Accountants Can Expect Bigger Salary Boosts Next Year

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Salaries for accountants and finance professionals are expected to go up 2.8 percent in 2017, an increase from the 2.4 percent anticipated for this year, according to a soon-to-be-released salary guide from the staffing company Accounting Principals.

“We’re expecting an escalation of increases year over year in 2017,” said Accounting Principals Vice President Jeramy Kaiman.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, accounting and finance have seen job gains more than most other fields. Accounting Principals analyzed BLS data and found the fastest-growing accounting and finance jobs through 2024 are expected to be financial planners (30 percent), financial analysts (12 percent) and accountants and auditors (11 percent). The average base salaries for these jobs range from $47,059 for an accountant to $52,535 for a financial analyst to $77,571 for a financial planning specialist, according to the company’s 2017 Salary Guide. Demand for accounting and finance talent is part of the improving job market overall.

“I think the most pertinent reason is demand,” said Kaiman. “We’re in the largest period of private sector job growth in U.S. history. That record was set about two years ago, and we’re well past that point. The BLS data shows June and July were the two strongest consecutive job growth months in the last 12, so we’re seeing that the economy is continuing to be strong. The unemployment rate within accounting and finance is incredibly low. When we see that the supply of accounting and finance talent is as low as it is, we see the demand continuing to rise.”

He anticipates an increasing trend of accountants branching out into financial planning services.

“A lot of the folks who are accounting professionals are going into financial planning, or at least folks that have accounting degrees,” said Kaiman. “Those are probably the areas that are driving the biggest amounts of demand for folks in accounting and finance, with the supply issues that we have ultimately creating the year over year salary increases.”

The guide, which is due to be released September 6, includes national, regional and local salary data, along with updated job descriptions for the most sought-after accounting and finance positions.

The figures are based on national averages compiled through Accounting Principals’ partnership with the online career site CareerBliss. To further validate the data, each office in Accounting Principals’ nationwide branch network reviewed their local market data to ensure local accuracy.

Accounting Principals has more than 75 offices across the U.S., and the trends are similar in many parts of the country. “We’re seeing an increase in demand for accounting and finance talent throughout the U.S., and we’re seeing a real challenge as it relates to supply,” said Kaiman. “It’s pretty consistent across all markets. Are there markets where we’re seeing this happen more aggressively? Yeah, there’s no question about that.”

Among the areas with the highest salary growth are New York, Chicago and San Francisco. “One where salary escalation has happened probably the most rapidly is New York, where financial services are driving some of the highest priced accounting and finance talent in brokerage, commodities and financial services,” said Kaiman. “A lot of those jobs are in either New York or Chicago, and in San Francisco because of continued demand for technology firms. That’s an area where salaries have escalated at a more rapid rate.”

Public accounting is one of the most in-demand areas, along with the financial services industry. “I think it’s fair to say for folks that are in public accounting or are interested in going into public accounting, that is doing very well,” said Kaiman. “The AICPA had an article out recently saying that 91 percent of public accounting firms are going to be hiring either the same amount or more of new graduates in the coming year. What that’s saying is they’re going to increase demand, and when that happens they typically have to increase salaries in order to meet that demand. There’s no question that public accounting is one of the sectors that’s going to drive that. For banking, roles within brokerage, securities and commodities, we’re definitely seeing that those folks are typically the most highly compensated accountants, and they’re definitely continuing to drive demand.”

In terms of professional designations, Certified Public Accountants and Certified Management Accountants are among the highest-earning credentials. For certain types of jobs Chartered Financial Analysts are also commanding big salary boosts. Master of Business Administration degrees are still paying off for many financial roles.

“There’s no question that if you look consistently at the markets, not only from our own data but from all of the major publications out there, that folks that are either a CMA or CPA are going to earn much more than the folks who are not certified,” said Kaiman. “Typically those numbers are probably upwards of 45 or 46 percent, or at least 30 percent, over the course of their careers. We see that pretty consistently in the data that we have internally. If we’re talking about accounting roles, the CPA or the CMA are probably the designations that we encourage folks to get because they do have the biggest impact on their salaries and their career mobility. If we’re talking about more of the finance roles, I think there’s no question that the MBA is probably driving salaries the most for financial analyst roles, unless it’s in financial services. In those areas, the CFA is definitely having an impact on the price of talent, but we don’t see a CFA designation wanted that much outside of the financial services sector, for financial analytical talent.”

The CFA is helpful for financial analysts, investment analysts and M&A analysts, specifically within the financial services sector, he added.

Overall accountants and finance workers should expect bigger salary increases in 2017.

“From what we see there’s no question there’s a salary escalation, and we see that in the local branches,” said Kaiman. “I think that people will experience that if they’re at their current job or looking for a new job, just because the demand is so high.”

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