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US starting salaries in accounting and finance appear headed for an increase in 2013 

By Ken Tysiac 
September 27 2012

US accounting and finance starting salaries will rise in 2013 despite an uncertain economy, according to a recently published salary guide.

Average starting salaries for corporate accounting employees in the United States are projected to increase between 2.7% and 4.5% compared with 2012, depending on the position and the size of the company, according to executive staffing firm Robert Half’s 2013 Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance.

Public accounting average starting salaries are expected to increase 2.6% to 3.6% over last year.

The rise in average starting salaries in financial services has a wider range of 0.6% to 4.0%, with client service representatives and some other operations positions predicted for some of the lower increases.

The report describes a complicated job market in finance and accounting. Although firms are experiencing urgency for hiring in order to achieve growth objectives, some businesses are proceeding with caution to avoid overhiring, the report says.

Talent shortages for positions that include financial analysts and senior accountants are being reported, and many recruiters are running into difficulty finding job candidates with the skills they need for the positions that are open, the report says.

Employment prospects in the overall US economy remain flat, according to the American Institute of CPAs Business & Industry Economic Outlook Survey for the third quarter of 2012. On average, the CPA decision-makers in that survey projected just a 0.8% increase in the number of employees at their organisations over the next 12 months. Just 9% of CPA executives in the AICPA survey reported that their organisations have too few employees and are planning to hire.

Despite high U.S. unemployment, though, university-degreed workers with the specialised skills needed to succeed in accounting are experiencing low unemployment, according to the Robert Half report.

The CPA remains the credential most frequently sought and trusted by employers for finance and accounting positions, the report says, and CPAs with experience with a Big Four accounting firm are especially sought after. The Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation is also listed among valued certifications.

Positions in demand, according to the report, include:

  • Financial analysts. In some cases, demand exceeds the supply.

  • Business systems analysts. IT upgrades are accelerating demand for those familiar with company-specific ERP systems who possess finance and technology expertise.

  • Accountants. Staff, senior, and manager-level accountants are sought; those with at least three years of experience and a CPA credential are especially in demand.

  • Compliance officers. The constant evolution of the regulatory environment fuels this demand.

  • Auditors. Public accounting and industry are experiencing demand.

  • IT auditors. Professionals who can link IT audit procedures with business processes and risk are highly sought.

  • Cost accountants. The ability to merge accounting and analysis skills to minimise manufacturing costs is coveted.

  • Controllers. Companies focused on growth are filling these positions as they rebuild their finance infrastructures.

Other CGMA Magazine resources:

Accounting staff in the UK get a slight pay bump”: Accounting workers in the UK feel slightly better about their salaries and job satisfaction. A survey of CIMA members shows a slight rise in worker salaries and continuing belief that the CIMA qualification helps members professionally.

Embrace your inner negotiator”: Regardless of one’s job title, being a good negotiator is, at a minimum, a differentiating factor that can help with career advancement. For certain positions, it’s the key to survival. But many people struggle to find the right mix of incentive, pressure, diplomacy and charisma.

More financial executives are getting raises – and the raises are bigger”: More US financial executives say they are getting raises. And the raises are getting bigger – a sign that, some say, is proof the economy is turning around. Also, raises in the future may increasingly be tied to performance, research indicates.

Ken Tysiac (ktysiac@aicpa.org) is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.

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