Upon graduation from my alma mater more years ago than I care to remember, I was rewarded with a job whose salary approached $12,000 for roughly 57 hours per week -- including, of course Saturdays and Sundays.

Although young and single at the time, the weekend duty really didn't hamper what was already a non-existent social life -- the $360 bi-weekly check took care of that.

I was fortunate to have enough left over after rent and living expenses to treat myself to dinner once a week at the neighborhood Sizzler -- and I wasn't aware of a whole slew of women that clamored to go Dutch.

In fact, I once saved up enough to graduate from Sizzler to take a long-awaited date to El Torito, where she promptly regaled me throughout the meal with tales of her former beau who happened to be a successful stockbroker and drove a gleaming European sports car.

By the time I finished my second margarita and gazed forlornly out into the parking lot at my dented 1973 Ford LTD, I was fairly sure this would not be a continuing relationship.

Which is why I was both glad and, in truth, envious, to see the results of a recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which listed accounting as one of the most in-demand positions by employers, with an average starting salary of $44,564.

In major markets such as New York and Chicago, you can safely assume that figure would be significantly higher than that.

Now, there are myriad reasons why accountants are in demand, not the least of which stems from the passage of Sarbanes-Oxley, which served as sort of an open casting call for auditors.

Big Four firm Ernst & Young alone is looking to boost its hiring totals by roughly 30 percent, which translates into about 4,500 vacancies. And as incentives, the firm indicated it has boosted its benefit package, including a concierge service for employees "too busy to run errands."

When I graduated from college, I couldn't spell "concierge," let alone be granted access to one's services. If, for example, I had dry cleaning to be picked up or dropped off, it was done at 7 a.m. Supermarket shopping was catch as catch can.

But as one who covers the profession, it's refreshing to see the services of auditors in such demand, and thereby exponentially increasing their employment options and leverage with regard to compensation.

Now I realize that the above mentioned starting salary for accounting graduates has been indexed for inflation over the years, but with that kind of comparable salary back then, I could at least have had a few dents pulled out of my car and upgraded my once-a-week dinner to Stuart Anderson's Black Angus.

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