There's good news for accounting and finance professionals - starting salaries are expected to increase an average of 2.4 percent next year. But the news is far better for internal auditors and professionals focused on Sarbanes-Oxley and other corporate governance-related initiatives - they're poised to see huge boosts in base compensation, according to staffing giant Robert Half International Inc.

According to RHI chairman and chief executive Max Messmer, compliance-related issues are fueling demand for workers with expertise in internal auditing and corporate governance regulations.

In corporate accounting, there's heightened demand for internal audit professionals, particularly within public companies. Internal audit managers at large companies (more than $250 million in annual sales) are expected to see a 12.5 percent increase in average starting salaries in 2005, to the range of $69,500 to $90,000 per year, according to the RHI 2005 Salary Guide. Internal auditors with one to three years of experience at midsized companies ($25 million to $250 million in annual sales) can expect the largest percentage increase in base compensation of any accounting and finance position, with average starting salaries projected to rise 16.8 percent, to $42,250 to $50,000 annually.

As accounting firms strive to meet client demands related to Sarbanes-Oxley Act compliance initiatives, public accounting professionals also will see significant increases in average starting salaries in 2005. Managers at large firms can expect average starting salaries to rise 10.2 percent, to between $68,000 and $92,000, RHI reported. Senior accountants at large public accounting firms can expect to see average starting salaries increase 11.7 percent, to between $55,000 to $69,000 annually.

Professionals with from one to three years of experience in midsized public firms will see average starting salaries jump 11.8 percent, from $42,250 to $48,000 per year, while average starting salaries for entry-level professionals at small public firms (up to $25 million in annual sales) will rise 11.4 percent, to from $34,000 to $39,250.

RHI said that demand for accounting and finance professionals is expected to remain strong in the health care and real estate industries, though hiring varies significantly by geographic region.

A copy of the 2005 Salary Guide is available online at www.roberthalffinance.com/freeresources.

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