Salary survey: how are you doing?

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As the global downturn continues, the subject of salaries has never been more pertinent. It’s a good time then to ask AAT members about what they earn and how satisfied they are with working in accountancy right now. Here’s what we found.

During last year few people will have avoided the effects of the global downturn – whether as an individual keeping a closer eye on their personal expenditure, or as an organisation wishing to maintain its position in a contracting economy.

With that in mind, AAT wanted to examine if its members had been affected by the recession and to what extent – asking about their salaries, job satisfaction, working hours and job security.

Members were surveyed across all levels – from students at the beginning of the qualification to fellow members with many years’ experience in the accountancy profession. Some of the results were as expected but others provided greater food for thought.

There are many reasons why people choose to study for a professional qualification – and increased earning potential would be high on the list. Three-quarters of students and 78% of full and fellow members feel obtaining the AAT Accounting Qualification has increased their potential earnings. This is reflected in the findings as the survey shows the average salary for level 2 students is £17,673 and almost doubles (£35,997) for fellow members.

Perhaps to be expected, there were real variations in salary depending on where you live in the country. The average starter salary (Level 2) is £13,030 in the North East and £23,440 for London. This rises to a 15k difference for fellow members living in the same regions.

More than half of respondents (53%) said they had benefitted from a salary increase during last year. The average increase was 8%, which was very favourable considering many organisations have implemented salary freezes. Unsurprisingly, salary increases varied in each sector with those in the private sector more likely to receive a pay rise than those working in public service.

The survey also covered AAT Members in Practice (MIPs) who are either self-employed (34%) or employed and running their own business alongside (40%). MIPs who are also employed on average spend less than 40% on their self-employed work. The majority of MIPs feel that the license has had a positive effect on their overall earning potential. However, just under a third felt their practice income had been affected adversely as a result of difficult economic conditions. Promisingly though, almost half feel that this year will bring about an increase in their practice fee income.

Members were asked if their working hours had increased during the recession. Almost a third of members said they now worked longer than their contracted hours. Those in larger companies had been hardest hit – 33% in companies with 250+ employees compared with 22% of those with 1-10 employees. A third of MIPs also said they had to increase their working hours as a result of the recession.

An uncertain employment market generally means less job security – but AAT members are bucking this trend. 74% said they felt very or quite secure in their current position. This reinforces the idea that accountancy is a recession-proof career, and actually well-trained finance staff are needed more than ever at a time where companies need to keep a greater eye on their budgets.

MIPs who are fully self-employed had the most job security at 90%. Interestingly, those MIPs who were employed and also undertake practice work said they felt their self-employment was more secure.

Despite difficult economic conditions, AAT members are very upbeat about their roles, with 70% saying they were very or quite satisfied in their current job. But levels for members undertaking practice work were even higher – 93% of fully self-employed MIPs and 90% of MIPs expressed satisfaction in their roles. Human resources expertise tells us that job satisfaction is more important to employees than a higher salary and so this is very encouraging to hear.

With unemployment at its highest since 1994, it would have been little surprise to have heard AAT members were struggling. But, the fact that our membership is feeling motivated and rewarded is a real testament to the value a professional body can bring.

You can download a free copy of the full salary survey on the AAT website now.

Steven Drew is AAT's Head of Markets & Products.

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