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Hiring and Salary Trends in Accounting and Finance

Businesses recognize that skilled accounting professionals are critical to their ability to grow and compete once the economy picks up. Learn about the latest hiring trends in the 2010 Salary Guide.

October 22, 2009
from Robert Half Finance & Accounting

Although there have been tentative signs of an economic recovery in some sectors, companies continue to be cautious about increasing full-time staff. According to the Robert Half International Financial Hiring Index, 84 percent of chief financial officers (CFOs) said they planned no hiring activity for the remainder of the fourth quarter. Ten percent said they foresee cutbacks, while only 4 percent expected to add full-time employees.

The good news for financial job seekers is that hiring new workers will be a high priority for many companies once a recovery is underway. In a separate survey by Robert Half Finance & Accounting, nearly one in three executives said they plan to hire additional staff when conditions improve. In fact, hiring topped their list of employee-related priorities.

Businesses recognize that skilled, experienced accounting and finance professionals are critical to their ability to grow and compete once the economic cycle picks up again. More than one-quarter of CFOs polled in an earlier survey said “a focus on hiring the best people” will offer the best protection from competitive threats in the next three years.

Here are some other trends identified in the just-released 2010 Robert Half Salary Guide.

Hiring Trends

Although many CFOs say they do not plan to significantly increase hiring until a recovery takes shape, at the same time, businesses must replace key workers who leave and some firms want to take advantage of the larger pool of top professionals now in the job market who were not previously available. As a result, CFOs continue to report difficulties in finding highly skilled professionals for certain functional areas. Twenty-five percent of financial executives surveyed for the Robert Half International Financial Hiring Index said accounting positions are the most difficult to fill, while 19 percent cited audit and operational support roles.

This trend could be exacerbated as demand increases. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook predicts employment for a number of accounting and finance specialties will rise as fast or faster than the average for all occupations in the coming years.

Specifically, companies seek accounting and finance professionals who are proficient with enterprise resource planning (ERP) and financial reporting tools and can use this expertise to analyze data and provide recommendations for the business. Deep technical expertise, excellent communication skills and the ability to collaborate with colleagues across multiple departments are other key skills in high demand.

Professional accreditations are also valued. The certified public accountant (CPA) designation, in particular, continues to serve as a primary hiring criterion. Other marketable credentials include the master’s degree in business administration (MBA), chartered financial analyst (CFA), certified internal auditor (CIA) and certified information systems auditor (CISA).

According to a Robert Half survey, credit and collections and accounts receivable are the functional areas that have increased most in importance within accounting and finance departments in recent years. In particular, firms seek professionals who can contribute to the bottom line by evaluating credit risk, managing delinquent payments and improving cash flow. Also in demand are staff and senior accountants who can perform such core tasks as maintaining the general ledger system and analyzing and preparing financial statements.

Globalization continues to impact hiring. Multinational companies or those with international clients seek finance and accounting professionals who are multilingual and have expertise with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), as well as foreign tax, compliance, legal and regulatory issues.

In the corporate sector, tax accountants are sought to help businesses address changing regulations. In some areas of the country, demand outpaces supply. Expertise in tax services is also in demand in the public accounting sphere.

Compensation Trends

Starting salaries for most accounting and finance positions are expected to remain flat into 2010, with some positions showing very slight increases. The greatest rise in public accounting salaries, for example, is predicted to be 1.8 percent for the manager of tax services at large firms ($250 million or more in sales), according to the Salary Guide. The range for this position is expected to increase from $82,500 to $111,750 to $84,500 to $113,250.

On the corporate side, the starting salary for a tax manager at a large firm is expected to increase 2.3 percent, from a range of $76,500 to $100,750 to $77,750 to $103,500.

In the current economy, job-seeking accounting and finance professionals may want to consider working on a project basis. Businesses unable to add full-time staff often hire on a temporary basis to maintain productivity or handle high-priority initiatives. Interim work can help professionals keep their skills sharp, build a work history, expand their base of contacts and earn an income. In addition, some temporary assignments can lead to full-time positions.

To request a complimentary copy of the 2010 Salary Guide and read about the most current hiring trends, please visit www.roberthalf.com/SalaryCenter.

Founded in 1948, Robert Half Finance & Accounting, a division of Robert Half International, is one of the world’s first and largest specialized financial recruitment service. The company has more than 360 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at www.roberthalf.com.