While the hiring outlook for this year’s college graduates remains flat, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Job Outlook 2013 Spring Update Survey, opportunities for class of 2013 accounting students are rosier.

The report lists accounting as one of the most in-demand academic disciplines (along with business, engineering and computer sciences), with 66.3 percent of surveyed employers planning to hire business majors and 51 percent of them expecting to hire accounting majors. The average starting salary for this year’s accounting graduates is $53,300, up from $49,700, according to a separate NACE April 2013 Salary Survey.  

Meanwhile, NACE originally projected a 13 percent overall hiring increase last fall, but final survey numbers found employers will hire only 2.1 percent more new college graduates from this class than last year’s. The projections in the Salary Survey were better across the board, however, with this year’s graduates commanding an average starting salary of $44,928, up 5.3 percent from 2012’s $42,666.

“It’s an especially positive report for students studying accounting,” said Dan Black, Ernst & Young’s Americas director of campus recruiting and NACE’s president-elect, of the Job Outlook Survey. “We initially thought, last fall, 2012—we were a little more optimistic around college hiring in general than today. NACE, with this survey now, and in the spring, downgraded what the expectations were in hiring. However, for accounting majors, it’s still one of the most in-demand majors for new graduates. It’s been in the top five for as long as I can remember.”

Additionally, Ernst & Young is expecting to hire approximately 6,000 college graduates from U.S. campuses in its 2013 fiscal year ending in June, up 5 percent from the 2012 fiscal year. The Big Four firm will hire 3,400 of these graduates for full-time positions, while 2,600 graduates will be hired as interns, which Black stressed as one key step for today’s students.

“Many years ago, myself and Generation Xers and Baby Boomers thought at school we would wait until senior year with our resumes, but today the process is much more involved, starting very early in your college career,” Black shared. “Get involved in career services; it’s the gateway in many schools to employment. You should be working the network early, being as involved as early as you can in the profession or with an employer in a leadership program or internship—so many ultimately result in full-time employment.”

This year marks a 50 percent increase in Ernst & Young’s campus hiring over the past three years, and while Black said technical ability is always at the forefront of skills sought in new hires, other qualities have also become more vital.

“The ability to work well in teams, both as a contributor and a leader is of critical import to most companies,” Black explained. “Communication skills are ever on the rise. People might not guess they are critical skills, but in my findings, being able to communicate the results of a project, audit or client engagement is absolutely critical on the list to employers. At Ernst & Young, there’s an ever-increasing amount of focus on people who have a global mindset—people that are willing to think about their own individual scope, background and culture, and be able to work effectively in an environment of people with different backgrounds and skill sets. We’re at a point now where we’re interviewing and evaluating candidates based on that aspect. It’s a differentiator.”

NACE’s Job Outlook Survey is distributed to 1,006 employers holding NACE membership, of which 196 (19.5 percent) responded. NACE’s Salary Survey is produced through a compilation of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau, and a master data set developed by Job Search Intelligence, retrieved in March 2013 and compiled using a proprietary methodology created by Job Search Intelligence.