Date posted: 20/02/2018 5 min read

Accounting jobs outlook 2018

The year ahead will be positive for millennials in Australia and NZ, but aspiring CFOs may earn more abroad, recruiters say.

In Brief

  • Talented young accountants can command six-figure salaries – sometimes.
  • Employer demand is strong for Big Data finance specialists.
  • Sydney, Perth and Auckland CAs earn more than those in other regions.

By Shelley Dempsey.

The jobs and salary outlook for accountants in 2018 is bright, recruiters say, especially for younger millennials with Big Four experience.

“Talented millennials are generally in a good position to request a good salary, so someone with two to three years of experience post-qualification may ask for a six-figure salary,” says Christine Montgomery, Director of Pacific Talent Partners in Sydney. The highest salary increases this year in accounting will go to newly qualified CAs with up to three years’ experience. If they are moving from a first to a second job, their skills are always in demand, she says. “Those salaries will continue to increase, and I would expect that because businesses will fight to get them.”

Sometimes younger accountants need a reality check though, cautions David Cawley, Regional Director of Hays Accountancy and Finance. “I think there are good salaries on offer,” he says. “But I think there is also a gap between expectations and reality.”



CFOs are currently adapting to technology, according to a recent survey of finance leaders done by Hays. “The role of a CFO has evolved to be very close to that of a CEO,” says Cawley. In fact, 41% of the surveyed CFOs would love to move into the role of CEO. 

However, the news on pay is mixed, with minimal growth in base salaries but more non-monetary incentives, according to Montgomery. For example, a CFO in Australia who used to earn a base salary of $300,000 may be offered a base salary of only $250,000 in their next role. However, his or her short- and long-term incentives, such as a car or share package, may increase. Jobs now are also more performance-based, with revenue or gross profit targets for company and team performance attached to senior roles, says Montgomery.

CA ANZ Remuneration Survey

Accountants working in Sydney, Perth and Auckland earn the most, according to a recent remuneration survey of members carried out by Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand. Sydney accountants are paid the most on average ($228,184 – which is 21% higher than the rest of Australia). Second-highest is Perth at $206,097. 

Auckland-based CAs earn the most in New Zealand at NZ$170,870, compared with those in Wellington (NZ$154,900). Overall, the survey shows that the biggest earners are CEOs and managing directors in Australia and New Zealand. They earn on average $460,173 and partners in large CA firms $454,176. By sector, CAs earn the most in financial services, averaging $239,636, followed by industrial manufacturing at $227,346.

Australian and NZ growth

Economic growth is boosting jobs, says Cawley. “I think the picture is pretty positive.” Australian employment figures last year were the strongest in four decades, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Employment rose every month in the calendar year for the first time since 1978. Employer demand has also broadened nationally beyond NSW and Victoria, says Cawley. 

“What we are seeing is pretty consistent demand for finance managers and finance controllers, especially in the SME world,” he says. In New Zealand, SME demand for finance managers is being driven by demand from construction and manufacturing, and the desire to hire talent in-house.

The Hays accounting and finance business on both sides of the Tasman has also increased this year to double-digit (revenue) growth, “which means the outlook is good for accountants across the board”, says Cawley. 

Overseas salaries

Accountants and finance leaders in the UK are expected to receive the biggest pay rises of all professionals in 2018. Accountants with three years’ post-qualified experience can expect a 4.2% rise in salary, with a 3.1% increase forecast for those with four to seven years’ experience, according to the Robert Half 2018 Salary Guide for the UK.

CA ANZ Library: Incentives and rewards - what works best

Advises that variable pay/performance remuneration should be applied more widely to the New Zealand workforce, not just CEOs. Discusses how to engage, recognise, and reward both staff and clients.

The news may not be quite so good in Australia, however. “A 4% increase is phenomenal over there – but I would not expect to see that happen here in Australia,” says Montgomery. Accounting salaries can be expected to rise this year in tandem with CPI increases, as usually occurs, she adds. The annual CPI in Australia was 1.9% for 2017.

Wanted: Senior leaders with soft skills

In general, employers are looking for senior finance leaders. “Good leadership skills from finance professionals are very much in demand,” says Montgomery. Most sought after are strong mid-manager finance leaders with good communication skills who have a good track record in building teams, getting results, mentoring, coaching and developing people and talent. The Hays finance leader survey shows these soft skills are the hardest to find. The survey – What’s Challenging Today’s Finance Leaders? – included face-to-face interviews with 374 finance leaders in Australia and New Zealand.

“The best accountants out there really articulate how they add to the bottom line and how crucial their role is as a business partner working with the leaders of the business,” says Cawley. They also understand personal brand and look beyond the finance function to areas such as sales, marketing and IT to link themselves to the wider organisation.

Big data to get bigger

Demand is rising for accountants trained in how to manage big data. According to the Hays survey of finance leaders, 46% of respondents believe big data will be a very important part of their role. “The whole focus on data … is becoming a far more important task in an accountant’s life,” says Cawley.

Finance temps in demand

Finance temps are a huge and growing market, he adds. The Hays Temp business now has more than 20,000 temps a week on the payroll in Australia and New Zealand. Roles in demand include accounting and finance across the board, management accountants, analysts and payroll. Employers don’t have to put temps on the head count. “We are now seeing an appetite for temps in many traditional roles,” says Cawley.

Related: How to get headhunted for your dream job

How can you get noticed by the right people in the job market and land the job you have always wanted? Two careers experts reveal how to do it.

Shelley Dempsey is the Digital Editor of Acuity.