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Forensic Accounting

Forensic Accounting Degree Programs

Forensic accountants are essentially the private investigators of the financial world. They are brought in by companies to examine procedures, quotes, losses, claims, personal records and other financial statements and analyze if there has been any fraud. People interested in this field of work can pursue a college education at the associate, bachelor or graduate level. Many schools also offer students the chance to enroll in online, on-campus, or a hybrid program.

Whichever learning format students choose, the fundamental coursework should remain the same. Undergraduate topics can include accounting principles, financial statement analysis, business law, and the use of computer technology for investigative purposes. Other areas of focus can include techniques for interviewing during investigations and the detection of fraudulent financial statements.

Graduate programs may expand on these topics, and include new ones such as managing multinational corporations, advanced taxation principles, computer forensics, and information systems auditing. Individuals interested in pursuing graduate forensic accounting degrees generally need to have earned a bachelor's degree in accounting or business. Other possible prerequisites to applying can include a current copy of a resume, transcripts from prior college attendance, and copies of GMAT or GRE scores.

Applications requirements at all academic levels vary from school to school, so be sure to contact an admissions councilor to clarify any questions or confusion.

Forensic Accounting Careers

Individuals who earn a degree in forensic accounting may have the opportunity to work for a private company, nonprofit organization, or governmental agency to make sure transactions are legal, that contracts are upheld, and that no one is embezzling money. They might also work with lawyers and law enforcement officials on cases that involve business fraud, and may testify in court as an expert witness. For an overview of the forensic accountant occupation, refer to the table below:

Occupation

Common Duties

Typical Education Requirements

Certification Options

State Licensure Required?

Forensic Accountant

  • Identify possible assets for recovery in a fraud case.
  • Analyze financial information.
  • Testifies in court as an expert witness when called upon.

Bachelor's or master's degree

  • The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners recommends individuals earn one of three possible certifications: Certified Fraud Examiner, Certified Public Accountant, or Chartered Accountant.
  • Only if becoming a Certified Public Accountant
  • Accountants who file reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission must become licensed CPAs.

Those who earn a degree in forensic accounting may be able to pursue several related positions as well, such as:

Occupation

Common Duties

Typical Education Requirements

Certification Options

State Licensure Required?

Public Accountant

  • Work with tax forms, balance sheets, and other financial records that must be disclosed.

Bachelor's Degree

  • The American Institute of CPAs awards the Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV), Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP) and Personal Financial Specialist titles. (All require CPA licensure.)
Only if becoming a Certified Public Accountant

Internal Auditor

  • Monitor funds for mismanagement or possible fraud.
  • Identify ways to improve the use of company money and eliminate waste.

Bachelor's Degree

  • The Institute of Internal Auditors offers four certifications: the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), the Certified in Control Self-Assessment (CCSA), the Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP) and the Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA).

Only if becoming a Certified Public Accountant

Financial Investigator

  • Work on financial profiles of companies and individuals who may be involved in large monetary transactions.
  • Find assets to cover damages in fraud and theft cases.

Bachelor's Degree

N/A

No

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012

Job Outlook and Salary for Forensic Accountants

Forensic accounting degrees may give individuals the opportunity to work in a number of different capacities. The following table shows the possible growth rate and potential salary of the positions called out above.

Occupation

Annual Mean Wage

United States

(May 2012)

Projected # of New Jobs

United States

(2010-2020)

Projected Job Growth Rate

United States

(2010-2020)

Accountants and Auditors

$71,040

190,700

16% (Above national average)

Private Detectives and Investigators

$50,780

7,100

21% (Above national average)

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012; Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, 2013

*Salaries and employment opportunities may vary based on experience, education, location and other factors.

Sources:

Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, "Forensic Accountant," 2013

http://www.acfe.com/career-path-forensic-accountant.aspx

Accountants and Auditors, May 2012 Occupational Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013

http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes132011.htm

Accountants and Auditors, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012

http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Business-and-Financial/Accountants-and-auditors.htm

Private Detectives and Investigators, May 2012 Occupational Employment and Wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013

http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes339021.htm

Private Detectives and Investigators, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012

http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Protective-Service/Private-detectives-and-investigators.htm