Categorized | Job Hunting

Public-Accounting Firms Seek Audit and Tax Pros

Posted on 24 April 2009

Public-accounting professionals can count on seeing more senior-level job opportunities in coming months, thanks to new government regulations requiring tighter financial auditing and reporting. Recruiters say public accounting firms of all sizes nationwide are adding staff to handle the more-rigorous reporting requirements. The rebounding economy also is contributing to the rising demand, as accounting firms prepare for more business.

Most in demand are mid- to senior-level candidates with audit and tax expertise. Particularly needed are those who can help companies comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, the law passed in the wake of corporate accounting scandals requiring more stringent audits and reporting at public companies. Additionally, working knowledge of current U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) financial-reporting regulations is at a premium, given the agency’s higher scrutiny of public firms.

The need for more accountants isn’t surprising since “additional work now goes into the execution of the audit,” says Mark Friedman, U.S. leader of experienced recruiting at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) LLP, a New York Big Four accounting firm.

Most opportunities are at the senior-associate level, which requires approximately three to six years of experience in public accounting. The next greatest demand is for managers with about six to nine years’ experience.

On the tax side, professionals with at least three years in public practice, plus a Certified Public Accountant (C.P.A.) license, are most attractive, say recruiters. Candidates with additional specialized designations have an edge, says Randy Burley, a recruiter with Houston search firm Albrecht & Associates, a Management Recruiters International affiliate. These include Accredited in Business Valuations (A.B.V.), Certified Valuation Analyst (C.V.A.) and Accredited Senior Appraiser (A.S.A.). “The national and large regional firms place a premium on C.P.A.s who’ve attained specialized experience and professional designations,” he says.

Major Strides

The hiring boom began at the end of the second quarter of last year, say recruiters. At that time, for instance, Robert Half’s search assignments surged about 20% above the same period in 2002 for professionals at the three- to seven-year experience level, says Kathleen Downs, a division director with Robert Half International Inc., a Menlo Park, Calif.-based search firm.

Searches for mid-level public accountants continued to grow for the rest of 2003, and recruiters believe demand will remain strong through 2004. “I expect that this year will be dramatically better than last year,” says Mr. Burley.

PricewaterhouseCoopers set a hiring record for senior professionals in 2003, says Mr. Friedman. He expects 2004 hiring to exceed that number, which he declined to provide, by about 30%. “I would expect that our needs will remain at the current high level into 2005,” he says, adding that the firm is hiring throughout the country.

Executives with smaller regional public-accounting firms, such as Seattle-based Moss Adams LLP, also report hiring increases. “We’ve felt a strong pickup recently,” says Shannon Urion, a recruitment manager in its home office. “We also anticipate additional hiring to take place at many of our West Coast offices, particularly in the Southern California market, where we’ve recently added several new locations.”

Stressing Credentials

In audit and tax areas, technical qualifications are prerequisites, so candidates with specialized professional designations stand out. Mr. Burley notes that good audit pros are hard to find. “The supply for [audit] professionals with specific experience related to current financial reporting and audit functions is very limited,” he explains.

Jerry Varga, a public-accounting professional with 10 years’ experience, benefited from the scarcity of qualified audit professionals when he started job hunting in August. He also has experience helping firms comply with current SEC regulations. Within three months, he landed a new position as an audit manager with Tedder, James, Worden & Associates PA, a 50-person firm in Orlando, Fla.

Mr. Varga had been audit manager at a large New York firm, but his family wanted to be near relatives in Florida. Mr. Varga had sent his resume in response to an online posting for a different job, and a recruiter who saw it told him about the Florida opportunity. He started in December.

Fewer positions are available for professionals with more than 10 years’ experience seeking roles at the senior-manager and partner level, because most of these jobs are filled via internal promotions. Still, top-level openings occasionally surface, such as one for a senior-manager position that Ms. Downs has been asked to fill at a 40-person firm in a Southeastern state. The new recruit will be groomed for partnership within two years when the firm’s current managing partner retires. The firm prefers candidates with Big-Four firm experience “because of the diversity and size of clients this person would have handled,” says the recruiter. The firm hopes to fill the job by the end of the second quarter and will pay an annual base salary of between $100,000 and $110,000, she adds.

Specialized Expertise

Job openings in specialized areas within audit, such as internal audit and advisory services –including risk management, treasury operations and data security — also have increased, say recruiters. Further, as the economy improves, business at public-accounting firms is expected to swell, which will cause employment gains in a variety of niches. “As the economy improves, new businesses open and mergers and acquisitions increase, so more work needs to get done,” says Ms. Downs.

Moss Adams, which is adding offices throughout Southern California, hopes to provide more business-risk-consulting, real-estate tax-consulting and compliance and litigation-support services and expand its presence in the life-sciences industry, says Ms. Urion.

A national public accounting firm based in the Southeast is seeking several experienced business-valuations professionals at the manager level. Mr. Burley, who is heading the searches, says candidates should have a C.P.A. and experience in valuations. Annual base salary for these positions ranges from $110,000 to $150,000.

Salaries on the Rise

Another sign of the current demand is the rising salaries at public-accounting firms. The average annual base salary for C.P.A.s with more than 10 years’ experience rose 6.3% to $71,224 in 2003 from $66,981 in 2002, according to a national survey conducted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants for CPA Firms, based in Jersey City, N.J. Salaries for C.P.A.s with six to 10 years’ experience rose 13.5% to $61,582 in 2003 from $54,274 in 2002.

“We’ve seen about a 5% to 10% increase in salaries in the past 18 months,” says Ms. Downs. The reason: “There are more opportunities than there are candidates to fill those jobs.”

In 2004, average starting salaries are expected to rise at large and midsize public-accounting firms, according to Robert Half’s annual compensation report. Salaries for managers at large public-accounting firms (more than $250 million in annual sales) are projected to increase by 0.9% to between $63,000 and $82,250. At midsize firms (between $25 million and $250 million in annual sales), managers’ pay is projected to climb 1.4% to between $57,000 and $74,250.

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. leydi says:

    just what i’m looking for. this blog is exceptional. I am writing a research paper 4 school. could you please share your sources ASAP?

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