Do you live in Alaska? Are you looking for a fulfilling career that’s in high demand and pays well? If so, then you may want to take a serious look at nursing. Like the rest of the country, there’s a critical shortage of licensed nurses throughout Alaska. In fact, Alaska is among the handful of states expected to suffer the most severely from the shortage. And with the aging population of baby boomers, the demand for more nursing professionals will only continue to grow over the next several years.
Before launching your Alaskan nursing career, you will need an education—specifically, a college degree from a fully accredited nursing school. But how do you know which school and degree program is right for you?
That’s where we can help. We’ll introduce you to the undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs available from nursing schools in Alaska. You’ll find our picks for the best Alaska nursing programs for 2024. We’ve also included helpful information and advice for choosing your degree or certificate program, paying for nursing school, and what the job market looks like in Alaska for new nursing school graduates.
Best-in-Class Nursing Schools in Alaska
The smartest place to start your search for the best nursing degree or certificate in Alaska is with the best nursing schools in Alaska. We’ve surveyed all of the Alaska colleges and universities offering nursing degrees and certificates and spotlighted several. Our selections are based on the availability of several important elements, including accreditation, affordability, program quality, study convenience, and access to important student academic and career support services. Here’s who leads the pack in nursing schools in Alaska for 2024:
University of Alaska Anchorage
When it comes to nursing schools in Alaska, the biggest player by far is the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA). UAA’s School of Nursing offers an impressive array of degree and certificate programs, starting with associate and Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees. Both prepare graduates to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam to become registered nurses. The four-semester, 68-credit AAS program is not available on UAA’s Anchorage campus but is offered in Homer, Juneau, Nome, Sitka and a number of other communities throughout the state.
The BSN program offers two options: the prelicensure option for students seeking an RN license in Alaska and the RN student option for students with current Alaska RN licensure. Once BSN students complete the prelicensure option and become RNs, they then move on to the RN student option to complete several RN-only courses. The BSN program is available on UAA’s Anchorage campus and locations in Fairbanks, Kodiak, and Mat-Su. Current RNs with an AAS in nursing can earn their BSN through UAA’s RN to BS in Nursing Science program.
UAA is the only nursing school in Alaska that offers graduate-level degree and certificate programs. These include Master of Science in Nursing (with three concentration options) and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees along with family nurse practitioner, psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner, and nursing education graduate certificates.
The University of Alaska Anchorage is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). Its DNP program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). All other UAA nursing degree and certificate programs are accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).
Alaska Pacific University
Alaska Pacific University (APU), a private, Methodist-affiliated school in Anchorage, offers three undergraduate degree options for students interested in pursuing nursing careers in Alaska. APU’s 71-credit Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) program combines prerequisite and major-specific coursework and the clinical placement practice hours needed for NCLEX-RN exam eligibility leading to RN licensure. The ADN program is designed to be completed with three semesters (18 months) of full-time study. Current RNs can earn their nursing bachelor’s through the RN to BSN program. Most RN to BSN coursework is delivered online in seven-week modules, allowing working nurses a great deal of flexibility in their study schedules and degree completion times. The NWCCU institutionally accredits Alaska Pacific University, and both the ADN and RN to BSN programs are programmatically accredited by the ACEN.
APU also offers a bachelor’s degree in health sciences with a pre-nursing concentration. This program prepares students to continue their studies, earn their ADN, and become licensed RNs in Alaska.
Charter College is a private, independent institution with locations in a number of Western states that offers a variety of career-focused degree and certificate programs in business, healthcare, information technology, and veterinary services. Students seeking a quick path to becoming a licensed RN in Alaska can check out Charter’s AAS in the nursing program. The AAS in nursing program is a blended format that combines online learning components with in-person classes at Charter’s Anchorage campus. Students also complete the hands-on clinical rotation hours needed for RN licensure at program-affiliated hospitals, clinics, and other regional healthcare facilities. Program starts are available every five weeks; students can complete all degree requirements in as few as 19 months to become licensed RNs in Alaska.
