May 1st 2013
By Jason Bramwell
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Accounting students who will graduate in 2013 will be the beneficiaries of an average starting salary that has increased by 7 percent over last year, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).
The average starting salary for accounting graduates this year is $53,300, up from $49,700 in 2012, Andrea Koncz, employment information manager for the NACE, told AccountingWEB. In 2011, the average starting salary for accounting graduates was $50,500.
This year's data is featured in the April 2013 NACE Salary Survey, which details actual starting salaries for new college graduates as reported by employers. According to the survey, the overall average starting salary for 2013 college graduates is $44,928, up 5.3 percent over the average starting salary for the class of 2012, which was $42,666.
"I think the overall starting salary is right on track with where we expected it to be," Koncz says.
According to Koncz, survey results showed that the professional, scientific, and technical services industry and the finance and insurance sector are the top two employers within the accounting profession.
Professional, scientific, and technical services comprise establishments that specialize in performing professional, scientific, and technical activities for others, such as accounting, bookkeeping, and payroll services, the NACE states. Finance and insurance includes establishments primarily engaged in and/or facilitating financial transactions.
"The average salary for professional, scientific, and technical services is $53,100, and the average is $53,300 for finance and insurance," Koncz says.
Business majors as a group saw their overall average salary rise 7.1 percent, from $50,633 in 2012 to $54,234 in 2013. That large increase was driven primarily by double-digit increases for three majors: finance, hospitality services management, and international business, the survey states.
What major had the highest average starting salary? Engineering, which rose 4 percent from $60,151 in 2012 to $62,535 in 2013.
"Engineering majors are consistently among the highest paid because the demand for them is so great," NACE Executive Director Marilyn Mackes says in a press release.
While engineering students are the highest paid, students majoring in the health sciences saw the largest overall increase to their average starting salaries – up 9.4 percent to $49,713.
What Does It Really Mean?
The average starting salary for 2013 accounting graduates is $53,300. So what does this starting salary mean for an accounting student looking for a job? What does it mean for a firm looking to hire a young accountant out of college?
Michael Casey, general manager of jobs for Going Concern, gives his perspective to AccountingWEB.
Accounting graduates who have decided they want to work at a CPA firm have four main audiences: the Big 4, nationals, regionals, and locals.
"A lot of the Big 4 candidates typically are recruited in, and the bigger firms will offer signing bonuses because they're looking for the top talent. Therefore, the people rolling in to the bigger firms right out of school can expect a package in the range of high $50,000s to low $60,000s, depending on the geographic area," he says. "The whole premise with the top firms is they're looking for longevity. Ideally, they'd like to keep some of these candidates in-house for three to five years.
"The local firms typically don't give signing bonuses or things of that nature," Casey continues. "But if you're looking at people rolling into these two-person or ten-person firms, who have probably applied themselves and have not graduated from a brand-name school, they can expect a salary of somewhere in the mid-$40,000 range. The local firms typically don't look for longevity. They realize there will always be that inventory locally that they can always reach into."
Casey says he has found that business has increased for most CPA firms by 7 to 10 percent for 2013 through 2014, which he adds is a by-product of a healthier economy.
"Accounting services is a by-product of that, as well. The year-over-year demand for qualified candidates has gone up," he concludes. "So what is this telling you? Guess what – there are no surprises in the accounting industry."
About the survey:
The April 2013 NACE Salary Survey reports starting salaries for new college graduates in more than ninety disciplines at the bachelor's degree level. Data contained in the report are reported by employers; represent accepted starting salaries (not salary offers); and are produced through a compilation of data derived from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US Census Bureau, and a master set of data developed by Job Search Intelligence. Data for the April 2013 report were retrieved in March 2013 and represent the first look at starting salaries for the college class of 2013.