Public and private industry employers are seeking candidates with accounting degrees.

There's good news for graduates of online accounting degree programs.

After years of hiring freezes and cutbacks, the market for entry-level accounting professionals has strengthened.

According to the 2014 Accounting & Finance Salary Guide published by Robert Half, "Degreed candidates, even those in the earliest stages of their careers, are sought in public accounting and private industry." The guide lists bookkeepers, internal auditors and staff accountants among the industry's most in-demand positions.

Suzanne Seymoure, associate professor of accounting at Saint Leo University, says the future is bright for accounting grads. "There is a need for accountants in just about every facet of society," she says. "We're seeing growth everywhere, particularly in the corporate and public accounting fields."

And if you're considering getting a specialized credential, Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensure in particular, you're on the right track. The CPA remains the most sought-after designation by employers, according to the guide.

The annual salary guide, published since 1950, offers the industry's most current information on starting salaries and hiring, retention and staff management trends. Among some of the accounting highlights in this year's guide:

  • More and more public accounting firms are turning to campus recruiting to fill available slots.

  • Top students are getting offers from Big Four firms as early as their sophomore year.

  • Public accounting firms are increasing compensation, and at times adding signing bonuses, to compete with private industry.

  • The Affordable Care Act is creating new opportunities for accounting professionals.

  • There is steady demand for interim professionals.

  • Accounting professionals are becoming more involved in decision-making and cross-departmental initiatives.

  • Certifications are taking on increasing importance, including certified information systems auditor (CISA), certified internal auditor (CIA) and certified management accountant (CMA)

Bottom line, it's a great time to consider an online accounting degree at the bachelor's or master's level.

Additional skills companies want

Wondering about some of the skills you might need for an accounting career, aside from the obvious?

According to the guide, you'd be well advised to brush up on your technology skills as companies move toward more sophisticated systems and analytical tools. Also a plus: aptitude with software programs, such as Hyperion and Cognos, as well as Advanced Excel and QuickBooks skills, and knowledge of cloud-computing systems.

Soft skills are a hot commodity, particularly oral and written communication skills, as accountants continue to expand their roles and visibility. In addition, being able to collaborate effectively with information technology (IT) colleagues is becoming increasingly important as cybersecurity issues take center stage.

Seymoure concurs. "Companies value accountants because they have an analytical thought process and can logically think things through," she says. "They assume candidates know Excel. But they also expect them to have excellent grammar and communication skills – to be able to express themselves verbally, as well as write coherently."

Bright salary forecast

So what's the salary outlook for accounting professionals? There are a number of factors that to consider, including company size, public vs. private, skill set, market trends and geography. But here's a sampling of starting salary ranges from the 2014 guide, which does not take into account bonuses and incentives.

Corporate Accounting

Assistant Controller ($50 to $100)*  $72,750 to $96,250
Tax Manager ($50 to $250)*  $85,000 to $120,000
Compliance Analyst (To $25)* $51,750 to $69,750
Internal Auditor ($25 to $250)* $51,750 to $69,750
General Accountant ($25 to $250)* $40,000 to $51,500
Cost Analyst ($250+)* $44,750 to $57,000
Forensic Accountant $68,500 to $108,000
Purchasing Manager ($25 to $250)*               $46,750 to $64,500

Public Accounting

Tax Services ($250+)*                                   $54,250 to $67,750
Audit/Assurance Services ($25 to $250)* $85,000 to $120,000
Management Services, ($25 to $250)* $47,740 to 61,250 
Bookkeeper/Paraprofessional $39,750 to 59,25
*Company sales in millions

With a tight market for qualified candidates and a long-anticipated surge in baby boomer retirements, degreed accounting professionals are in demand, particularly top performers.

Check out the guide for all the details and a full listing of salaries, including regional salaries.

Are you looking to enroll in an online accounting degree program?

Image Credit:
Jonathan Harford

Other posts you may be interested in reading:

What Companies Expect Of New Hires With Online Accounting Degrees

"Should I Study Accounting?" 10 Questions To Help You Find Out

Earning A CPA License: Is It Worth It?                 

CPA To CMA: Which Accounting Certification Is For You?

Careers In Forensic Accounting | It Takes A Sleuth