Wanted: Accounting Grads, Willing to Pay Gym Fees

Overworked accounting executives are finding that great pay and benefits aren't enough to attract top talent.

Satisfying the crushing demand for accounting services means getting creative: offering athletic club memberships, flexible work schedules, telework options, bonuses, training opportunities and the intangibles, such as a positive “work environment” and “work-life balance.”

Firms are heavily recruiting accounting graduates and CPAs with at least a few years of experience under their belt. Alan Chaffee, partner of Goff Chaffee Geddes PLLC in Bellevue, Wash., said, “Where the shortage really lies in finding licensed CPAs with three to 10 years of experience.”

He told the Portland (Ore.) Business Journal that the raging dot-com industry in the Northwest cooled interest in the accounting field 10 years ago. Although the field is entering a resurgence, with enrollment up at college campuses, those years of low interest are being felt now at hiring time. “The [accounting] industry hasn't done a great job at recruiting in the last 10 years,” he said.

Chaffee is finding that competitive pay and benefits are just one part of the package needed to lure top prospects. That's where the club memberships and bonuses come in.

The strong need for accountants is multi-faceted. While the Sarbanes-Oxley Act has created far more work for public accounting firms, and has resulted in a manpower shortage, it also has generated keen interest among college students wanting to make a difference.

Indiana University accounting professor Laureen Maines told the Minnesota Daily, the University of Minnesota newspaper, that financial scandals of the early 2000s have sparked students' interests. Upward mobility and a healthy paycheck are also incentives to study accounting, she said.

“Crimes and scandals have recently attracted many students, but the financial security and benefits have always been a factor in students choosing accounting as a major,” she said.

In fact, accounting is one of the most “in-demand” majors, according to the Job Outlook 2005 Survey, and the increased competition means higher salaries for 2006.

The 2006 Salary Guide from Robert Half International Inc. says starting salaries in accounting and finance are projected to rise an average of 3.1 percent next year, with salaries for IT auditors expected to rise 11.2 percent. Entry-level internal auditors at small companies (up to $25 million in sales) will see average starting salaries increase 9 percent, according to the survey.

Demand for accounting and finance professionals is expected to be especially high in the manufacturing, real estate and construction fields.

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