Continued Rise Projected for Accountants' Starting Salaries in 2017

Published on September 20, 2016

Starting salaries for U.S. accounting and finance positions will continue to rise in 2017, reflecting high demand for skilled professionals, according to a new salary guide.

Increases in starting salaries will range from 3.0% to 4.3% in 2017, depending on the position, according to the Robert Half 2017 Salary Guide.

The prediction trails the unusually high forecast for 2016, when the guide said starting salaries in accounting and finance would rise 4.0% to 5.3%, depending on the position. But the magnitude of the projected increase for 2017 doesn’t indicate a decrease in competitiveness in the job market, said Tim Hird, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources.

The forecast for 2017 is more in line with those provided in salary guides for 2013 through 2015. Those ranges were:
• 2.9% to 4.4% for 2015.
• 2.9% to 4.5% for 2014.
• 2.7% to 4.5% for 2013.

Robert Half’s description of a competitive job market mirrors that of another staffing services firm. The 2017 Salary Guide published by Accounting Principals, which focuses on salaries in general rather than starting salaries, predicts continued escalation in pay. The Accounting Principals guide forecasts a 2.8% increase in pay for 2017, up from previous predictions of a 2.4% rise for 2016 and a 1.2% rise for 2015.

Meanwhile, management accountants from across the world expect their salaries to increase by an average of 6% in the coming year, up from 5% in 2015, according to a Chartered Institute of Management Accountants survey.

Generally, the guides and data agree that salaries will increase because of a shortage of job candidates. Competition for highly skilled candidates can be fierce, according to the Robert Half guide.

Job functions with the largest projected increase in starting salaries include:
• Controller.
• Financial analyst.
• Business systems analyst.
• Audit/assurance services positions.

Which skills employers most want in accountants
Certain skill sets are particularly in demand for accountants, Hird said. He said accounting job candidates will generate the most interest if they possess a combination of technical accounting skills, IT proficiency (such as Excel, data analytics, and enterprise resource planning), and soft skills that help them communicate effectively with colleagues and clients.

The technical proficiencies Hird described as in highest demand include financial controllership, financial analysis, business analysis, and senior accountant skills. The business analysis skills are particularly being driven by business process-improvement projects related to technology, Hird said.

Accounting employers, meanwhile, are most successful recruiting if they embrace a number of strategies, Hird said. The willingness to negotiate is one key, and a streamlined hiring process is another. Hird said companies and firms that subject candidates to a lengthy hiring regimen are losing potential employees who have multiple job offers.

Efficient onboarding programs for new hires and concrete plans for individual employee development also are helping employers with retention of the people they do hire, Hird said.
(Source: AICPA – CPA Letter Daily - Journal of Accountancy – August 31, 2016)