Survey Shows Management Accountants Earn Top Dollar

Public accountants are no longer at the top of the salary heap, according to a new survey by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA).

The IMA, in its 16th annual salary survey, announced that management accountants and finance professionals are in first and second place, respectively, in average salary and total compensation in 2004. Public accountants, in the top spot in 2003, fell to sixth place last year.

“Management accountants build sustainable quality within businesses, providing strategic direction from a financial perspective and driving improved performance,” said IMA President and Chief Executive Officer Paul Sharman, in a statement. He also attributed the changes in salary and overall compensation to increased demands of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

Top finance professionals earned an average of $124,288 in total compensation last year.

Internal auditors, No. 3 on the earnings list, received average total compensation of $121,727. Average total compensation - which includes salary plus bonuses, profit sharing, stock options, car allowances and the like - increased almost 35 percent in 2004 from the amounts reported in 2003, the IMA reported.

The survey showed that the salaries for women internal auditors were closer to their male counterparts than in past years. Women internal auditors at the senior management level who took part in the survey earned 93.3 percent of men in the same jobs. The gap widened, however, when total compensation, rather than just salary, was considered.

“While the additional compensation of women still lags behind that of men, there are indications that this gap may be getting smaller,” wrote survey authors David L. Schroeder and Karl E. Reichardt. “One of the brightest observations was that the women in the youngest age category (19-29) actually had a larger average salary and average total compensation than the men in the same category.”

More women are entering the field. According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, 57 percent of new accounting graduates are women.

Big Four accounting firm KPMG LLP aims to retain women by allowing flexibility. "The percentage of women partners at the firm is poised to increase dramatically," said Christine St.Clare, an audit partner with KPMG in Atlanta, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle. She said that since KPMG launched programs to advance women, “turnover among women at the firm declined by 20 percent between fiscal year '02 to fiscal year '04."

The IMA survey also shows that while the overall gains in salary and compensation were smaller than in previous years, they were ahead of last year's 3.4 percent increase in consumer prices. Average public accountant salaries remained flat in 2004.

Survey results were published in the June issue of Strategic Finance magazine and may be found at www.imanet.org.

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