting degree options in Alaska universities are quite a few. However, they cover different degree levels, including graduate, bachelor’s, and associate’s degrees. The following degree types are designed for undergraduate and graduate students.

Undergraduate Accounting Degree Programs in Alaska

1. Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Accounting 

A BBA in Accounting paves the way for a satisfying, prestigious, and rewarding career in the accounting profession. It is also a springboard to many business-related professions. 

In addition to a few electives, the coursework for BBA in Accounting include some of these courses:

  • Principles of Financial Accounting
  • Principles of Managerial Accounting
  • Principles of Marketing
  • Financial Management
  • Business Communications
  • Management Skills
  • Legal Environment of Business
  • Auditing
  • Income Tax

BBA accounting jobs have an average annual salary of about $56,003. Possible career paths for BBA holders in Accounting include accountant, auditor, credit analyst, loan officer, financial manager, insurance underwriter, certified public accountant, and more.

2. Bachelor of Arts (BA) Accounting

An Accounting BA prepares students for a wide range of sectors in the economy, government, public, and private businesses. The degree is designed to provide professional competency in general knowledge of accounting, critical thinking, research and application, professional, ethical behavior, concepts and principles of accounting, and effective communication.

Graduates earn a Bachelor of Arts degree after completing some of the following major courses:

  • Micro Economics
  • Intermediate Accounting
  • Business Systems Thinking
  • Strategic Cost Analysis
  • Auditing
  • Values and Ethics in the Workplace

BA in Accounting allows graduates to find high-paying jobs in large accounting firms and other areas of business. The degree program’s flexibility means a BA accounting graduate can work in different fields and fill different positions, such as forensic accountant, cost estimator, management accountant, personal financial advisor, financial analyst, and more.  The average annual salary for candidates with BA in Accounting in Alaska is $73,244.

Graduate Accounting Degree Programs in Alaska

1. Master of Business Administration (MBA)

An MBA with a concentration on accounting-related courses equips students and working professionals with the right skills and perspectives to fill managerial roles and take on leadership positions. The program teaches students how to identify challenges, ask the right questions, and create short- and long-term solutions. 

Students are expected to complete foundation subjects and electives in addition to core courses. Common core courses include:

  • Leadership and Organizational Behavior
  • Business Intelligence and Analytics
  • Management Simulation
  • Financial Decision Making
  • Economics and Public Policy

Earning an MBA can significantly increase your salary. Top earners in Alaska get an annual salary of $135,779, while the average salary is roughly $80,930. 

2. Accounting Post-Baccalaureate Certificate (PBCA)

Candidates with non-accounting undergraduate degrees can enroll in Alaska universities offering the Accounting Post-Baccalaureate Certificate. The program is designed to prepare students to sit for the CPA exam. With the vast career opportunities and CPA salary averaging $73,500 per year, many non-accounting professionals and students can earn this degree to improve their work experience and boost their earning potentials.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks offers this graduate degree. The program develops key skills, including:

  • Analytical thinking
  • Math skills
  • Management of diverse group
  • Organizational skills
  • Understanding customer concerns
  • Excellent problem-solving skills

The median salary for a PBCA degree is $71,550 per year, with possible careers as a certified public accountant, financial examiner, credit analyst, auditor, tax preparer, and more.

Online Accounting Degree Programs in Alaska

Alaska universities offer online accounting degree programs for adult learners, distant learners, and busy professionals looking to combine their schedules with studies. Online accounting degrees are available for all levels, including associates’, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees.

What to Expect From an Accounting School in Alaska

Many students usually want to compare accounting versus law degrees because both offer several career paths and have attractive income potential. However, the accounting profession is more fulfilling with a CPA license, whether candidates wish to work in private or public organizations. 

The CPA licensure is overseen by the state board to ensure uniform standards for all accounting professionals. However, getting a license begins with earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting, whether from traditional colleges or online universities.

The best accounting schools in Alaska offer courses that give students a sound knowledge of accounting practices and principles required to obtain licenses and certifications. The professional certifications cover roles such as public accountant, fraud examiner, internal auditor, management accountant, and financial manager.

Some of the highly-rated traditional universities in the nation are found in Alaska. The Alaska Pacific University and the University of Alaska Anchorage are two outstanding options for in-depth undergraduate accounting degree programs.

The accounting degree program curriculum in Alaska Pacific University is designed to equip students for accounting careers in private and public organizations.  Both working professionals and traditional students will find the program suitable, especially those interested in managerial accounting, financial accounting, and internal control and auditing. 

Accounting students looking to enroll in the University of Alaska Anchorage can expect to study among groups because the classes here are typically small-sized. In addition to several business-related electives, the program’s curriculum is tailored to prepare students for the CPA exam. 

