Career growth opportunities ranked as the number one inducement for staying at or joining an accounting firm, according to a new survey by the American Institute of CPAs.

The AICPA’s 2011 Top Talent Survey found that 91 percent of the CPAs polled chose career growth opportunities as a top reason why they were attracted to a firm, 11 points higher than in a similar survey in 2006. That was followed by 88 percent of respondents who listed salary as a major inducement, and 86 percent who picked paid vacation time.

“As the economy begins to stabilize, firms are once again focusing on finding and keeping the highest-quality CPAs,” said AICPA vice-president of small firm interests James C. Metzler, CPA, in a statement. “The Institute’s 2011 Top Talent Study provides valuable information on what motivates the most promising young professionals to join and stay with a CPA firm.”

Open-door/accessible management was cited by 83 percent of the respondents as a reason for joining or staying at a firm, while 81 percent opted for a comfortable office atmosphere.

Firm leaders also responded to the survey, and their priorities contrasted with those of the top talent at the firm. In order of importance, responses from firm leadership were salary (88 percent), career growth opportunities (83 percent) and paid personal time-off (84 percent). The firms’ leadership gave less value to open door/accessible management and retirement savings plans, in contrast to the top talent. They were ranked at 74 and 61 percent, in comparison to the top talent’s rankings at 83 and 72 percent.

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