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Accountants Pay Seen Rising an Average 3.3 Percent This Year

Mar 7th 2013
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By Frank Byrt

Accountants with solid credentials should have no employment worries, because demand and pay throughout the profession are showing strong gains this year, according to reports from the recruitment firm Robert Half International.

Almost 60 percent of the 1,400 chief financial officers of US companies with twenty or more employees interviewed by an independent research firm hired by Robert Half, said it is at least "somewhat challenging" to find skilled financial professionals, according to a February 7 Robert Half press release.

As a result of that demand, salaries are expected to rise for accounting and financial positions at an average 3.3 percent rate this year, while starting salaries for some of the most in-demand positions are expected to rise as much as 4.5 percent, according to Robert Half's 2013 Salary Guide: Accounting and Finance report. 

For example, the report says that in small CPA firms, audit/assurance are being paid in the range of $74,750 to $96,500 on average this year, a 3.6 percent increase over 2012; while a worker with up to one year of experience in that same category is earning $43,250 to $53,750 a year, a 2.6 percent increase over last year.

"I think the market in general is getting better, and we're seeing an increase in demand for talent on the temporary and consulting side and, without question, the permanent side", Steve Saah, director of permanent placement services at Robert Half International in Washington, DC, told AccountingWEB. 

As for what the most marketable skills are, Saah said",Without question, it is accounting and finance degrees and advance certifications, such as a CPA, CFA, or MBA."

Saah said the most attractive candidates are those "who have experience as staff or senior accountants, and in internal auditing and IT auditing."

Following is a list of accounting and finance positions that are experiencing particularly strong demand, according to Robert Half:

  • Financial analysts: Companies are looking for CPAs or MBAs who can use the organization's financial data to make business recommendations; latest unemployment rate was 1.9 percent.
  • Business systems analysts: Those who can combine finance and IT expertise at large companies (more than $250 million in sales) are sought to optimize financial systems, support enterprise resource planning projects, and help their organizations make better-informed decisions; starting salaries expected to rise 4.4 percent this year.
  • Senior accountants: Companies are looking for accountants, especially CPAs, to maintain the books and prepare financial statements. Those with excellent communication and problem-solving skills are in particular demand.
  • Internal auditors: These professionals help evaluate the effectiveness of financial and information systems, internal controls, and management and operational practices; unemployment rate was 4.6 percent in fourth quarter 2012.
  • IT auditors: Professionals in this fast-growing specialization understand the relationship between IT audit procedures, business process controls, and risks; salaries are expected to see above-average increases in 2013.
  • Cost accountants: Those who can merge cost accounting with financial planning and analysis skills to cut costs, particularly in manufacturing, are in demand.
  • Compliance officers: Given the evolving regulatory environment, companies are seeking specialists to oversee compliance initiatives and report their findings to management; unemployment rate was 3.8 percent in fourth quarter 2012.
  • Controllers: Controllers plan, direct, and coordinate activities, such as compiling financial statements, and work with external auditors and oversee regulatory reporting; starting salaries for assistant controllers at large companies are expected to rise 4.5 percent this year.

Unemployment rates for accountants and corporate financial professionals is such that companies are increasingly bringing in temporary professionals to meet workplace needs, according to Accountemps, the temporary employment arm of Robert Half.

"There is a structural shift occurring in the labor market as businesses rely more heavily on a flexible workforce", said Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps, in a February 14 press release. "Working with temporary professionals allows companies to be nimble and access specialized expertise when and for as long as needed.

"Many skilled and experienced professionals choose project work because of the freedom and flexibility it affords", he said. "For companies, that means being able to access high-caliber talent at a moment's notice." 

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