Menlo Park, Calif. (Oct. 20, 2003) -- Experienced accountants who can navigate through new reporting requirements and help companies improve their cash flow will be in high demand for 2004, according to an annual salary guide from Robert Half International.

While average starting salaries next year for accounting and finance professionals are expected to be on par with 2003 levels, mid-career professionals – especially those who can help companies and accounting firms comply with Sarbanes-Oxley may see a nice uptick in salary levels, the survey found.

The 2004 Salary Guide is based on an analysis of the thousands of job orders managed by the company's U.S. offices.

"While salary levels overall will likely remain stable, candidates with highly sought-after skill sets may see modest gains in compensation," said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International. "Companies faced with increasing workloads are recruiting financial professionals in areas such as internal audit, credit and collections, and general accounting. "Employers are hiring selectively, focusing their recruiting efforts on professionals who can provide solid leadership and contribute immediately to critical business operations," Messmer added.

Average starting salaries for public accountants should remain little changed from 2003 levels. Managers at midsized public accounting firms can expect base compensation of $57,000 to $74,250, a 1.4- percent increase over last year. Average starting salaries for senior accountants at large public accounting firms are forecast to rise an average of 1.1 percent, to the range of $48,750 to $62,250 annually. Both directors and managers at large public accounting firms are expected to see base compensation increase 0.9 percent, with average starting salaries ranging between $77,750 to $119,000 and $63,000 to $82,250 per year, respectively.

In the corporate sector, general and audit accounting managers at large companies can expect a 2.9 percent increase in starting salaries, with average base compensation of $60,250 to $81,500. Starting salaries for senior tax and cost accountants at large companies will rise 1.6 percent, to the range of $48,750 to $62,500; those at small companies will see a 1.9 percent increase, with base compensation between $41,750 and $52,000 per year.

Vice presidents of finance can anticipate a 12.3 percent decrease in average starting salaries at companies with $50 to $100 million in annual sales, to the range of $95,000 to $125,000 per year. Demand for accounting and finance professionals is expected to be strongest in the healthcare and real estate industries.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics references the annual guide in the preparation of its comprehensive Occupational Outlook Handbook.

-- WebCPA staff

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