Accountants seize new opportunities as companies clamp down on finances

Posted: Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The accounting scandals from a few years ago may feel like ancient history, but their effect is still felt on the accounting industry. But not all the news is bad. In fact, one area in particular has been positively impacted: the job market.

"The accounting job market is extremely hot right now - white hot," says Kevin Hardy, experiential learning coordinator for Business Career Services at Iowa State University's College of Business in Ames, Iowa.

Hardy explains that much of this is due to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 - a governmental act put in place to stop companies from "cooking the books" with their accounting practices.

Enforcing the rules

"In order to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley it's costing companies a lot of money - about as much as the demise of Enron and WorldCom," says Hardy. "Companies are spending millions and billions of dollars to document their accounting procedures. In doing so, they're hiring many accountants to fill their accounting needs."

Hardy adds that this equals higher salaries for some college graduates.

"They're seeing sign-on bonuses in accounting similar to those of the dot com days of the late 1990s for IT," he says. "I wouldn't go so far as to say it's a gravy train if you're an accounting student looking for employment, but it's not too far from it with a little bit of effort."

Workers thrive

Ken Bansemer, national recruiting director for RSM McGladrey in Bloomington, Minn., has spent more than 15 years in the accounting industry. He says today's environment for both college graduates and those with experience is exceptional.

"Entry-level hires are being exposed to more in-depth client experiences than ever," he says. "Individuals with previous experience, especially in auditing, are in demand, and the demand currently outstrips the supply. Qualified candidates can often choose to make a career change based on their personal and professional interests - so finding a job that provides the right fit is perhaps the most important factor for candidates we see today."

Bansemer adds that in this past year, McGladrey & Pullen's entry-level hiring is up 50 percent, while similar growth goals are expected for the graduating class of 2006.

"We have also added more than 750 hires from the experienced ranks, and expect a similar level of hiring needs for this upcoming year," says Bansemer.

- Rob Kallick

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