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Demand and salaries growing for accounting graduates in the state

It’s a good year to be graduating with a degree in accounting. Officials with the state’s three largest universities say the 2008 job outlook for these students is solid. Some students serve internships, which lead to job offers before graduation. Others go on to earn master’s degrees in preparation to sit for the certified public accountant examination.

Dean Mark Wilder of the University of Mississippi’s Patterson School of Accountancy says the job market for accounting graduates remains strong.

“While we have received some feedback that the economic slowdown will translate into fewer future jobs, we haven’t seen much evidence of that to date,” he said. “The recruiting process has changed on our campus over the past few years in that there is a strong focus on hiring students to do internships during the spring semester of their senior year. These students typically receive full-time job offers at the end of the internship.”

It’s also been a good year for accounting majors at Mississippi State University. “We have seen many opportunities for students at the internship and full-time levels,” says Scott Maynard, director of the Career Center. “We have a two-week period set aside in the fall semester for accounting internship interviews. There is also a Meet the Firms night each fall semester hosted by the accounting department.”

At the University of Southern Mississippi (USM), accounting graduates are in the most demand of all business majors. “This year really looks good,” said Rusty Anderson, director of Career Services. “So many industries want them, including banks and healthcare — that’s part of the demand. About one-fourth will go to work in firms, 35% to 30% will work in other industries in accounting related jobs and others will use the degree to go into other fields.”

Anderson says the number of accounting majors was down, but is now coming back as the field’s compensation increases with the additional hours required to sit for the CPA exam. He, too, sees a growing trend for USM students to have jobs before graduation.v
“A lot of firms are using internships to sort of test ride the students and the students pretty much get a job from it,” he said. “Because of that, not that many are recruited now. It’s not hard to place top-tier students. They’re recruited in the fall because accounting firms don’t want to hire during tax season.”v
Maynard also observes more opportunities for students from non-traditional areas. “We are seeing more industrial accounting opportunities opening up,” he said. “Other areas include tax accounting, cost accounting, audit positions and homeland security. Many of the agencies that are responsible for our national security are recruiting more accounting and finance positions.”

Wilder notes that typically several Ole Miss accounting students go to law school, and he expects approximately 10 to do so this year. “We generally graduate about 120 undergraduates each year. Roughly 60% to 65% of these will stay for our one-year master’s program and we typically graduate about 75 to 80 from the master’s program each year,” he said.

Even with a large number of students obtaining jobs through internships, Wilder says approximately 25 companies and accounting firms came to campus to recruit during fall of 2007.

“Our ‘formal’ spring internship program has been in place for five years now,” he said. “Spring 2008 was our largest internship class ever with 69 students interning. These students worked for 25 different firms and companies in 17 cities and eight states. We also had a student intern with Deloitte and Touch in their London office.”

Maynard cites the National Association of Colleges and Employers Winter 2008 Salary Survey that gives the average salary for accounting graduates as $47,413. For those students going to work for accounting services employers, the average reported was $48,578.

Anderson agrees, noting that Mississippi keeps up with the national average, showing the state’s demand for accountants. All three university officials say the majority of graduates remain in the state. Most of the organizations recruiting accounting students are from Mississippi, too, with the majority of out-of-state employers located in the Southeast.

“The demand for accounting majors is up, and the outlook is good for the next 10 years,” Anderson said. “The number of retirees in the next few years will affect that demand, too.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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