Nurses are in demand in Alaska, where 5,150 RNs earn a median annual salary of $79,350, the fourth highest pay in the nation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Alaska's 700 LPNs earn $47,100, compared to a national average of $41,360. The higher pay is needed to attract nurses to a state with a high cost of living, isolated communities and long winters. While Alaska's overall unemployment is 7.4 percent, healthcare services were adding jobs in 2011 and the state's top employer is Providence Health & Services in Anchorage (4,000+ employees). Also on the top 100 list of employers are Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (1,500 to 1,749); Banner Health and Southcentral Foundation have about 1,200 employees each.
The University of Alaska offers the only nursing program in the state, including an LPN to RN option, a four-year BSN track, graduate Nurse Practitioner and Nursing Educator degrees.
The University of Alaska-Anchorage School of Nursing offers a two-year LPN to RN option where students complete the Associate of Applied Science program in three semesters and then must qualify for the clinical sequence in hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics. LPNs returning to school can complete their AAS degree through an LPN Direct Articulation track. In addition, nurses licensed in Alaska who hold either a diploma or AAS may complete nursing requirements via distance learning while meeting non-nursing course requirements in their home communities. The nursing program is 40 years old and has expanded via distance learning to numerous communities including Fairbanks, Juneau, Kodiak, and Valdez/Cordova. A total of 70 college credits are required for the AAS degree. In total, the school has graduated 3,682 nurses, many of whom live and work in Alaska. The university features a new Health Sciences Complex with simulation labs and classrooms for expanding medical education and training in the allied health fields.