Students can also expect to participate in accounting clubs, where they can network with faculty, people from the industry, and other students. The comprehensive accounting degree program also presents students with opportunities for internships. 

Common Courses to Expect in an Accounting Degree in Alaska

Accounting students attending an accredited institution in Alaska can expect to take a combination of the following accounting courses:

  • Accounting information systems
  • Auditing
  • Financial accounting
  • Fraud examination
  • General accounting
  • Government accounting
  • Income tax preparation
  • Managerial accounting
  • Payroll accounting

Accounting Majors and Concentration Options for Alaska Universities

The common concentrations for graduate and bachelor degree level accounting programs include:

  • Financial accounting
  • Management accounting
  • Auditing
  • Public accounting

Considering the job outlook in Alaska, two of the promising accounting fields are public accounting and cost accounting. 

1. Public Accounting

Public accounting concentration provides students with a solid foundation in the principles and practice of financial consulting, financial auditing, and tax preparation. In addition to preparing students to sit for the CPA exam, graduates can work in a wide range of government, business, and nonprofit organizations.

The median salary for public accountants in Alaska is $75,590 per year. The major responsibilities of public accountants include the following:

  • Maintain financial data and develop reports for clients
  • Calculate income and other taxes
  • Prepare and submit returns
  • Audit financial record 
  • Monitor financial trends using accounting management systems and accounting software
  • Offer sound advice on different issues relating to costs, expenditures, and financial practices

2. Cost Accounting 

An accounting program with a concentration in cost accounting develops valuable skills in students, especially in areas such as operations analysis, decision-making, and goal-setting. The accounting course covers topics such as budgeting, performance evaluation, and operations management.

Graduates of accounting with a concentration in cost accounting can find jobs in public and private organizations and can work in positions such as:

  • Cost Estimators: Typical functions of a cost estimator include gathering and analyzing data to determine the right amount of material, labor, time, and money required to complete a task. Cost Estimators in Alaska earn an average salary in the range of $69,009 to $84,372 per year.
  • Finance Managers: This position involves managing the daily financial activities of an organization. These include accounting, insurance, tax, budget, and more. The average salary for Finance Managers in Alaska is roughly between $119,559 and $149,337 annually.
  • Budget Analysts: The duties of a budget analyst include evaluating and reviewing requests for funding and budget proposals. They also conduct cost-benefit analyses, as well as evaluate spending needs. All these functions are aimed at determining the most advantageous allocation of funds. The average annual salary for Budge Analysts is $73,361. 

Average CPA Pass Rate for Accounting Degree Programs in Alaska

The 2018 CPA performance report from the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) shows the pass rate for candidates with bachelor’s degrees in different schools in Alaska. The summary for three Alaska universities is:

  1. University of Alaska Anchorage 55.8%
  2. University of Alaska Southeast 55.6%
  3. University of Alaska Fairbanks 41.2%

These Alaska universities offer all-inclusive accounting programs that meet the CPA requirements, making them excellent choices for prospective students looking to attend higher learning institutions in Alaska.

Best Schools in Alaska with Accounting Programs

The top institutions in Alaska offering accounting programs share some things in common. First, the schools are regionally accredited by government-approved agencies. Some of them have dual accreditation – institutional accreditation and programmatic accreditation. 

Accreditation is crucial because it can affect students both during their studies and after graduation. If a student transfers from an unaccredited school to an accredited one, it is nearly impossible for the new school to accept any credits earned from the previous school. Also, finding a job can be difficult for students who graduate from institutions without accreditation because employers hardly recognize their degrees.

But accreditation does not only indicate that an institution meets the minimum national education standards. It also means access to student aid opportunities from the government. The cost of earning a degree is not particularly cheap, and many students will need some form of financial aid. Students can only access such opportunities in accredited schools.

Secondly, the best schools in Alaska offering accounting degree programs usually offer coursework that prepares students for the Uniform CPA exam. 

In addition to accreditation and preparing students to become certified public accountants, the following factors go into choosing the top accounting degree programs in Alaska:

  • Accounting focus: The level of concentration on accounting students and programs as against other majors
  • Average earnings after graduation: The percentage of Alaska students who find jobs with above-average salaries after graduation
  • Popularity: The number of accounting students who choose the school

Top Alaska Colleges with Accounting Programs 

1. University of Alaska Fairbanks

The University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) is a moderately-sized public research institution established in 1917. It offers 190 certificate and degree programs covering over 120 different fields of study. The school’s undergraduate accounting program leads to the Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) award in Accounting. 

The 120-credit program is designed to provide a solid business foundation for students interested in the fields of managerial accounting, auditing, taxation, government accounting, and general accounting. 

