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8:00pm EDT April 25, 2007
Which accounting and finance professionals will have the most promising career prospects in 2007?

Robert Half International, the world’s first and largest staffing services firm specializing in accounting and finance, identified five jobs positioned for growth this year. The information is based on research from the company’s 2007 Salary Guide, actual candidate placements and discussions with hiring managers throughout the United States.

“Today’s marketplace lends itself to many opportunities for experienced accounting and finance professionals,” says Andrea Dunn, division director for the Columbus office of Robert Half Finance and Accounting. “Those that get the best compensation tend to be professionals who can combine strong strategic decision-making with good communication and technology skills.”

Smart Business spoke with Dunn about the opportunities available for experienced accounting and finance professionals in today’s marketplace.

What are the top accounting and finance positions this year?

Those specialties that will see the greatest gains in base pay include compliance professionals, internal and external auditors, financial analysts and public accountants.

Employers are looking for accounting and finance professionals with a broad range of abilities, including strong strategic decision-making, communication and technology skills.

Why are these professions so popular?

It varies, depending on the specialty. For example, compliance executives with U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission reporting experience are needed to help companies meet ongoing corporate governance requirements. Internal auditors, particularly those who possess the certified internal auditor (CIA) certification, are being hired to help improve internal controls and meet the compliance mandates of such regulations as Sarbanes-Oxley.

Firms are also hiring financial analysts to assist with budgeting and forecasting activities and to identify how their organizations can become more profitable.

Accountants who are CPAs and have at least three years of experience, including in public accounting, are needed for projects ranging from maintaining general ledger accounts and preparing financial statements to developing budgets.

What is the breakdown of growth and average base pay for the top five accounting and financial specialties?

  • Internal auditor — National average starting salaries for internal audit managers at large companies (more than $250 million in sales), for example, are expected to climb 5.8 percent this year to a range of $77,500 to $101,500.

  • Compliance executive — Starting salaries for chief compliance officers at large companies are predicted to rise to $132,500 to $181,250, a 14.4 percent increase, and to $111,000 to $145,500 for those at midsize companies ($25 million to $250 million in sales), up 9.3 percent.

  • Financial analyst — Demand for these professionals is especially acute at the management and senior levels. Base pay is expected to jump 5 percent for managers with small companies (up to $25 million in sales) to between $55,750 and $70,000, and 5.6 percent for senior financial analysts at large companies to $58,250 to $73,750.

  • Staff accountant — The greatest gains in initial compensation for staff accountants are expected to take place at large companies, with starting salaries rising 5 percent to between $41,250 and $52,500.

  • External auditor — Professionals who possess three to seven years of experience and the certified public accountant designation are particularly valued. Senior external auditors with small firms (up to $25 million in sales) will see starting salaries increase 5.2 percent to a range of $48,750 to $63,000.

What advice do you have for job seekers?

First, job seekers need to understand what skill sets are in demand and highlight strengths in their résumés and during job interviews. Take other steps, such as pursuing additional coursework and relevant certifications, to enhance expertise in these areas.

Second, candidates should seek out firms where they’d like to work rather than waiting for want ads to appear, because many companies are seeking to fill positions that aren’t yet advertised in the paper.

Third, make sure you vary your search. Try to look online, at industry events, and at informational interviews. During the interview process, stress to the hiring manager how you’ve used your expertise to save time and money for the companies in which you have worked.

ANDREA DUNN is the division director at the Columbus office of Robert Half Finance and Accounting (www.roberthalf.com). Reach her at (614) 221-9300 or andrea.dunn@roberthalf.com.