Study provides insight into the current market for accounting jobs

Accounting jobs can offer post-graduates an entry level finance career with attractive pay scales and relatively secure job stability. However, a recent study highlights one downside of the current accounting and finance career path: development and advancement opportunities can be very hard to come by. 

Less than 15 percent of hiring managers in the accounting and finance sectors are willing to negotiate employee development opportunities during the hiring process, according to the latest report from Accounting Principles, suggesting that entry-level finance workers may need to quell their hopes of quickly rising through the ranks of the company where they work. 

Salary and perk negotiations rise in response to lack of advancement opportunities
There were some other variables that hiring managers were much more willing to discuss: almost 40 percent of respondents noted they were willing to discuss and negotiate salaries during the process, for example, according to the report. Vacation and flexible time off, however, was a much less attractive topic. Only 11 percent of respondents noted that they'd be willing to discuss that metric while considering whether or not to hire a new employee.

"It was interesting to see that despite knowing that employees are leaving due to a lack of employee development, companies are not likely to negotiate around these opportunities," said Jodi Chavez, the senior vice president of the firm. "At the height of the recession, employees were more likely to stay put when they had a job, but now opportunities are much more plentiful. This shift should motivate employers to reassess their strategies to conform to the state of the new job market – which means retention should be top of mind."

Accounting Principles also reported that these standards may be costing businesses their relationship with some employees – illustrating the fact that finance firms may want to work harder to establish advancement opportunities if they're hoping to retain most of the employees working finance jobs. More than one-quarter of respondents stated outright that the majority of the employees who leave their company do so because of a lack of career development opportunities, suggesting that many businesses may be struggling with staff do to their own lack of advancement structure.

Salaries continue to increase, despite lack of advancement
While workers looking for advancement opportunities may not find what they're searching for in the finance sector, salaries are continuing to increase for individuals working finance jobs. Accounting Principles reported that more than half of all finance hiring managers expect to increase their pay at some point during 2014. 

This supports recent findings announced by the Robert Half staffing group. That firm found that accounting and finance careers are expected to see a salary increase of more than three percent over the coming 12 months. 

Smaller finance firms, also, are more likely to offer increased salaries than their larger peers: 45 percent of small finance companies reported that they were willing to negotiate salary rates as a part of the hiring process, while only 22 percent of mid-sized firms reported they would be willing to do so. However, there's a trade-off: you're more likely to receive perks and benefits from a larger firm. Accounting Principles reported that 12 percent of mid-sized companies are willing to negotiate provisions regarding device benefits during the hiring process, while only one percent of small firms reported being willing to do so. 

Firms are in need of mid-level talent
One of the problems faced by many finance firms is finding new workers to recruit. Accounting Principles found that many more hiring managers are concerned about recruitment and overall effectiveness than they are about the negative affects of lacking advancement opportunities. Almost 40 percent of respondents noted that mid-level finance positions have become difficult to fill. 

These respondents aren't the only individuals testifying toward that sentiment. The Manpowergroup's annual Talent Shortage Survey recently identified finance and accounting jobs as one of the ten hardest positions to fill for any hiring manager during the year 2013. 

"With recruitment and retention still such a challenge in the finance and accounting fields, hiring managers must consider different ways of keeping their employees happy and engaged," Chavez said. "This must include elements such as legitimate diversity programs, employee development initiatives, and other perks. It is the only way to ensure that companies are getting – and keeping – the very best talent."

Finance firms may want to consider improving their advancement opportunities if they want to find and retain valuable talent. Almost 40 percent of respondents to Accounting Principle's poll reported that they're having a harder time retaining talent now than they were three years ago.

For would-be workers, these findings paint a definitive picture of the job market for finance careers: talented professionals likely won't have trouble finding employment and worthwhile salaries, but searching for advancement opportunities may be a much larger struggle.