As Alaska’s economy grows, the need for healthcare professionals — especially in nursing — also expands. The critical shortage of nurses is a result of several recent changes in the national healthcare landscape, including an aging population, the reorganization of health insurance programs, and the expansion of eligibility for Medicaid benefits. This combination of these factors has impacted the demand for nurses across the country, and Alaska in particular. The field of nursing is growing faster than the national average, and employment opportunities for nurses in the state of Alaska are expected to continue to increase over the next decade.
Alaska ranks among the top five states for nursing salaries, and the demand for registered nurses is especially strong. The mean hourly wage of $41.56 for Alaska’s RNs is among the highest in the nation (BLS). Additionally, this shortage of skilled RNs has translated into employment opportunities throughout the state. While nurses receive relatively higher salaries at large hospitals and medical centers in urban areas like Anchorage or Juneau, those who work in rural communities with underserved populations are also well compensated. The nursing industry offers many personally and financially rewarding career paths to those willing to pursue the education and licensing required for the field.
How to Become a Nurse in Alaska
Licensing regulations for nursing in Alaska are similar to those in other states. Licensed registered nurses must hold either an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree, and earned a passing score on the NCLEX-RN. At this stage, nurses pay the required fees through the Alaska Board of Nursing and apply for licensing in one of three specializations: Advanced Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Midwife, or Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. Once licensed and employed, nurses complete continuing education through a national certification organization recognized by Alaska’s state board.
Choose the Path That's Right for You
The minimum credential for an entry-level nursing job is a year-long licensed practical nurse program. The LPN does not require a college degree, and usually leads to employment in lower-level nursing care positions under the direction of a registered nurse or physician. The AND is a two-year associate degree that prepares graduates for entry-level positions or to transfer into a bachelor’s program. Both the associate and bachelor’s degree qualify you to take the NCLEX-RN exam for registered nurses. A bachelor’s degree in nursing generally requires four years and more challenging course work than an AND. Two-year bridge programs are also available for registered nurses with AND’s who want to continue on to a BSN degree. Specialized training requires a master’s in nursing and provides a pathway to more job opportunities and higher pay. The most advanced option, the doctor of nursing practice degree, prepares professionals for college-level teaching.
Earn Your Nursing Degree
Nursing schools in Alaska offer different pathways to degree-completion; students can select programs on-campus, fully online, or as a hybrid of the two. Online nursing degrees are convenient options for working adults who want to enhance their job prospects with advanced training, or students who do not have access to on-campus programs near their homes. The most common online programs are RN to BSN and RN to MSN bridge programs. Prerequisites differ by school and type of degree, though clinical practice or internships are often part of degree requirements; students interested in online programs should make sure that they can complete these practicum requirements at medical facilities near their locations. The length of time for degree completion can take anywhere from one to five years, depending on the degree and whether the program is offered online, as blended or hybrid courses, or on-campus.
Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License
Depending on the school, most nursing programs prepare graduates for required licensing exams. Most nursing schools in Alaska provide test preparation to students, which introduces them to the content areas and builds their test-taking skills and confidence. For example, the ATIs and HESI exams are graduation requirements for many bachelor’s programs. Students who do well on these exams tend to have higher passing rates on the NCLEX-RN exam. Review courses for the NCLEX exams offered by test preparation services present another option. Keep in mind that passing the NCLEX is a requirement for licensing but it is not a guarantee of finding work. Even before you graduate and start interviewing, you should build professional networks, acquire experience in the field through clinical practice and internships, and take advantage of your school’s career counseling office.
Nursing Licensure in Alaska
The Alaska Board of Nursing, the state licensing board, is the best source for information on licensing requirements and fees for LPNs and RNs. The NCLEX-PN exam is required for licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and the NCLEX-RN exam is the license requirement for registered nurses (RNs). Both associate and bachelor’s degrees qualify you for the NCLEX-RN test, the required licensing credential for employment throughout the U.S., including the state of Alaska. To apply for state licensing, you must meet the NCLEX eligibility requirements established by the Alaska Board of Nursing and register for the exam with the Pearson VUE testing company. The examination fee is $200, and the board requires other application fees (see table below).
Many nursing programs in Alaska require the ATIs and HESI exams as part of their curriculum to help students prepare for the required NCLEX exams. Students who take these preparatory exams tend to receive higher scores on the NCLEX. However, Alaska is not a member of the Nurse Licensure Compact, which recognizes nursing licenses between member states without further examination. If you hold a license from another state, you must fulfill licensing requirements to work as a nurse in Alaska. If your Alaskan nursing license is in good standing, you may practice in another state by applying for licensure by endorsement through that state’s nursing board.
