Forecast: Tech Positions to See Highest 2012 Pay Gains

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U.S. starting salaries for white collar professionals will increase an average of 3.4 percent in 2012, according to a forecast by staffing firm Robert Half International. Technology positions are projected to see the largest gains among all fields researched, with an anticipated 4.5 percent increase in base compensation. Accounting and finance professionals can expect starting salaries to rise an average of 3.5 percent, according to the research.

"Businesses seek professionals who can help them enhance their technology and accounting infrastructures," said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International. "For many firms, the question isn't whether to implement improvements but how quickly they can find the talent to do so."

Below is an overview of hiring trends in the fields covered by the firm's 2012 Salary Guides, released in October 2011 and downloadable online at no charge:

Accounting and Finance
The research forecasts an average starting salary increase in 2012 of 3.5 percent for accounting and finance positions. Companies are hiring professionals who can identify and support growth opportunities, such as financial analysts and business systems analysts. Tax accountants who can help firms navigate complex corporate tax laws are in demand as well.

Overall, base compensation for information technology (IT) professionals is expected to increase 4.5 percent in 2012. Systems and networking engineers are in particularly strong demand as businesses look to expand their capabilities and transition to cloud computing. Mobile applications developers are seeing demand for their services, given the proliferation of mobile devices.

Creative and Marketing
Professionals in creative fields can expect average starting salary gains of 3.5 percent in 2012, the research suggests. Those with interactive skills, such as user experience (UX) designers, are especially sought after as firms look to improve their web presence and transition many of their marketing programs online.

In the legal field, starting salaries are anticipated to rise 1.9 percent, on average, in 2012. Lawyers with four to nine years of experience in high-growth practice areas—such as litigation, labor and employment, real estate and corporate law—are seeing greater demand, the research shows.

Administrative and Office Support
Overall starting salaries for administrative professionals are expected to rise 3.4 percent in 2012. Companies that had streamlined support staff are now adding experienced executive and administrative assistants who can increase efficiencies, support key company projects and provide excellent customer service. Growth in the health care industry is fueling demand for administrative personnel with experience in this sector.

Information in the guides is based on thousands of job searches, negotiations and placements managed each year by Robert Half's staffing and recruiting managers, along with the company's ongoing surveys of executives. Continuing or ongoing salaries are not reported because many external factors—such as seniority, work ethic, job performance and training—impact the salaries of full-time professionals as work histories develop.

Stephen MillerCEBSis an online editor/manager for SHRM.