[IMGCAP(1)]The past few years have been turbulent for the finance industry. Battered from a reputation standpoint during the recession, the sector also suffered the loss of thousands and thousands of jobs during that time. While there has been some improvement and growth, it still may seem as though a cloud continues to hang over the future of finance skill sets for some professionals. Yet, there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic about 2013.

Two of the more promising areas of growth in the industry are within hiring decisions and salaries. A recent survey from Accounting Principals shows that 92 percent of executives at finance companies plan to increase or maintain headcounts in the next year, providing much-needed stability to an industry that has faced a number of changes and shifts for the better part of five years.

Despite an overall shift towards optimism, there is still a bit of uncertainty in the market. This is a result of impending decisions on the fiscal cliff, healthcare reform costs, and the potential for changing tax policies. Such uncertainties may lead to conservative investment, which translates to conservative hiring strategies. Although hiring levels will not be near the highs seen before the recession, companies are eager to bring finance and accounting employees on board because of the crucial role they play in every facet of a company’s operations.

One area in particular that’s expected to see growth within the accounting field this year is demand for mid-level professionals. Demand for employees with three to five years of experience will continue to remain strong as these professionals bring seasoned industry expertise, without the weighty salary that senior executives require. Mid-level professionals are also eager to learn new skills that will advance their career and further add to an accounting department’s efficiency. 

Our research shows that compensation will be another bright spot for finance in 2013, with many executives saying that salaries in finance will increase in the year ahead. This will continue to be an evolving trend in the future as the overall economy recovers and the job market becomes more conducive to job seekers.

Looking at the year ahead, salaries should add some enthusiasm to the industry. Below are Accounting Principals’ expectations for finance jobs that will be in demand in 2013, along with the projected salary ranges for each position.

  • Cost Accounting Manager ($72,680-$121,442): Maintaining cost controls within a company is an especially important role during a time when companies remain extra vigilant about decisions on spending, which include staff and infrastructure. In this time of economic recovery, companies place an emphasis on tracking expenditures, giving these individuals the potential to play a significant role in the financial maintenance of a company.
  • Payroll Manager ($59,737-$100,067): Part of the backbone of any organization, these professionals are always in-demand to ensure that a company’s payroll systems are running properly. Increased demand for these positions is often an early sign that the employment market is improving.
  • Tax Accountant ($40,266-$58,737): Whether for a business or individuals, there is always a need for these positions. The question for companies or accounting firms often isn’t “do we need an accountant? but rather, “how many do we need?” Companies are facing a number of new regulations, as well as a bit of uncertainty around future tax laws, all of which contribute to an increased demand for these professionals.
  • Credit Analyst ($39,757-$55,072): With the economy improving, banks and creditors are more likely to lend than in recent years. However, the lending mistakes of the past five years still loom large, so companies are eager to bring on these professionals who assess individual and corporate credit risk before deciding which are worthy borrowers.
  • Mortgage Underwriter ($35,067-$60,977): According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, there will be more homes purchased in 2013 than in 2012. In addition, there will be $1.3 trillion in mortgage originations, mostly from owner refinancing in the first half of the year. All of this activity points to an increased demand for skilled mortgage underwriters who can gather information on mortgage applicants and then accept or reject applications based on the findings.

The number of opportunities out there for finance and accounting professionals should be cause for some optimism in the coming year. Although the recession hit the industry harder than most, and it has taken several years to make its way back, there are many indications of hope.
A slight uptick in the economy, continued financial legislation, and companies expanding their internal functions have led to an increased demand for finance and accounting pros. Given this, 2013 promises to be a positive and prosperous year for employment.

Full salary data can be found at Accounting Principals 2013 Salary Guide. Kathy Gans is SVP at Accounting Principals.