Nursing Licensing Costs in Alaska
App Fee $50
Licensing Fee $165
Permit Fee $50
Fingerprint Processing Fee $60
Career Outlook for Nurses in Alaska
Alaska’s growing economy, vast geographical landscape, and changing demographics are contributing factors to its critical nursing shortage. The demand for LPs and RNs is at an all-time high. Skilled nurses licensed through the Alaska Board of Nursing can expect to find well-compensated jobs throughout the state of Alaska, and entry-level nurses receive higher salaries in Alaska than in other more-populated states with lower costs of living.
Recent Alaskan labor statistics indicate that licensed registered nurses with advanced surgical, emergency room, or other more advanced specializations are in short supply. Positions also remain unfilled for licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses. Employment of nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners, and nurse midwives is also on the rise. Compensation is particularly high for nurses who are willing to work with underserved populations in rural areas, or for travel nurses who are willing to practice in multiple locations across great distances to serve communities in remote parts of the state.
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Biggest Hospitals in Alaska
All 26 of Alaska’s hospitals face nursing shortages, and the largest hospitals in Alaska’s major cities have the most acute need. The shortage is aggravated by the small number of nursing programs in Alaska graduating trained professionals to fill the open positions. While the shortfall provides internships, fellowships, and other kinds of hands-on training for students finishing their degrees, hospitals have begun to recruit nurses from other states and overseas. Urban hospitals are also paying higher than average salaries to attract licensed nurses.
- Providence Alaska Medical Center: Located in Anchorage, this is Alaska’s largest hospital. Providence admits over 16,000 patients annually and employs 766 nurses and 850 physicians. Providence is the home of Alaska’s only Level III neonatal intensive care unit, and the state’s largest emergency and air ambulance transport department. The hospital is the flagship of the Providence Health System, the second largest employer in Alaska operating healthcare facilities across the state.
- Fairbanks Memorial Hospital: This 152-bed, general medical, surgical and acute care hospital receives close to 5,000 admissions and over 34,000 patients visiting its emergency room each year. With 1,650 employees, the hospital oversees the Tanana Valley Clinic and the Denali Center. Among the highest rated healthcare in Alaska, Fairbanks Memorial is recognized for its J. Michael Carroll Cancer Center.
Additional Nursing Resources in Alaska
Alaska Board of Nursing
This is the official website of the state licensing board for nursing certification for the state. This is where you will find the most up-to-date and accurate information on the NCLEX exams, licensing requirements, and fees. You can download applications and find answers to frequently asked questions about licensing and nursing practice, as well as explanations of federal and state regulations and statutes.
Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association
The ASHNHA is an advocacy organization representing hospitals, healthcare facilities and nursing homes across the state. Its primary mission is to work with government officials and policymakers to address medical costs, patients’ rights, workplace environment and other issues that impact healthcare delivery in Alaska. The website also offers educational resources, career information, and job listings.
Alaskan School Nurses Association
This association supports the educational and career aspirations of students training for nursing professions. It provides scholarship opportunities, resume and job listings, and information on national and state legislation impacting the nursing profession. This Alaskan organization is affiliated with the National School Nurses Association, which sponsors two meetings each year to foster professional development and networking.
Alaska Nurses Association
This professional organization represents over 7,000 nurses in all specializations working in the state. It offers grants and scholarships, information on state legislation affecting healthcare and nursing, and assistance with collective bargaining and workplace grievances through its labor program. The website also offers resources for nurses considering relocating to Alaska.
American Society of Registered Nurses
This major national organization lobbies to improve the quality of RN education, promotes research by and for nurses, and supports diversity in the profession. It also strengthens the work environment for RNs and recognizes outstanding leadership and contributions of those working in the field. Members of the ASRN also have access to the nation’s largest nursing career portal and virtual job fairs.
Accredited Online Nursing Programs in Alaska
To make your research a little easier, we’ve created a comprehensive database of accredited on-campus and online nursing programs in Alaska. The associate degree in nursing provides a two-year path to entry-level positions, while the online RN to BSN programs serve as a bridge to bachelor’s degrees and wider employment opportunities. Additionally, the online MSN programs in Alaska provide advanced training for supervisory and specialized positions, and require a completed bachelor’s in nursing and 18-24 months to complete.