Rise in Professionals' Starting Salaries Outpaces Wage Gains

Companies concerned about recruiting, retaining highly skilled workers

By Stephen Miller, CEBS Oct 29, 2013

U.S. starting salaries for professional occupations are projected to increase an average of 3.7 percent in 2014, according to placement firm Robert Half International. Technology positions are expected to see the largest gains among all fields researched, with an anticipated 5.6 percent increase in the average salary for those newly hired.

In comparison, average base-pay increases for 2014 are expected to remain at 3 percent for the second year in a row, according toconsensus forecasts. The Survey of Professional Forecasters puts the Consumer Price Index increase at just 2.1 percent next year, with a projected national unemployment rate of slightly above 7 percent restraining labor inflation.

Yet despite only a modest expansion in new jobs, unemployment rates for professionals are significantly under the national average (see box). “Many hiring managers are encountering difficulty finding professionals with the specialized skills they need to achieve their growth goals,” said Paul McDonald, Robert Half senior executive director, to SHRM Online. “Companies are growing more concerned about both recruiting and retaining highly skilled individuals. Employers may lose out if they wait too long to make an offer once they identify a strong candidate.”

Below are Robert Half's starting salary forecasts for 2014.

  • Technology. Overall, base compensation for newly hired information technology professionals is expected to jump 5.6 percent in the coming year. Mobile-application and software developers are in particularly strong demand. Business-intelligence analysts, too, can expect higher-than-average starting-salary increases.

  • Accounting and finance. The average starting salary for a newly hired accounting and finance professional in the U.S. is forecast to rise 3.4 percent next year. Financial and business systems analysts are in demand. The market for internal auditors and entry-level accountants also has strengthened.

  • Creative and marketing. Those in creative fields are likely to see average starting-salary gains of 3.3 percent in 2014. The shortage of creative talent with digital and mobile expertise continues, with user-experience and mobile designers in high demand.

  • Administrative and office support. Overall starting salaries for administrative professionals are expected to rise 3.3 percent in 2014. Executive and administrative assistants and customer-service managers are the most sought after. Support staff are also needed in the health care field and in human resources.

  • Legal. Starting salaries for positions in the legal field are predicted to rise 2.7 percent, on average, in the coming year. Mid- and senior-level associates are being sought by law firms looking to expand lucrative practice groups or invest in new service offerings.

Information in the guides is based on job searches, negotiations and placements by staffing and recruiting managers, as well as on Robert Half's ongoing surveys of executives. The guides include local variances for adjusting national salary ranges for more than 135 U.S. cities.

Unemployment Rates for Specialized Roles

For those with professional skills, unemployment rates are far below the overall rate of 7.2 percent, according to an October 2013 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Compensation, benefits and job-analysis specialists: 1.3 percent.
Human resource managers: 4.4 percent.
Training and development specialists: 2.4 percent.
HR assistants except payroll and timekeeping: 6.1 percent.
Compensation and benefits managers: 3.4 percent.

Compliance officers: 5.7 percent.
Accountants and auditors: 3.2 percent.
Financial analysts: 2.5 percent.

Administrative Support
First-line supervisors of admin support workers: 3.8 percent.
Secretaries and administrative assistants: 6.2 percent.

Health Care
Medical records and health information technicians 4.0 percent.

Lawyers: 2.5 percent.
Paralegals and legal assistants: 5.2 percent.

Computer network architects: 1.7 percent.
Software developers, applications and systems: 2.4 percent.
Database administrators: 3.6 percent.

Public relations specialists: 2.8 percent.
Market research analysts and marketing specialists: 0.9 percent.
Editors: 4.7 percent.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics via Robert Half International.

Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Related SHRM Articles:

Business Graduates' Salaries Set to Rise, SHRM Online Compensation, December 2013

Pay Trends for 2014: Salary Increases Hold Steady, SHRM Online Compensation, October 2013

Job Market Optimism Doesn’t Lead to Greater Q4 Hiring, SHRM Online Staffing Management, October 2013

Average Starting Salary for Class of 2013 Grads Up 2.4%, SHRM Online Compensation, September 2013

'Star' Performers Earn 75% Larger Raises than Average Workers, SHRM Online Compensation, September 2013

U.S. Salary Budgets Projected to Rise 3.1% in 2014, SHRM Online Compensation, August 2013

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