In the last five years, it’s become very hard to find an accountant at the staff and senior levels in New York, says recruiting expert Keith Feinberg.
One reason for the scarcity is a decline in recent graduates in the field. “There’s been a drop-off in the amount of people coming out of college with accounting degrees,” says Feinberg, director of Permanent Placement Services for Robert Half Finance & Accounting in the city.
On top of that, the New York State Department of Labor reports that the number of accounting jobs in the city has been on the rise since at least 2012 — and expects an increase by as much as 16 percent between then and 2022. That amounts to 4,500 new accounting positions to fill with a talent pool that may not be as robust as in recent years. As new openings become available, employers can expect even greater competition for skilled candidates, Feinberg says.
To vie for experienced people, employers must stay current with the local hiring landscape and learn how to make their company stand out. Here’s a snapshot of the current accountant salary and hiring trends if you want to find an accountant in New York.
Salaries above the national average
New York, the throbbing financial heart of the U.S., offers seemingly endless opportunities for those in the finance and accounting sector. In addition to major bank headquarters like JP Morgan Chase and Citibank, the city also hosts the U.S. headquarters for three of the Big Four accounting firms: Deloitte, Ernst & Young, and KPMG. Add in the financial clout of Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange, and you have the makings of a massive market for financial professionals.
New York City is notorious for its high cost of living, which drives salaries here to a staggering 40.5 percent above the national average (the city ranks 24th out of 25 for cost of living on the Robert Half Career City Index). This environment makes it crucial for employers to offer competitive compensation.
The midpoint salary for an entry-level staff accountant in New York City, with up to a year of experience, is $65,750, according to the 2019 Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance Professionals. Senior accountants can expect a midpoint starting salary in New York City of $109,250. Those who for large international corporations or who have additional skills could see even higher salaries.
“Candidates with flexibility, a willingness to travel for work and lots of hours across multiple industries also expect a higher salary,” says Feinberg.
To entice the most desirable candidates, employers in New York are increasing starting salaries — and some may even offer signing bonuses.
What to look for in an accountant
Whether working for one of the city’s small startups or a multibillion-dollar corporation, accountants are responsible for providing day-to-day financial support and monitoring the company’s accounts. They maintain general ledgers and conduct month-end closes, as well as account analysis and reconciliation.
Look for applicants with the following:
- A bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance/economics
- Finance and accounting certifications, specifically the CPA designation
- One to three years of experience in accounting
- Proficiency in accounting software — such as QuickBooks or Sage — and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems
- Advance proficiency in Microsoft Office, especially Excel
- Ability to handle multiple projects at once
- Strong analytical skills
- Attention to detail
- Strong verbal and written communication skills
The need for speed in hiring
As the pool of available accountants in the city shrinks, speeding up your hiring process becomes more important. “Because of the supply and demand issues in New York, employers have to make decisions right after interviews,” Feinberg says. “Candidates have multiple options open to them, so you have to act fast.”
Feinberg warns against practices that slow the recruiting process, such as holding out for the perfect applicant. “Many employers want accountants with a couple years of experience in both public and private accounting,” he says, “but there are skilled accountants who have worked only in private industry.”
Technical skills are important, Feinberg adds, but most employers can’t afford to be too rigid. A candidate’s aptitude, enthusiasm and soft skills can be equally important in a challenging hiring environment.
Get help to find an accountant
Are you ready to gain a competitive edge in your search for finance and accounting talent? Take a look at accountant job seekers in New York City.
This post has been updated to reflect more current information.