Revenge of the CPA

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Students re-thinking their options in the wake of the financial crisis may want to consider a forgotten path. Sure, hedge funds and day traders were the hottest jobs around at one point. But that was so 2007. Nowadays, you may want to think about becoming a Certified Public Accountant.

That's because a shift is taking place -- from risk to controls, and from wheeling and dealing to tighter rules and regulations. That trend was echoed by the latest salary report by Robert Half International, which says pay is on the rise for positions ranging from CFO to audit manager.

Hot careers include financial analysts, compliance analysts and senior auditors. Don't simply focus on the Big 4: Mid-size accounting firms are seeing the highest growth, hiring analysts, as well as clerks and billing and collection staff.

Salaries are on the rise too. Take, for example pay for a CFO. In 2011, starting salary will rise 2.3 percent compared with this year. The range of salaries: $265,000 to $386,750. On the low end, pay for internal auditor managers will rise four percent, to between $84,500 to $116,250.

Areas to focus on are tax accounting and mid-sized firms, which are hot due to the ebb and flow of tax season at the start of the year, and growth at mid-tier accounting firms.

Regardless, the sweeping new rules on Wall Street mean that accountants will be in demand. CPA's figure to do a lot of the legwork in evaluating investment reporting, and ensuring proper oversight of risk controls.