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In a complex global economy that relies more and more on technology year by year, the demand for forensic accountants is expected to increase. But is this the right area for you? What kinds of jobs will you be tasked with, what educational requirements will you need to meet, and what kind of job prospects or earning potential can you expect over the next decade? This article answers all of these questions and more so you can determine if a forensic accounting degree program might be compatible with your interests, goals, and skills.

What is a Forensic Accountant?

A forensic accountant uses accounting and analytical skills to investigate the financial transactions of a person or business. They are often called upon as experts in legal cases involving financial fraud or embezzlement. Due to their background which combines bookkeeping and the ability to see the numbers in history, they are able to use their skills to find out what those numbers are trying to hide.

What do forensic accountants do?

Forensic accountants assist businesses, government entities and other organizations in the increasingly complex – and increasingly critical – task of identifying fraud, embezzlement and related financial crimes, while providing Critical investigative information about civil issues such as breaches of contract or bankruptcy filings. By applying specialized skills such as gathering evidence and reconstructing transactions, forensic accountants perform in-depth financial analyzes that serve as essential evidence in civil and criminal legal proceedings, while helping organizations identify and mitigate the risks of fraud.

As the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) explains, “many forensic accountants work closely with law enforcement and attorneys during investigations and often appear as expert witnesses at trials” . But don’t think that means your days as a forensic accountant will be repetitive or routine. According to Peter Grupe, former special agent in charge of white-collar criminal cases for the FBI office in New York, “There really is no typical day in forensic accounting. Some days you might be crunching numbers, some days you might be interviewing, and other days you might be reviewing documents.

a man who studies textbooks

How to become a forensic accountant

Whether working with government agencies, business entities, or individual taxpayers, forensic accountants must possess a high level of skill and are usually required to hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in accounting or a related field, such as finance. While these types of programs typically require four or more years, National University offers a unique accelerated structure that allows students to graduate and pursue full-time careers sooner.

If your target goal is to become a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) – an optional professional certification, similar to becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) – you will also need to earn your CFE designation, a four-step process that you can review in detail here. Otherwise, keep reading to learn more about graduate and undergraduate programs to become a forensic accountant, as well as some professional organizations you might consider joining.

Training and education

  • Bachelor of Science in Accounting – National University’s Bachelor of Science in Accounting (BS Acc) prepares students for a wide range of careers in and related to forensic accounting by teaching the basic skills and fundamentals of accounting. Courses cover topics such as corporate and personal taxation, data analytics, auditing, ethics, and more, all of which can be taken 100% online for a flexible and flexible learning experience. practice.
  • Master of Science in Accounting – Advance your education and career by pursuing a graduate degree in accounting, such as the Master of Accounting (MACc) at National University. With two unique pathways for students with and without an undergraduate degree in accounting, our accredited Masters in Accounting is ideal for learners from all types of academic and professional backgrounds. The MAcc at NU emphasizes preparation for the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) and CPA exams and covers courses such as individual taxation, conflict and power dynamics, and data analysis.
  • Criminal Justice Course – In addition to a course in forensic accounting (ACC652M), which is part of the Macc program (but not BS Acc), the National University also offers a variety of criminal justice courses, diploma programs and postgraduate programs. certificate that can support a graduate or undergraduate. degree in accounting. Examples of criminal justice courses at National University that might be of interest to accounting students include digital evidence, network defense, and small business law. Some of our criminal justice programs include the Master of Forensic Science, Bachelor of Cyber ​​Security, and Certificate in Legal Studies. Students may also wish to major in accounting and minor in a field related to criminal justice.

Want to learn more about how to get into forensic accounting? Speak to one of our friendly and informative Admissions Counselors to receive detailed information about the programs offered by National University.

Professional forensic accounting organizations

  • National Association of Forensic Accountants (NAFA) — The National Association of Forensic Accountants describes itself as “the oldest CPA association specializing in forensic/investigative accounting”, in addition to being “the fastest growing”. NAFA offers “Intensive Forensic Services Methodology Training…several times a year,” covering topics such as the role of the forensic accountant, forensic services and methodology, and sample forensic case histories. Find out how to join NAFA and why to consider applying for membership.

Forensic accounting applications

An accounting degree opens up countless career paths, providing students with the opportunity to explore a wide range of industries and specialties within forensic analysis. Here are just a few examples of the many forensics-related fields a student can enter after earning an undergraduate or graduate degree in accounting:

  • tax evasion
  • money laundering
  • Securities Fraud
  • Hidden or misappropriated assets
  • Family and marital disputesInsurance claims
  • Economic losses and business bankruptcy
two colleagues discussing reports

Where do forensic accountants work?

Forensic accountants can work in more traditional financial industry firms, such as accounting firms, insurance companies, or banks. Due to their unique skills, forensic accountants may also be called upon to testify in court as expert witnesses in fraud or embezzlement cases. However, they can also work with law enforcement, alongside the police or government agencies. In some cases, forensic accountants are employed directly by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

What is a Certified Fraud Examiner?

Just as more general accounting fields have a designation for Certified Public Accountants (CPA), forensic accountants also have their own distinction. This distinction is known as a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). The CFE accounting field also has its own professional organization, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, which offers career advice and preparation for the CFE exam.

forensic accounting salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide salary information specific to forensic accountants. However, the BLS reports that accountants and auditors earn a median salary of more than $77,000 per year, with a projected 7% change in employment from 2020 to 2030. Forensic accountants are in high demand, as are other types of accountants across the country.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, accounting professions are expected to see about 6% of new job growth. The government agency also notes that the employment rate of accountants and auditors is directly linked to the growth of the economy, requiring more professionals who can review and review financial records.