Despite a challenging job market, the unemployment rate for senior accountants and auditors is a relatively low 4.1 percent, according to Robert Half Finance & Accounting.

That's considerably lower than the current unemployment rate of 7.8 percent, pointed out Paul McDonald, a senior executive director of Robert Half International, during an interview in late October.

One of the hottest areas, he noted, is business systems analysts who are able to bring together financial information from reports into a kind of dashboard to provide information at a glance into revenue, operating profit, inventory levels and other areas.

McDonald said that Robert Half expects accounting salaries to grow 3.3 percent in 2013, while technology salaries will grow approximately 5.3 percent. Robert Half's 2013 Salary Guide, released in September, provides a more specific breakdown by skill, size of company, and geographic area. "One of the hottest backgrounds out there right now is a CPA with three to six years' experience in public accounting," said McDonald.

The market varies geographically. In New York, for example, a CPA with three to six years of experience working with clients in financial services would be extremely marketable. "If you poked your head out and said, 'I'm on the market,' and you really diligently used recruiters and LinkedIn, you would probably find yourself with multiple offers in two to four weeks," said McDonald.

Accountants who understand the systems area, whether it's enterprise resource planning systems or report writing, are also in high demand. Being familiar with the latest versions of the software is important.



McDonald said he is seeing broad demand for accountants across the country. "If you're an employer looking for people, the advice is: If you see somebody good, don't hesitate, because they may not be around when you come back to them," he said.

Accounting students are also seeing demand pick up for their services after they graduate. "The competition for the new grad is hot and heavy," said McDonald, warning, "Not all the new grads are interested in becoming public accountants."

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