College graduates are entering the workforce this month and are finding opportunities in some sectors, particularly finance and accounting.
Even though the economy is still somewhat shaky, employers need employees in essential jobs such as payroll clerks, accounts receivable, accounts payable, staff accountants and collection clerks.
“That sort of entry-level position will allow you to get the experience you need to get into a supervisory role,” said Jodi Chavez, senior vice president at the staffing company Accounting Principals. “Those clerk-level positions are readily available in several of the growing markets, which include manufacturing, distribution, health care, biotech, professional services, entertainment and technology. If you are in a market that has those types of industries or other growing industries, there is definitely a need and clerk positions are in high demand.”
However, she warned that this time of the year, the market tends to be a little oversaturated with college grads looking for those same types of positions, but there are some ways they can set themselves apart.
“One of the things that we would certainly recommend is that while those jobs and skill sets are in high demand, the person that’s going to get the job is the candidate that can separate themselves from the pack,” she said. “In the world of social media, that’s going to include listing any clubs or any special projects that you’ve done during your time in college so that you have a vast array of skill sets to offer an employer.”
For the most part, the reputable colleges are offering enough training to get college grads started in their accounting and finance careers, but they will still need to learn many skills on the job. Some groups such as the Institute of Management Accountants have warned about a mismatch in the skills that accounting students learn in college and what they will need in industry jobs (see IMA Worried about ‘Entry Level’ Economy).
“I would say that there’s somewhat of a missing link between the skill set that the college graduates have and the skill sets that the employers are looking for,” said Chavez. “However, that’s easily overcome because some of that is taught because of the specific industry or specific culture. Can that gap be narrowed? Certainly. However, it’s not a big enough gap that it’s causing employers to shy away from hiring recent college grads. They are still very interested in new college grads. The accounting world changes pretty rapidly so I think the colleges and universities seem to do a fairly good job of preparing the college graduates in the field of finance and accounting for the entry-level positions. It will require two to three years of entry-level experience in the workforce before they are more desirable to additional employers.”
For people who are in the accounting workforce already who are looking to move to better-paying jobs, there’s plenty of opportunity.
“Nationwide we have seen the strongest demand for accounting and finance workers both on the temporary and permanent side than we have seen in the past two years,” said Chavez. “The job outlook for finance and accounting professionals is looking very bright at all levels, for accounting clerks all the way up to CFOs. The skill sets are in demand across the board.”