MENLO PARK, CA -- Starting salaries in accounting and finance are projected to increase by an average of 6.9 percent in 2001, according to the just-released 2001 Robert Half and Accountemps Salary Guide. This compares to a 4.7 percent gain forecast for 2000.

Robert Half and Accountemps are the full-time and temporary placement divisions, respectively, of Robert Half International Inc., the world's first and largest staffing firm specializing in accounting, finance and information technology. The annual salary survey is based on an analysis of the thousands of job orders managed by the company's U.S. offices.

"Robust salary growth is resulting from strong competition for qualified accounting and finance candidates," said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International. "Companies are reassessing their compensation packages to attract the best talent. In addition to increasing starting salaries, businesses are providing incentives such as performance-based bonuses, stock options and profit sharing."

The growing reliance on accounting staff for strategic advice is prompting firms to seek applicants who've taken the initiative to build their general business knowledge through continuing education. According to the Salary Guide, a graduate degree or professional certification can increase a candidate's base compensation by an average of 10 percent.

Public vs. Corporate Accounting
Senior accountants will see the most significant starting salary increases in public accounting. Base compensation for these professionals is projected to rise by an average of 9.5 percent at large (more than $250 million in sales) and mid-sized ($25 million to $250 million in sales) public accounting firms, and 9.2 percent at small firms (those with up to $25 million in sales). Accounting managers at large public accounting firms will also see a jump in average starting salaries, with an 8.9 percent increase forecast.

In corporate accounting, the most notable increases in base compensation will occur among large companies, according to the guide. Starting salaries for senior accountants at firms with more than $250 million in sales are expected to increase 11.5 percent in 2001. Accountants with one to three years of experience will see an 11.0 percent rise in base compensation at large companies, while managers will experience a 10.9 percent increase.

Fastest-Growing Starting Salaries
Financial analysts are expected to see the greatest increases in average starting salaries of any job category. Senior financial, budget and cost analysts at small companies may see a 14 percent gain in base compensation to the range of $37,750 to $55,750 annually, according to the guide. For managers, base compensation is forecast to increase 13.5 percent at mid-sized firms, to between $56,500 and $69,250 per year.

"Companies are actively hiring analysts to assess financial data from throughout their organizations and provide advice on improving operational efficiencies," Messmer said. "Strong competition for skilled analysts at all levels is driving up salaries for these professionals."

Payroll clerks at mid-sized firms are expected to see the largest percentage increase in starting salaries of any subcategory, with base compensation projected to rise by 14.8 percent to between $28,000 and $34,000 per year. Payroll managers at large firms will see the second highest increase with a 14.4 percent gain to the range of $42,250 to $58,750 annually.

Other key findings in the 2001 Robert Half and Accountemps Salary Guide:

  • Chief financial officers and treasurers will see starting salaries increase 11.7 percent at companies with up to $50 million in sales, bringing them to the range of $81,000 to $107,250 per year.
  • Base compensation will increase 9.4 percent for credit managers at companies with more than $250 million in sales, to the range of $52,000 to $75,500.
  • Accounting managers at companies with $25 million to $250 million in sales will see an 8.9 percent increase in starting salaries. Base compensation will range from $50,000 to $63,250 annually.
  • Assistant controllers will see starting salaries increase 8.4 percent at companies with more than $250 million in sales, bringing base compensation to the range of $72,250 to $91,500.
  • Public accountants with up to one year of experience will see an 8.4 percent increase in average starting salaries in 2001. Base compensation will range from $31,000 to $36,500 annually.

Demand for accounting and finance professionals is expected to be particularly strong in such industries as high technology; finance, insurance and real estate; and construction. However, hiring activity varies significantly by geographic region. (A regional analysis of hiring trends and compensation variances is included in the Salary Guide.)

Information in the Salary Guide is derived from the thousands of job searches, negotiations and placements conducted each year by Robert Half recruiting managers. Continuing or ongoing salaries are not reported because too many external factors -- such as seniority, work ethic, job performance and training -- impact the salaries of full-time employees as work histories develop.

Companies nationwide have consulted the Robert Half and Accountemps Salary Guide for decades to determine salaries for all levels of employees. In addition, the U.S. Department of Labor uses the guide in the preparation of its comprehensive Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Robert Half International has more than 290 offices in North America, Europe, and Australia, and offers online job search services at

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