2003 Salary Guide For Accounting and Finance Professionals Released

On average, starting salaries for accounting and finance professionals should remain little changed from 2002, according to the just-released 2003 Salary Guide from Robert Half Finance & Accounting and Accountemps. With continued economic uncertainty, demand will remain strong for accounting professionals who can implement cost containment and cash-flow improvement initiatives, research shows.

The 2003 Salary Guide is based on an analysis of the thousands of job orders managed by the company's U.S. offices.

"Base compensation should remain at or near 2002 levels within most accounting and finance specialties as a result of a more conservative hiring environment," said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International. "Among those organizations recruiting financial staff, demand is strongest for candidates with solid leadership abilities and broad skill sets who can help their teams achieve greater productivity and cost efficiencies."

Starting Salaries in Public Accounting to Increase

Professionals in public accounting are expected to see the biggest increases in average starting salaries next year as accounting firms compete with private industry for top applicants.

  • Managers and directors at large public accounting firms (more than $250 million in annual sales) will see average starting salaries rise 4.1 percent, to the range of $78,500 to $116,500.
  • Entry-level accountants at midsized public accounting firms ($25 to $250 million in annual sales) can expect base compensation of $32,000 to $38,500, a 3.7 percent increase over last year.
  • Senior accountants at small public accounting firms (up to $25 million in annual sales) can anticipate a 3.5 percent increase in average starting salaries, to the range of $41,750 to $53,750.

Corporate Accounting Salaries Remain Stable

While average starting salaries in corporate accounting should remain consistent with 2002 levels for most positions, small gains are forecast for payroll supervisors and managers (up 2.9 percentoverall); assistant controllers and assistant treasurers (up 2.2 percent overall); controllers (up 1.9 percent overall); and general, audit, tax and cost accounting managers (up 1.7 percent overall).

At small companies, base compensation for payroll supervisors will be 4.0 percent higher than 2002, the biggest increase for any single position in corporate accounting. Assistant controllers and assistant treasurers at small and midsized firms will see starting salaries increase an average of 2.7 percent over last year. These same positions at large companies ($500 million or more in annual sales) should see average starting salaries of $90,750 to $114,250, a 2.5 percent gain over 2002.

Other key findings in the 2003 Salary Guide:

  • Assistant credit managers at midsized companies will see starting salaries increase 2.5 percent, to the range of $36,250 to $45,000 per year; those at small companies can expect a 2.2 percent increase, to the range of $32,000 to $39,250 per year.

  • Average starting salaries for directors of accounting at companies with $50 to $100 million in annual sales will increase 2.6 percent, bringing base compensation to between $75,500 and $103,250 per year.

  • Mortgage lenders can expect starting salaries to increase 2.1 percent, with base compensation ranging from $36,000 to $47,500.

  • Base compensation for general, audit, tax and cost accounting managers at large companies is projected to remain unchanged from 2002 levels, ranging from $59,000 to $78,750 annually.

  • Salary declines are expected at the most senior levels. For example, chief financial officers and treasurers could see declines in average starting salaries of up to 3.6 percent at companies with $250 million to $500 million in annual sales. Directors of finance at companies with $500 million or more in annual sales could see declines in base compensation of up to 8.6 percent, bringing them to the range of $125,000 to $184,000 annually.

Demand for accounting and finance professionals is expected to be strongest in the health care and manufacturing industries. However, hiring activity varies significantly by geographic region. (All salaries listed are national averages. A regional analysis of hiring trends and compensation variances is included in the 2003 Salary Guide.)

Information in the 2003 Salary Guide is based on the thousands of job searches, negotiations and placements conducted each year by Robert Half Finance & Accounting recruiting managers. Continuing or ongoing salaries are not reported because too many external factors -- such as seniority, work ethic, job performance and training -- impact the salaries of full-time professionals as work histories develop.

For decades, companies nationwide have consulted the Salary Guide, produced by Robert Half Finance & Accounting and Accountemps, to determine salaries for all levels of employees. In addition, the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics uses the guide in the preparation of its comprehensive Occupational Outlook Handbook.

A free copy of the salary survey is available upon request.

Robert Half Finance & Accounting and Accountemps are the full-time and temporary placement divisions, respectively, of Robert Half International Inc., the world's first and largest staffing firm specializing in accounting, finance and information technology.

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