Employment Trends in the Accounting Field.
An Expanding Job Description
Increasingly, businesses are turning to accountants for skills that go beyond their traditional areas of expertise-including the ability to offer sound business advice and communicate complex financial information in nontechnical terms. Accounting and finance professionals who in the past may have concentrated on cost containment and reporting are now being consulted on strategy development and revenue-enhancement initiatives. Accounting managers are also becoming long-range planners, getting more deeply involved with line operations and decision-making.
These changes are fueling demand for professionals with broad-based business knowledge and solid verbal and written competencies. Interpersonal skills are becoming particularly important as companies increase their use of cross-functional work teams, which typically involve employees from multiple departments working collaboratively on special projects.
Skills and Experience in Demand
Professional certifications indicate a commitment to excelling in the accounting profession; therefore, those who have earned designations will continue to find opportunities in all areas of accounting and business management.
Accountants with skills and experience in the following areas will be particularly marketable in 2000:
* Technical abilities--Technology's growing role in the accounting field is creating a need for professionals who are proficient in accounting software and systems and also have the ability to provide advice on implementing new systems.
* Strategic analysis--Public and private firms are seeking accounting professionals with the ability to see the "big picture" and provide strategic advice. Accountants who have kept up-to-date on the latest industry and business trends and understand a company's role within its industry sector will have a professional advantage.
* International experience-Accounting professionals who understand international transactions and accounting standards and are fluent in more than one language will find many opportunities in the increasingly globalized business world.
Competition for Job Candidates
In an effort to recruit skilled talent, companies are expanding their recruiting efforts. As a result, incentives such as referral and signing bonuses are becoming more common. Many firms are speeding up their hiring processes to avoid losing qualified candidates to other job offers.
Accountants today are evaluating more carefully the way they spend their time and looking for employers who provide a comfortable fit with their larger goal of overall personal fulfillment. As a result, both public accounting firms and private companies are paying more attention to their corporate culture, instituting practices such as skills training and family-friendly programs to attract and retain employees.
Salaries on the Rise
Starting salaries for accounting and finance professionals are expected to remain strong in 2000 with an average increase of 4.7 percent anticipated, according to our 2000 Robert Half and Accountemps Salary Guide.
Managers and directors at large public accounting firms (defined in the Salary Guide as those with more than $250 million in sales) will see a considerable jump in base compensation-up 8.4 percent from 1999. Accountants with one-to-three years of experience also at large public accounting firms can expect a 7.6 percent increase in starting salaries, and new accountants should see a 4.8 percent increase. Meanwhile, accountants with one-to-three years of experience at medium-sized public accounting firms (those with sales of $25 million to $250 million) should see average starting salaries increase by 5.8 percent in 2000.
In corporate accounting, demand for management-level accountants will lead to increases in average starting salaries for accounting managers at firms of all sizes. The most significant rise will be seen at medium-sized companies, where accounting managers should experience a 6.9 percent increase in average starting salaries.
The employment market for accounting professionals is being shaped by a number of factors, most notably recognition of the full range of skills these individuals bring to the workplace and the heightened competition for qualified candidates. Accountants who possess a combination of advanced technical proficiency and solid business and communication skills will find an abundance of professional opportunities in 2000.
Max Messmer is chairman and CEO of Robert Half International Inc. (RHI), parent company of Robert Half (R), Accountemps (R) and RHI Management Resources (R). RHI is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm placing accounting and finance professionals on a full-time, temporary and project basis.