Finance and accounting staff will receive an average salary boost of 3.4 percent next year despite the economic downturn, predicts recruiting company Robert Half International.

Researchers for the 2009 Robert Half Salary Guide said that companies are showing the most interest in professionals who can help their companies reduce inefficiencies and enhance profitability. Those who are familiar with International Financial Reporting Standards also are marketable. The positions most in demand include staff and senior accountants, public accountants, and credit and collections specialists.

Demand is strong for CPAs with at least three years of experience. Starting salaries for staff accountants at large companies (more than $250 million in sales) who have one to three years of experience, for example, are projected to range from $44,500 to $57,250.

Public accounting firms continue to look for highly skilled professionals to help clients address fundamental accounting, tax and audit issues. Firms seek experienced accountants who can help offset an anticipated acceleration in Baby Boomer retirements in coming years. Starting salaries for senior accountants in tax services at small public accounting firms (less than $25 million in sales) are forecast to range from $54,000 to $69,250.

The current credit crunch has also made companies even more cognizant of the critical role of the credit and collections functions in managing credit risk and collecting from delinquent accounts. Organizations are hiring professionals who can help reduce inefficiencies and enhance profitability. Credit and collections clerks at midsized companies ($25 million to $250 million in sales) are expected to see starting salaries of $29,250 to $37,500.

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