Charter College is institutionally accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES), a national accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The ACEN programmatically accredits Charter’s AAS in nursing.
Types of Nursing Programs Available in Alaska
Once you start exploring the world of nursing education, you’ll quickly realize several postsecondary degree and certificate options are available. It can all get confusing pretty fast. To help clear up the confusion, here are the most common types of nursing degrees and certificates, along with current program examples from nursing schools in Alaska.
Pre-Licensure Nursing Programs in Alaska
Nursing Bridge Programs in Alaska for Current Nurses
Advanced Nursing Programs in Alaska
Inside Look at Online Nursing Programs in Alaska
Distance education comes with a lot of benefits, not the least of which is the opportunity for students living a significant distance from a college or university campus to earn their degree. And distance is a big factor for prospective Alaska college students. So, it’s no surprise that the majority of nursing schools in Alaska offer many of their degree programs in fully online or partially online formats. Online components often include 100% online coursework (assignments, readings, recorded lectures, etc.) with asynchronous or synchronous class sessions. Remember, though, that many programs include labs and other hands-on experiences that require on-campus attendance. And all programs leading to state licensure or professional certification include clinical practice experiences that must be attended in person.
Spotlighted below are three nursing schools in Alaska with degree and certificate programs that have distance learning components:
Best Online Nursing Programs in Alaska
University of Alaska Anchorage
As the biggest name in nursing schools in Alaska, UAA is also the biggest name in online nursing programs in Alaska. All undergraduate and graduate nursing degree and certificate programs at UAA feature substantial online components. For example, the AAS in nursing and BSN programs at UAA and its satellite locations (along with UAA’s BSN program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Community & Technical College) all feature pre-major courses with online options. In addition, AAS and RN to BS in Nursing Science lecture courses are delivered online. Keep in mind, though, that the clinical rotation hours required in undergraduate programs must be completed in person.
As for UAA’s graduate nursing programs, the MSN’s nurse leadership options are completed fully online through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous classes. Along with online classes, the family nurse practitioner and psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner options include hybrid-formatted clinical courses and physical assessments, as well as short face-to-face intensives. Classes in the DNP program are also delivered online.
The Alaska-based AAS in Nursing program offered by Charter College provides the knowledge, skills, and clinical practice hours required to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam leading to RN licensure. Students complete a total of 108 quarter credits of general education and major-specific coursework over the course of 80 weeks of study. The curriculum is presented in a blended format that includes six general education classes, all of which are completed 100% online, and 26 nursing courses delivered in a variety of formats: 100% online, on-the-ground (labs attended on Charter’s Anchorage campus), and hybrid (combination of online and on-campus components). Clinical practice hours are completed off-site at healthcare facilities in and around the Anchorage area.
Nightingale College is a private, independent institution headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, with additional locations in several states, including Alaska. Students interested in gaining the education and training to become licensed RNs and earning their nursing bachelor’s in Alaska will want to consider Nightingale’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. The program combines fully online coursework with on-site supervised field experiences, providing the mandatory clinical practice hours for the NCLEX-RN exam and RN license eligibility. On-site clinicals are attended at program-approved practice facilities. Earning the BSN degree requires a total of 120 credits consisting of the program’s 72 credits of core nursing courses and 48 credits of general education coursework, which may be transferred in from other accredited postsecondary colleges and universities. Program start dates are available in the spring, summer, and fall.
Alaska residents with a current RN license are eligible for Nightingale’s 100% online RN to BSN program. Nightingale College is institutionally accredited by the ABHES, and its BSN program is programmatically accredited by the CCNE.
Financial Aid Opportunities for Nursing Students in Alaska
If you enroll in a properly accredited nursing program in Alaska, online or on campus, you’re eligible for pretty much the full range of financial aid available. Common types include scholarships, grants, employer tuition reimbursement, VA benefits (for military veterans), and, most popular of all, student loans. By far, the biggest source of student loans is the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid program. The federal government also sponsors several scholarship, grant, and loan repayment opportunities for nursing students.
