Accounting and finance starting salaries to increase an average of 2.8 per cent in 2002: survey

Compensation for accounting and finance professionals will rise slightly over 2001 levels, according to the recently released Robert Half and Accountemps 2002 Salary Guide. Starting salaries for financial professionals in Canada are expected to increase by an average of 2.8 per cent in 2002, compared with the 5.1 per cent increase that was forecast this time last year.

"Average starting salaries for accounting and finance professionals in Canada will remain more stable in 2002 compared to recent years," said Trevor Zigelstein, a regional manager for Robert Half International. "As a result of the current economic climate, businesses are hiring more cautiously. Many employers are screening candidates more intensely to ensure they have not only the ability to do the job but also the talent to help the organization achieve strategic business goals.

‚ÄĚCompanies are seeking accounting candidates with advanced technical and interpersonal skills - particularly those who have the ability to adapt well to change," he said.

Public vs. corporate accounting

Public accounting firms of all sizes continue to show strong demand for new talent. Starting salaries for public accountants are expected to increase an average of 3.4 per cent in 2002.

Among all job categories, first-year accountants at large public accounting firms will benefit from the greatest increase in base compensation. Starting salaries for these professionals are expected to rise an average of 10.2 per cent over last year, to the range of $35,000 to $43,250 annually. Public tax accountants with international expertise should also see notable gains in average starting salaries, with a projected increase in base compensation of 4.8 per cent, to range between $104,750 and $157,250 per year. Similarly, managers at small and medium-sized public tax accounting firms (up to $250 million in sales) should expect average starting salaries to increase 4.8 per cent, to the range of $73,500 to $107,250 annually.

In corporate accounting, analysts and general accountants are expected to see the largest percentage increase in base compensation. Average starting salaries for analysts at companies of all sizes should increase an average of 6.5 per cent and base compensation for general accountants at businesses of all sizes is predicted to increase by 4.8 per cent.

More specifically, analysts in managerial positions at large companies (more than $250 million in sales) should see base compensation rise 8.6 per cent, to the range of $67,500 to $90,000 annually. Senior accountants should experience a 7.9 per cent gain in average starting salaries at small and medium-sized businesses (up to $250 million in sales), with base compensation ranging from $45,750 to $60,000.

Specialties with above-average salary growth

While overall increases in starting salaries are moderate compared to last year's projections, some of the specialty areas most in demand should still experience notable gains.

According to the Salary Guide:

*Payroll managers will see an increase in base compensation of 7.4 per cent, bringing them to the range of $49,250 to $66,750 annually.

*At companies with up to $250 million in sales, starting salaries for first-year analysts are expected to range from $31,750 to $37,000, an increase of 7.4 per cent over 2001.

*Vice-presidents of finance at companies with annual sales between $100 million and $250 million should see starting salaries increase 6.4 per cent, to be between $100,750 and $149,250 per year.

*At large public accounting firms, accountants with one to three years of experience should expect a 6.3 per cent increase in average starting salaries. Base compensation will range from $42,750 to $54,000 per year.

Demand for accounting and finance professionals is expected to be strongest in the health care, real estate and financial services industries.However, hiring activity varies significantly by geographic region. (All salaries listed in the guide are national averages. Cost-of-living index information for selected cities is also included in the Salary Guide.)

Information in the Salary Guide is derived from the thousands of job searches, negotiations and placements conducted each year by Robert Half recruiting managers across Canada.

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