On Thursday 19 May, we celebrate 'International Accounting Day'. As the name suggests, it is the day to celebrate all accounting professionals. According to some, too many 'days of' are being added to the calendar nowdays, but accountants play a crucial role in every organisation. So it is only fair that they get their own special day.
Organisations - large and small - are facing a critical shortage of accountants, both junior and more experienced professionals. Jens Spittael-Speeckaert, senior manager at staffing specialist Walters People, takes a closer look at the labour market situation, company structures and salaries for accountants.
Accountants in numbers
"The labour market is in need of accountants at all levels of experience, from junior accountant to accounting manager. Particularly professionals with one to two years of experience are in high demand, as are senior accountants. "Graduates hardly have to take an effort to find their first accounting job in today’s market. Students in accounting or economics usually have found a job before graduating," says Jens.
In the first quarter of this year, no less than 46% more accounting vacancies were published compared to the same period last year. With the second quarter only half-way, we already notice that the number of vacancies is +50% higher than in Q2 of 2020. That explains why the role of accountant is in the top 10 of the VDAB list of jobs difficult to fill.
International organisation, SME or accountancy firm?
If there is one profession that is in demand in every sector, it’s the one of the accountant. Accountancy firms are also experiencing a pressing shortage of both junior and experienced accountants. "Graduates who start their career in an accountancy firm very quickly learn the tricks of the trade, precisely because they handle self-employed, SMEs and large companies in a wide range of sectors. That expertise offers them excellent opportunities for future growth," says Jens.
Those who like to work in a small structure will probably feel more confortable in an SME. Because the accounting team is smaller, each individual has more responsibilities and the opportunity to do more diverse things. Jens: "In a large organisation, however, each position is more defined and the responsibilities per individual are rather limited. But if you are ambitious and want to evolve quickly, there are often more opportunities internally within a large structure, both horizontally and vertically. In this type of organisations, salaries are slightly higher and the package of extra-legal benefits is also more extensive."
Competitive salary for accountants
Jens: "Graduates who enter the labour market as junior accountant can count on an average salary of 2,000-2,300 EUR gross per month. As an assistant accountant AR/AP in the finance team of a larger organisation, your salary will be between EUR 2,200-3,000 after a few years' experience. Working as a general ledger accountant entails more responsibilities, and this is also reflected in the salary. A G/L accountant with more than 6 years of experience can expect a monthly gross salary of 3,000-3,800 EUR. As a senior or chief accountant you function as the right hand of the management team, and that is also reflected in the salary: 3,500-4,000 EUR, often with a company car on top.
Professionals like AP/AR/GL team leaders and supervisors are more specialised, have management experience and manage a team, resulting in a gross monthly salary of up to 5,000 EUR. But to benchmark your own salary, or to find out how much you could earn in your first job in accounting, check out our digital salary survey," Jens recommends.
Time for a salary increase?
Jens: "Our recent survey revealed that the majority of people did not ask for a salary increase last year, because the impact of Covid-19 was big in their sector, or because colleagues were made redundant. You may have your mid-year review soon and be planning to ask for a pay rise. But before you go to your manager with this question, it is best to take some time to prepare yourself. So now is the ideal time to ask yourself a few questions. How did your company perform during the pandemic, and what have you achieved in the past year? Have you taken on more responsibilities, for example?
Collect examples of your achievements and make sure you know what you are worth in the job market. Gently broach the subject, show your enthusiasm to work for the organisation and what role you have played so far, by giving some examples. Make sure your manager understands exactly what you want and why you insist on a salary increase. You may be asked some questions, and an answer to your request may come later, as your manager may need to speak to HR or senior management first.
If your manager doesn't respond to your request for a salary increase, don't feel too discouraged. ‘No’ can also mean 'not yet', particularly if the organisation has gone through a difficult period. Discuss a timeline for follow-up and what else you can do to get the salary increase you're hoping for”, advises Jens.
Interested to know more?