The Rise of the Accountant Salary and 10 Top Accounting Jobs

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Are you searching for top accounting jobs that are both in demand and lucrative? Not only are you in the right place, but your timing is just right. Finance and accounting salary ranges are expected to climb an average of 3.7 percent this year, according to Robert Half's latest Salary Guide for Accounting & Finance.

Visit our Salary Center and find pay ranges for more than 400 top accounting jobs, an overview of the hiring environment and emerging trends, insight into where the jobs will be in 2017, and in-demand skills that lead to higher compensation.

The accountant salary isn't the only one going up. Take a look at 10 of the top accounting jobs and finance positions — in no particular order — and their projected starting salaries, based on data from the guide, as well as a description of their typical duties.

Small companies (up to $25 million in annual sales)

1. Staff accountant

Organizations are bolstering their ability to realize company-wide goals by adding analytics-savvy staff accountants to finance departments. Staff accountants with a bachelor's degree and one to three years of experience are expected to see compensation increase 4.1 percent in these top accounting jobs, with an average starting salary of $50,000 to $64,250.

Typical duties: Reviewing general ledger accounts and preparing and adjusting journal entries; performing account analysis and reconciliation, including bank statements and intercompany general ledger accounts; maintaining general ledger chart of accounts; assisting with initial internal control evaluations; posting monthly, quarterly and yearly accruals. 

Be sure to read: How to Get Noticed By a Top Accounting Recruiter.

2. Financial analyst

Financial analyst hiring is on the upswing as firms look for guidance on how to increase efficiencies, keep costs in check and maximize the benefits of new and existing information systems. The starting accountant salary for financial analysts with one to three years of experience ranges from $54,250 to $70,250, up 4.0 percent from 2016.

Typical duties: Analyzing new and existing product lines, promotion spending and service segment costs of the organization; preparing profit and loss models, balance sheets and other management reports to forecast financial outcomes; maintaining confidential financial information; performing budgeting variance and forecasting analysis for various levels of management.  

Can you find temporary work as a financial analyst? Sure you can.

Midsize companies ($25 million to $250 million in annual sales)

2017 Salary Guide cover

3. Senior compliance analyst

With ever-changing compliance mandates and heightened enforcement, compliance professionals are highly sought. Starting compensation for this role is forecast to be $83,500 to $112,500, a wage bump of 4 percent.

Typical duties: Assisting the compliance officer in regulatory examinations and internal audits across the organization; conducting periodic compliance reviews of departments; preparing documentation of internal procedures; maintaining the company website as an information source for compliance; preparing compliance manuals and programs; assisting with developing compliance training modules and training of compliance team members; performing due diligence visits and risk assessments. 

4. Internal auditor (manager)

Given the changing regulatory environment and the interconnectivity of business today, organizations find that strong internal audit leaders rank among their top accounting jobs. They help identify and weigh emerging risks and opportunities. The starting salary for an internal auditor manager is projected to rise 4 percent and range from $96,750 to $131,250.

Typical duties: Managing complex audits and preparing audit reports; performing critical project management duties in the planning, scheduling, coordinating, reviewing and reporting of the work of audit teams; developing procedures, schedules, priorities and programs for achieving audit objectives and goals; undertaking comprehensive planning and risk assessments to identify potential business risks; planning, assigning and supervising the daily activities and work of the audit team; identifying and communicating to audit staff changes in professional standards, pronouncements, laws, guidelines and audit requirements; developing and maintaining productive client and staff relationships; hiring, training and supervising internal audit staff. 

5. Controller (at companies with $100 to $250 million in annual sales)

The heightened regulatory involvement is also fueling demand for controllers skilled in technology, analysis and management. In-depth knowledge of Sarbanes-Oxley provisions, SEC guidelines and all aspects of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) are critical. In 2017, controllers are expected to bring in a starting salary of $119,250 to $159,750, an increase of 4.2 percent.

Typical duties: Planning, directing and coordinating accounting operational functions; managing the accumulation and consolidation of all financial data necessary for an accurate accounting of consolidated business results; coordinating and preparing internal and external financial statements; coordinating activities of external auditors; managing the budget process; assessing accounting operations, offering recommendations for improvement and implementing new processes; evaluating accounting and internal control systems; evaluating the effectiveness of accounting software and supporting database; developing and monitoring business performance metrics; overseeing regulatory reporting; hiring, training and retaining accounting staff. 

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Large companies ($250 million or more in annual sales)

6. Accounts receivable and accounts payable clerk

Companies can’t achieve success without AR and AP clerks. The professionals with these top accounting jobs make sure accurate and timely payments are made and received. They also oversee reconciliation and resolution of customer and vendor issues. These individuals can expect salaries to increase 3.5 percent, to a range of $38,000 to $50,500.

Typical duties: Matching, batching, coding and entering invoices; entering, posting and reconciling batches; researching and resolving accounts payable or accounts receivable issues with customers or vendors; updating and reconciling sub-ledger to the general ledger; maintaining cash applications, account reconciliations and chargebacks. 

Learn more about accounts payable and accounts receivable jobs — duties and expectations, experience and skills, and salary ranges.

7. Senior accountant

Companies are seeking well-rounded senior-level accountants who can prepare financial statements and budgets, assess internal controls, and conduct risk assessments. In 2017, senior accountants can expect to command an accounting salary range of $75,000 to $95,750, a 4 percent boost. A professional certification like the CPA can increase offers even more, from 5 to 15 percent above the market average.

Typical duties: Reconciling sub-ledger to general ledger account balances; preparing financial statements; assessing internal controls, including risk assessments and reviews of risk areas; assisting with budget preparation and preparing the monthly budget variance analyses; maintaining and reconciling fixed assets schedules; assisting with initial internal control evaluations; supervising accounting staff. 

8. Payroll manager/supervisor

Whether it’s compliance, government reporting or policy implementation, payroll professionals have irons in many complex fires. Payroll managers/supervisors can expect to see their salaries jump 3.8 percent and range from $63,750 to $98,750.

Typical duties: Ensuring compliance with current government regulations; establishing and implementing policies on such matters as garnishments and payroll advancements to employees; preparing government reporting; preparing accruals and reconciling sub-ledger to the general ledger; hiring, training, developing and supervising payroll staff. 

9. Senior cost accountant

Analyzing inventory value, operational expenses and depreciation schedules are crucial to organizational success. Jobs with the title of senior cost accountant pay a starting salary of $75,750 to $99,000, an increase of 3.6 percent over last year.

Typical duties: Analyzing manufacturing operations; analyzing manufacturing equipment availability and utilization; performing month-end cost accounting close; maintaining cost accounting system and cost ledger; performing life cycle cost-benefit analysis; analyzing inventory valuations. 

10. Senior business analyst 

Big data is a big deal. As finance departments move from a reporting-focused function to a more analytics-centric one, firms need experienced business analysts to make sense of data and offer sound strategic recommendations. Senior business analysts can anticipate starting salaries of $85,250 to $109,500, up 3.9 percent.

Typical duties: Assisting with implementation and support of business information systems across multiple departments; conducting market analysis and analyzing both product lines and the overall profitability of the business; developing and sharing reports that enable advertising, customer service, finance, sales and marketing managers to make better business decisions by understanding geography, supply chain and price; ensuring business data and reporting needs are met; developing and monitoring data quality metrics. 

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10 top accounting and finance jobs to watch for in 2017

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Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2015 and updated recently to reflect information from the new Salary Guide.

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