2013 Salary Guide highlights sought-after roles and skills

Take a look at the salaries, skills, and finance and accounting roles in demand for 2013.

December 3, 2012
by Robert Half International

Accounting and finance remain relative bright spots in a still-recovering job market, and hiring activity and salaries are both on the rise, according to the just-released 2013 Salary Guide from Robert Half. The guide forecasts an average increase in starting salaries for accounting and finance professionals of 3.3% from 2012 levels, although professionals with the most sought-after skills are likely to see higher increases.

The guide focuses on starting salaries because factors such as service time and work ethic make ongoing pay difficult to measure. In addition, the newly released research found that incentives such as signing bonuses are reappearing in some markets and counteroffers are becoming increasingly common, though these factors do not figure into salary projections.

Businesses are adding professionals in core accounting roles that support growth. Financial analysts and business systems analysts are in especially strong demand, as are experienced accountants who can help companies manage expansion opportunities. Controllers at all levels also are sought as companies rebuild their finance-function infrastructures. As manufacturing rebounds, demand is also growing for skilled cost accountants who can merge accounting and analysis skills.

Public accounting upturn

Public accounting firms are hiring again in response to increased demand from businesses for accounting, audit, and tax services. Firms of all sizes are looking to expand practice areas and pursue new market segments. Demand is especially strong for audit and tax professionals. Specialty areas seeing more hiring activity include IT audit, business valuation, and forensic accounting. Firms generally seek candidates with at least three to five years of experience, but recruiting of entry-level professionals is not uncommon.

Although accounting firms have a growing demand for staff, they’re competing for talent with businesses that have a renewed interest in adding people with some of the same sought-after skills. Accounting firms are improving compensation as a result, but may need to further enhance their efforts, both to attract new talent and retain experienced accountants who may be tempted to consider more lucrative or lifestyle-friendly opportunities in private industry.

The financial services sector also is showing gradual hiring gains, with investment management firms and retail and commercial banks all adding staff. Within investment banking, compliance professionals are in growing demand.

CPA remains sought after

In both public accounting and private industry, the certified public accountant (CPA) designation continues to be the most frequently requested and versatile credential. CPAs who have experience with a Big Four accounting firm are especially marketable.

A master’s degree in business administration (MBA) remains valuable for senior finance and analyst roles. For entry-level accounting positions, an accounting degree and previous work experience, including internships, are more important than ever. Prospective employers also are taking a closer look at grade-point averages and campus involvement when evaluating early career professionals.

A salary sampler

The following are starting salary ranges for specific roles as identified in the 2013 Salary Guide:

  • A chief financial officer at a company with $100 million to $250 million in sales can expect a 3.7% salary increase to a range of $137,250 to $198,000.
  • A director of accounting at a firm with $50 million to $100 million in sales will receive an estimated 3.6% jump to a range of $92,250 to $124,750.
  • A divisional controller at a company with $100 million to $250 million in sales can expect a 4% jump in starting salary to a range of $107,000 to $138,250.
  • In public accounting, a senior-level professional in the tax services area at a midsize firm ($25 million to $250 million in sales) can expect a starting pay range of $67,000 to $88,750, an increase of 3.5%. Similarly, a senior in the audit/assurance practice area at a midsize firm can expect a range of $66,500 to $87,500, also a 3.5% jump.
  • A senior manager/director in audit/assurance services at a large firm (more than $250 million in sales) is expected to see a starting salary range of $110,750 to $178,750, a 3.5% rise.
  • A chief risk officer at a financial services firm can expect starting pay ranging from $142,500 to $218,000, a rise of 2.5%.

For more detailed information on salary and hiring trends for more than 350 accounting and finance positions, consult the 2013 Salary Guide. Although the ranges listed are national averages, estimates can be calculated for more than 135 U.S. cities using local variance formulas supplied within the publication.

This article is provided courtesy of Robert Half International, parent company of Accountemps, Robert Half Finance & Accounting and Robert Half Management Resources. Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm placing accounting and finance professionals on a temporary, full-time, and project basis. Follow Robert Half on Twitter at twitter.com/roberthalf.