Finance Salaries Seen Surging in 2006

Starting salaries for people involved with corporate-governance initiatives — like internal and information technology auditors and public accountants — should grow especially strongly, a new study predicts.

Accounting and finance professionals are currently sitting in a sweet spot when it comes to employment. While many fields are downsizing and many employees are happy to eke out 2 percent to 3 percent raises, heavy competition among prospective employers is sending salaries for a wide variety of finance-related jobs soaring.

To be sure, starting salaries in accounting and finance, in general, are expected to rise an average of 3.1 percent in 2006, according to a recent survey by Robert Half International Inc. But researchers at the recruiting firm expect starting salaries for people involved with corporate-governance initiatives — such as internal and information-technology (IT) auditors and public accountants — to grow a good deal more strongly.

For example, IT auditors can expect average annual starting salaries to rise 11.2 percent next year, to between $67,000 and $94,250. Entry-level internal auditors at small companies (up to $25 million in sales) will see average starting salaries increase 9 percent, to between $35,500 and $43,250, according to the survey.

“Organizations are actively recruiting accounting and finance staff to support business-expansion initiatives and corporate-governance efforts,” says Max Messmer, chairman and chief executive officer of Robert Half International. “To attract and retain skilled financial professionals, firms are reassessing their hiring practices and enhancing compensation packages for current staff.”

Meanwhile, public accounting firms are raising salaries across the board as they compete with companies in private industry for top accounting staff, the survey found. The predictions are based on “an analysis of the thousands of job placements managed by the company’s U.S. offices,” according to a Robert Half press release announcing the results of the salary survey.

Average starting salaries for entry-level accounting professionals at small firms should climb 6.5 percent, to between $35,500 and $42,500, the Half study predicted. Senior managers and directors at large firms (more than $250 million in sales) can expect a 4.2 percent increase in average starting salaries, to between $85,500 and $130,000.

Senior accountants at midsize firms ($25 million to $250 million in sales) will see base compensation rise to $50,000 to $70,000 — an increase of 8.8 percent from 2005.

Other key findings include:

• Tax managers at midsize companies will see average starting salaries of $57,750 to $74,000 — up 4.6 percent over 2005 levels.

• Bookkeepers can anticipate a 6.8 percent rise in base compensation in 2006.

• Entry-level accountants at midsize companies will see starting salaries rise 4.1 percent, to between $32,000 and $38,250.

• Mutual-fund accountants will probably see a 4.7 percent gain in base compensation, to between $38,000 and $51,250.

• Accounts-receivable/accounts-payable managers at small companies will see starting salaries climb 5.2 percent, to somewhere between $33,750 and $41,500.

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