Another major provider of financial aid for Alaska nursing students is the State of Alaska itself. Through its Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, students can access a wealth of information on state-sponsored loans, scholarships, grants, loan repayment programs, and other financial aid opportunities.
Students should also contact the financial aid office at their school. Major school and financial aid websites include:
- Alaska Pacific University: Student Financial Services
- Charter College: Financial Aid
- UAA: Financial Aid
How to Become an RN in Alaska: Licensing Information and Requirements
Each state, including Alaska, has its own specific requirements for registered nursing practice, so it’s critical that you understand these requirements before starting any RN education program. We’ve compiled a list of the steps you’ll take to become a first-time Alaska registered nurse. For more detailed information on requirements for Alaska nursing licensure, visit the official Alaska Board of Nursing (ABN) website.
Step #1: Complete your RN degree program.
The first step is to enroll in a properly accredited and state-approved prelicensure registered nursing diploma or degree (ADN, BSN) program. Proper accreditation and state approval is a must since both are requirements to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam, which you’ll need to pass to obtain your Alaska RN license—more on the exam below.
Step #2: Prepare and submit your RN license application with the Alaska Board of Nursing.
Once you’ve obtained your nursing degree or diploma, you can begin the official license application process by submitting the following:
- Application form and fees. Submit your application online or by mail. The application must be signed and notarized. Those submitting their application online must mail in a notarized signature page. The total fee (for application, license, and fingerprint processing) is $375.
- Fingerprint card and criminal background check. You must have your fingerprints taken by a fingerprint service approved by the Alaska Department of Public Safety. The fingerprint card is sent directly to the ABN, then forwarded to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a criminal background check.
- Nursing program and official transcripts. These must be sent directly from your nursing school to the ABN.
Step #3: Register for the NCLEX-RN exam.
To obtain your Alaska RN license, you must first take and pass the NCLEX-RN. You’ll register and pay the fee to take the exam with Pearson VUE, the national service that conducts the exam. You can register with Pearson VUE anytime during the RN application process. However, you will not be able to take the exam until after your application has been approved by the ABN. Once you’ve registered with Pearson VUE and your application has been approved, the ABN will notify Pearson VUE (typically within 48 hours of approval) of your eligibility to take the exam. Once your eligibility is received, Pearson VUE will issue and mail your Authorization to Test (ATT).
Step #4: Schedule and take the NCLEX-RN exam.
Once you receive your ATT, you’ll schedule and sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. You can take the exam at any of Pearson VUE’s domestic testing centers. Pearson VUE currently offers only one location in Alaska, in Anchorage. For detailed information on preparing for, taking, and passing the exam, visit the NCLEX website.
Step #5: Receive your Alaska RN license.
Your exam results will be mailed to you within 14 days of your exam date. If you pass the exam, your Alaska RN license will be enclosed with your results letter. Congratulations! You are now authorized to practice as an RN in Alaska.
Job Outlook for RNs in Alaska
Like virtually every other state in the U.S., Alaska suffers from a long-term shortage of licensed nursing professionals. And that shortage is expected to last well into the future. That means particularly strong demand in the state for new LPNs and RNs as well as advanced practice nurses specializing in family, psychiatric-mental health, gerontology, and pediatric care. To illustrate the point, we’ve listed below the most recent U.S. Department of Labor employment projections for RNs in Alaska, indicating particularly strong job growth from now through the end of the decade.
Employment Projections for RNs in Alaska
Source: Projections Central
Nursing Salaries in Alaska: How Much You Could Make as an RN
It’s often the case that high salaries go hand in hand with high job demand. That’s certainly true when it comes to nurses in Alaska. As the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures in the chart below show, generous salaries are to be had by Alaska RNs at all points along their career paths. Bear in mind, however, that these figures are only averages. What you earn in your Alaska RN employment will depend on several factors, such as your specific job, employer, and geographic location, as well as your professional nursing experience.
Annual Earnings for Registered Nurses in Alaska
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2021