Accounting Firms Rushing to Fill Jobs; Minorities Targeted

With the demands of corporate reform legislation bearing down on public companies, the Big Four are hurriedly hiring new talent and seeking a more diverse workplace.

Accounting to, experienced financial managers are badly needed to deal with the rigors of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act's stricter auditing and accounting rules.

Tony Lee, publisher of, the Wall Street Journal's executive career website said in a release, "Companies are bending over backward not just to hire experienced accountants, but also to try and keep the ones they have, offering them flex-time schedules and other benefits." Pay in this area has increased by 10 percent or more, recruiters estimate. Experienced team leaders or forensic accounting specialists can get 20 percent more than a year ago.

Entry-level accountants are also needed to deal with the ever-growing workload. Accounting majors are in demand more than any other, and national firms are recruiting heavily at college campuses.

Aaron Holzinger, a Providence College graduate, was hired shortly after graduation by KPMG, the largest accounting firm in Rhode Island. Patrick J. Canning, managing partner of KPMG's Providence office, told the Providence Business News that entry-level salaries at KPMG are in the upper-$40,000 range, a 20 percent increase from before Sarbanes-Oxley, Canning said. Employees also get five weeks of paid vacation and bonuses for passing the CPA exam.

In the rush to bring new employees on board, the Big Four are also looking for more diversity in the work place.

For example, Deloitte & Touche, Howard University, and some of the major black-owned accounting firms in the D.C. area have launched the Center for Accounting Education at Howard's D.C. campus to support Black/African-American accounting graduates. A leadership skills program offers career advice and helps participants prepare for the CPA exam.

Only 1 percent of CPAs in the United States are black, according to the AICPA, making accounting one of the country's least diverse professions, the Washington Post reported. Blacks make up only about 4 percent of those who sit for the CPA exam. Asians and Pacific Islanders make up 4 percent and Hispanics represent 2 percent of the AICPA's membership.

Seminar participant Nina Cordier is a 22-year-old, black graduate of Louisiana's Dillard University who works at Ernst & Young. She hopes to pass the CPA exam and eventually move up to partner. She believes profession is starting to catch on among her peers.

"The number one major is accounting now," she said. "I think we are pretty hip."

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