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Thank you, Sarbanes-Oxley.

Starting salaries for accounting and finance professionals are expected to jump 4.3 percent next year, according to the annual Salary Guide survey by Robert Half International. Last year, the survey projected salaries climbing 3.8 percent — an increase that Half says was close to the actual rise.

The 2008 Salary Guide notes that public accountants, financial analysts, and internal auditors are expected to enjoy the largest gains.

This is not surprising, of course, given the shortage of qualified candidates that have prompted complaints from account executives ever since new rules went into effect requiring companies to assess and document their internal controls and to hire different firms to perform their audits and consult on certain issues.

"Competition for skilled financial professionals has prompted many companies to offer higher compensation to attract and retain top performers," said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International. He added in a press release that employers seek individuals who possess broad skill sets, in addition to expertise in their functional areas. Areas of demand outside finance include information technology proficiency and strong communication abilities.

A Half spokesman said that again this year, the overall percentage and the percentages in various finance areas were calculated to reflect the weighted average of projections made by each of the company's 250 offices around the United States. Each projection is based on thousands of job searches, negotiations, and placements managed each year by the hiring firm’s staffing and recruiting managers.

Demand registered as especially strong among firms in commercial construction, financial services, and health care, Half noted.

But overall, business expansion and ongoing corporate governance initiatives are fueling hiring — and higher salaries — among corporate accounting and finance departments across the board, according to the survey.

For example, entry-level financial, budget, treasury, and cost analysts at large companies (more than $250 million in annual sales) are expected to see average starting salaries rise 6.9 percent, to between $38,250 and $47,500 annually. Last year the survey pointed to a projected increase of 5.8 percent.

Internal audit managers at large companies are forecast to receive starting compensation between $81,500 and $109,500 annually, an increase of 6.7 percent. Last year the projected increase was 5.8 percent.

Average starting salaries overall for senior managers and directors at midsize public accounting firms ($25 million to $250 million in sales) are projected to increase 7.7 percent next year, to between $88,250 and $129,250.

Professionals with one to three years experience also are in a good position. At small firms (up to $25 million in sales), professionals at that career stage can expect a 7.7 percent increase in average starting salaries, to a range of $44,750 to $53,250.

In 2008, professionals with more than five years in the commercial lending business are looking at a 4.7 percent gain in starting salaries, to between $82,000 and $107,500.

Average starting salaries for hedge fund accountants are expected to rise 6.5 percent, to between $46,250 and $64,500.

Stephen Taub is a reporter at CFO magazine.

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