Sizing Up Salaries: Accounting and Finance Are a ‘Candidate’s Market’

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Despite a weakening national economy, the accounting profession added almost 30,000 new jobs in the fourth quarter of 2007, according to the accounting and finance staffing company Ajilon Finance ( The company forecasts strong continued demand for qualified financial professionals in 2008. The South and West regions retain the most encouraging job outlooks this year.

Mike McNamara, a regional permanent placement director for Ajilon Finance, shared additional analysis about Ajilon Finance’s 2008 Salary Guide. Noting that the Northeast is conspicuously unrepresented in a list of cities with the best job prospects over the next two years, McNamara said that the Northeast is still expected to experience some job growth. (The top five cities cited by CNNMoney
.com were Orlando, Las Vegas, Raleigh, Charlotte, and Phoenix.) He also noted that salaries are obviously higher in New York City and the Northeast in general than the rest of the country. He added that this is a challenge when trying to relocate accounting and finance professionals to other regions because they often don’t consider an area’s lower cost of living as a significant factor to weigh against a lower salary. He also noted that getting people from the West or Midwest to accept positions in the East is difficult.

The population growth in the South and Southwest has also had an effect on accounting and finance job markets. McNamara said that lifestyle is extremely important to younger professionals, characterizing a “Generation Y mentality” as one where work/life balance is highly valued. He said that many Gen Yers don’t want to pay the price of long hours and make other sacrifices at large firms that have fewer partner slots to which a younger professional can aspire. McNamara said some of his recruiters find it more challenging to work with CPA firms because placing people into those openings can be more difficult. He noted, however, that an increasing number of firms are providing more work/life balance opportunities.

Compensation packages for accounting and finance professionals increasingly include bonuses that in many cases are 5% to 25% of the base salary. McNamara said that performance bonuses—often based on a combination of the individual’s and the company’s performance—started to become common about three years ago, when bringing “A-plus” candidates to companies became more difficult.

In terms of the skills accounting and finance professionals need to have, enterprise resource planning (ERP) experience is increasingly important. McNamara noted PeopleSoft, Oracle, and SAP, as examples of ERP applications where experience makes a candidate more desirable. He said that some larger companies doing an ERP conversion will specifically look for people with both an accounting and information technology (IT) background—perhaps even an IT-related degree. Such people are rare, however, and McNamara said they usually command a premium in the job market. On the finance side, it’s common for an MBA to be required as well as strong expertise in Microsoft Excel, which many companies use instead of the budgeting capabilities in ERP applications.








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