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Need a job? Majoring in accounting might be the best bet

Students study at the Marriott Library, at the University of Utah Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011, in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Students study at the Marriott Library, at the University of Utah Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011, in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — As 2013 dawns those monitoring employment opportunities have good news for students pointed toward business-oriented careers.

A new survey showed that majoring in accounting might be the best bet for many college graduates. According to the National Association of Colleges & Employers, 68 percent of the most recent accounting majors received job offers — the highest percentage of any major.

The report stated that the unemployment rate for accountants currently stands at just 4.1 percent and recently ranked accountants and auditors as the second top job for 2013 behind software developers. Accounting, engineering and computer science ranked as the three majors “mostly like to get job offers,” the reported said.

So why is accounting the hot profession for 2013?

“College grads are making an impact in the job market and the accounting degree has been a good degree to hire from,” said Rick Westbrook, Salt Lake City branch manager for human resources firm Robert Half International based in Menlo Park, Calif. “The demand has been in audit and tax professionals as well as accounting.”

Similar to the high demand for engineers and information technology professionals, accounting skills are becoming increasingly sought after in today’s job market, he said.

Westbrook said that among state colleges, BYU has a highly rated graduate accounting program, while the University of Utah’s MBA programs are well-regarded by employers.

“The accounting degree is critical, but the additional three to five years of experience and a (certified public accounting certification) makes you more valuable,” Westbrook said.

The survey — which polled more than 59,000 students nationwide — stated that 65 percent of graduates expect to enter the workforce immediately upon leaving school, while about 28 percent would like to attend graduate school right away. The report said that students rated annual salary increases as the benefit that mattered most, followed by 401(k) company match, and tuition reimbursement.

Before the 2012 survey, medical insurance was the most-sought benefit among survey respondents, the survey said. Currently, insurance ranks fourth on the list. One possible explanation for the change was new federal healthcare provisions that allow students to remain on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26.

In September, the NACE reported that business majors average starting salaries for college graduates in 2012 rose 2.2 percent to $51,541, up from last year’s average of $50,446. The report stated that the current average salary for graduates earning accounting degrees was $50,400 — up nearly 2 percent over last year.

Business administration majors and finance majors also posted increases above 2 percent, with bachelor’s degrees grads in business administration rising 2.3 percent to $52,500, while finance grads now average $52,800 — up 2.1 percent.

Those earning a bachelor’s degree in marketing saw the biggest hike — with their average starting salary climbing 2.7 percent to $53,400.

Salary data contained in the NACE report was compiled from data derived from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau, and a master data set developed by Job Search Intelligence.


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