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Where the jobs are
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"Growth in hiring is attributable to a growing economy and an increase in positions needed to meet Sarbanes-Oxley compliance," says Bill Kuchar, a CPA and managing partner of Lucas Group. "Our placements for accounting and finance professionals have substantially increased from last year, and we expect the increase to continue."

Overall, however, the bureau reports that job opportunities in the accounting and auditing fields remain spotty, with the industry as a whole projected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2012 -- between 10 percent and 20 percent.

Federal legislation "should lead to increased scrutiny of company finances and accounting procedures, and should create opportunities for accountants and auditors, particularly Certified Public Accountants, to more thoroughly audit financial records," the bureau writes. "Those who pursue a CPA should have excellent job prospects. However, many accounting graduates are instead pursuing other certifications, such as the Certified Management Accountant and Certified Internal Auditor, so competition could be greater in management accounting and internal auditing than in public accounting."

NACE reports 2005 accounting grads in the private sector enjoyed average starting pay of about $42,000, while those employed in public auditing received first-time offers of nearly $44,000. Business administration and management grads engaged in financial analysis took home $44,185, and those who specialized in investment banking earned closer to $49,000.

For college students deciding which professional path to pursue, or anyone considering a change of career, labor market trends provide valuable insight into earnings potential and future demand. In the coming years, job seekers in the health-care and information-technology fields should be best positioned to negotiate hefty pay packages from employers.

"Looking at where job growth is happening, or most likely to occur in the future, can give you a better understanding of the kinds of skills that are most in demand," Challenger says. "They can also give you a reason to go out and acquire those skills, whether you're going back for more training, getting an education or volunteering for new assignments on the job that intersect you with the kind of skills employers need."

10 fastest-growing occupationsExpected growth rate
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2005 Occupational Outlook Handbook.
Time frame of growth rate spans from 2004 to 2014.'s corrections policy -- Updated: May 22, 2006
More stories by Shelly Schwartz
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