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How To Break In  > Article

New Salary Guide Identifies Bright Spots Amid Tough Economy

Robert Half International

Even in an increasingly uncertain economy, accounting and finance are core business functions vital to a company's ability to navigate difficult periods. As a result, demand remains steady for top accounting and finance expertise in key areas, according to the 2009 Salary Guide from Robert Half International.

Modest Salary Increases

Salary increases for accounting and finance professionals are generally forecast to be modest, according to the Salary Guide, with a projected average rise in annual base compensation of 3.4 percent. Candidates with the most sought-after skills are expected to see slightly higher increases, often in the 4 percent range.

For example, salaries for tax accountants are climbing, thanks to the need for expertise on new tax regulations and the increased attention paid by businesses to potential tax-derived cost savings. Managerial-level tax accountants at large companies (with annual sales of $250 million and above) can expect average starting salary increases of 4.9 percent to a range of $76,500 to $100,750, while senior-level accountants can expect a 4.7 percent average increase, with base compensation ranging from $61,000 to $77,500.

(For each job category included in the 2009 Salary Guide, the pay ranges listed represent starting compensation only because performance, seniority and other factors make ongoing pay difficult to measure. Also, bonuses, incentives and other forms of compensation, such as benefits and retirement packages, are not taken into account.)

Sought-After Skills

Multilingual professionals with experience working in other countries and with other cultures are in demand. Those who are familiar with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) are increasingly marketable as well.

Employers also continue to place a high value on candidates who have earned the certified public accountant (CPA) designation, which remains the most frequently requested professional accreditation for accounting and finance positions. Other highly marketable credentials include the certified internal auditor (CIA), chartered financial analyst (CFA) and certified information systems auditor (CISA) designations. Job seekers who have earned a master?s degree in business administration (MBA) have an edge in obtaining senior corporate finance positions.

Technology expertise remains important as well. Advanced knowledge of Microsoft Excel and Access and familiarity with enterprise resource planning and enterprise risk management applications are common requirements. In addition, companies seek candidates who are proficient with the general ledger, accounts payable and accounts receivable, and payroll modules of popular software packages. Experience with financial planning and reporting applications such as Hyperion and Crystal Reports is desirable.

Positions in Demand

In addition to tax accountants, which are sought after in private industry and public accounting, hiring is steady in the following areas:

Staff and senior accountants - Demand remains for CPAs with at least three years of experience. Starting salaries for staff accountants with one to three years of experience who work at large companies are projected to range from $44,500 to $57,250.

Public accountants  - Public accounting firms continue to look for highly skilled professionals to help clients address fundamental accounting, tax and audit issues. At the entry level, firms are seeking to hire students with a combination of internship experience, a good grade point average and excellent interpersonal skills. Mid- to senior-level professionals can expect growth in base pay in the year ahead. For example, starting salaries for senior accountants in tax services at small public accounting firms (less than $25 million in sales) are forecast to range from $54,000 to $69,250, up 4 percent from the 2008 projection.

Credit and collections specialists - The current credit crunch has made companies even more cognizant of the critical role of the credit and collections functions in managing credit risk and collecting from delinquent accounts. Credit and collections clerks at midsize firms ($25 million to $250 million in sales) are expected to see starting salaries in the range of $29,250 to $37,500.

For a complimentary copy of the 2009 Salary Guide from Robert Half International, visit or call 1-800-474-4253.

Founded in 1948, Robert Half Finance & Accounting, a division of Robert Half International Inc., the world's largest specialized financial recruiting service and a leading authority on workplace and management trends. The company has more than 350 offices throughout North America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region. Learn more at

Copyright 2008 Robert Half International. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without prior written authority.

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