U.S. accounting salaries continue to escalate

By Ken Tysiac

Salary increases for U.S. accounting and finance positions will continue to escalate in 2017 as employers wrestle with a shortage of qualified professionals, according to a new salary guide.

Accounting and finance salaries will rise 2.8% next year, according to the 2017 Salary Guide published by Accounting Principals, a recruiting firm. That’s an increase over the previously forecasted rises of 2.4% for 2016 and 1.2% for 2015.

Counteroffers for job candidates are becoming more common and driving salaries higher, said Kathy Gans, a senior vice president for Accounting Principals. Millennial job seekers in general are seeking flexible schedules and a relaxed workplace culture, and employers that don’t offer those perks may have to pay extra to fill positions, she said.

But many employers of accountants have taken steps to make their jobs more appealing, embracing flexible schedules and casual dress in the hopes of attracting the best talent. Gans said the profession hasn’t completely transformed but has made progress toward changes that should attract a new generation of talented people.

“It is an awesome [profession] to get into, and more people should because the salaries are projected to continue to increase,” Gans said in a phone interview. “More and more people are creating a better culture for accountants than ever before.”

The acceleration of U.S. salary increases mirrors trends seen worldwide. Management accountants from across the globe surveyed by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants expect an average salary increase in the coming year of 6%, up from 5% in 2015, according to recently released data.

In the United States, the accounting and financial professionals who are most in demand include senior accountants, staff accountants, and financial analysts, Gans said. Professionals with certifications and credentials—especially the CPA—are highly coveted, she said.

In addition, a background in technology is beneficial for accounting and finance job candidates, and accountants with strong communication skills are in high demand.

“I can’t stress that enough,” she said. “Even if somebody likes a relaxed work environment and working for authentic leadership, which I’m seeing more and more, there’s still the demand for professional communication and professional representation of yourself in the workplace.”

Accounting and finance graduates can make themselves more attractive by getting up to speed on recent developments in the profession and can help themselves by building their network, according to Gans.

Meanwhile, employers who want to attract the best people need to embrace authentic leadership in addition to offering flexibility and competitive salaries, Gans said. Transparency about job performance and salaries is the key to providing leadership that will be viewed as authentic by employees.

“They want fairness, and if they sense that somebody is being paid more than them and they’re not getting the whole truth about it, you lose credibility with them,” Gans said. “I think transparency in all aspects of the business is exceptionally important to job seekers today.”

The 2017 Salary Guide will be available on Sept. 6 at the Accounting Principals website; free copies can be reserved beginning Aug. 22. The guide is based on national averages compiled through Accounting Principals’ partnership with the career community CareerBliss. Some figures were revised to ensure local accuracy following a review of local market data by each office in Accounting Principals’ nationwide branch network.

Ken Tysiac (ktysiac@aicpa.org) is a JofA editorial director.

Salary rises accelerate

Projected increases in salaries for U.S. accounting and finance professionals have risen from 1.2% for 2015 to 2.8% for 2017, according to the Accounting Principals salary guides.

Salary rises accelerate

Source: Accounting Principals salary guides.

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