The University of Alaska Fairbanks accounting degree is the only one in Alaska accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). The extensive accounting degree program prepares students for various certifications, including Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), Certified Financial Manager (CFM), Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), and Certified Management Accountant (CMA).  

  • Graduation rate: 29%
  • Acceptance rate: 76%
  • Average cost after financial aid: $11,000
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Programmatic Accreditation: Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)

2. University of Alaska Anchorage

Founded in 1954, the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) is the state’s largest post-secondary institution in the entire Alaska university system. The public school has four community campuses and approximately 12,000 students from across the US and 89 other countries. With over a hundred programs and a faculty-student ratio of 16 to 1, the university is a good choice for students interested in an accounting major.

UAA’s bachelor’s degree in accounting provides students with a broad background in business, preparing them for accounting careers in government, private, and public organizations. The accounting program also prepares graduates to sit for the Uniform CPA exam and get a CPA license. 

  • Graduation rate: 28.8%
  • Acceptance rate: 83%
  • Average cost after financial aid: $24,000
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)

3. Alaska Pacific University

Alaska Pacific University (APU) was founded in 1957 and was originally known as Alaska Methodist University. The private institution offers programs for associate, bachelor, and master, and doctoral degree levels. The accounting degree program is IACBE-accredited and leads to the award of Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Accounting. 

Courses in the accounting program are tailored to prepare students for accounting, economics, business, and finance careers. Students will develop deductive and inductive reasoning, critical thinking, and analysis skills and will also be well-equipped to earn a CPA license. 

  • Graduation rate: 20%
  • Acceptance rate: 89.2%
  • Average cost after financial aid: $21,000
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Programmatic accreditation: International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE)

4. University of Alaska Southeast

The University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) was established in 1972. The public school has campuses in Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan. Together, they combine to provide community college, undergraduate, and graduate programs for the entire southeast of Alaska. 

The business and accounting programs of the institution have the ACBSP accreditation – the first institution in Alaska to receive the accreditation. The programs prepare students for high-demand positions in business-related fields, including accounting, management, MIS, and human resources.

Accounting students can earn a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Accounting. The degree program is designed to develop the critical skills required to make complex decisions in the ever-changing business world. Alaska students can choose to concentrate on pure accounting courses or add a few elective courses to round out their financial skills. 

The accounting degree program creates opportunities for the typical student to pursue potential careers as an accountant, auditor, certified public accountant, credit analyst, certified fraud examiner, loan officer, and more.

The university also offers an associate degree program in business administration, leading to an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Business Administration. The 60-credit hour program prepares students for entry-level positions, such as account representatives, accounting assistants, accounting clerks, bookkeepers, and payroll clerks. 

  • Graduation rate: 25.3%
  • Acceptance rate: 60.6%
  • Average cost after financial aid: $10,000
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Programmatic accreditation: Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)

Online Accounting Programs in Alaska

Online learning formats offer flexibility, especially for those who want to juggle schooling and work. An online student taking accounting classes receives the same quality of education as students attending a traditional campus. 

Consider the following colleges and universities with online accounting degree programs in Alaska:

1. University of Alaska Fairbanks

Online MBA program – Master of Business Administration – General Management

Schools in Alaska do not offer online master’s in accounting at this time. However, UAF’s online master’s degree program allows interested candidates to select General Management and choose accounting-related courses. For example, accounting students can pick courses, such as Financial Statement Analysis, Contemporary Topics in Accounting, and Strategic Collaboration, which all can be studied under General Management. 

Along with other core MBA courses, these topics give students the necessary education that prepares them for professional accounting careers, and it is entirely an online program.  

2. University of Alaska Fairbanks

Online bachelor’s degree program – Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Accounting

The University of Alaska Fairbanks offers an online bachelor’s degree in accounting, providing a flexible and versatile alternative to the brick-and-mortar format. The program prepares students for the competitive workforce by giving them an in-depth understanding of accounting principles and practice. 

The accounting degree program has the AASCB accreditation, and it equips students to sit for the Uniform CPA exam. Many graduates from this program enjoy a high CPA pass rate with nearly 100% placement.

3. University of Alaska Anchorage

Online associate degree program – Associate in Applied Science (AAS) in Accounting

The University of Alaska Anchorage offers online and evening classes for working students who want an affordable and efficient way to qualify for positions, such as accounting assistant, auditing clerk, bookkeeper, tax preparer, accounting technician, payroll clerk, and more. 

The program allows students to join the school’s most active accounting club, where they can participate in career-related events, skill-building workshops, and network with business professionals. 

Students can also access scholarships specifically for AAS accounting majors, such as the GraceGift and the Vince Demarest Endowed Scholarship in Accounting. The 60-credit program can be completed in two years, but students can choose to finish the online associate program at their own pace.

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