The field of forensic accounting has grown tremendously over the past decade due to an intense interest in investigating the accounts of major corporations and businesses. Forensic accountants or auditors check the records of a business to see if their financial statements are correct and reflect the money they have taken in and paid out as a company. Some forensic accountants also reconstruct money flows to determine if crimes such as money laundering have taken place.
What Type of Degree Do Forensic Accountants Have?
Forensic accountants take the same degree as certified public accountants or other financial accountants but they focus on the auditing skills of the job rather than simply on accounting for money. Most forensic accounts are also CPAs, but they take extra classes designed to give them special skills in tracking down money.
Most students begin by taking a four-year degree in accounting then obtain a master’s in forensic accounting. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners offers a Certified Government Financial Managers or CGFM accreditation to those who complete certain coursework and pass an examination. Accountants who receive the CGFM accreditation are required to complete ongoing continuing education classes in order to maintain their certification status.
Passing the Certified Public Accounting or CPA test for your state should be your first goal after graduation. Preparing for this test often means months of study, and most programs prepare students to take the exam through various study groups or classes. Once you have your CPA certification, you can pursue certification as a forensic accountant.
Where Do Forensic Accountants Work?
Forensic accountants work primarily with government agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation or state investigative bureaus, where they spend their time examining financial records of companies or individuals suspected of fraud. Other forensic accountants work in private industries such as companies that hire themselves out to do internal fraud investigations within corporations or businesses.
Some companies combine the job of a forensic accountant with that of other types of auditing. For example, some computer auditing firms hire forensic accountants as part of a team that investigates entire computer systems for fraudulent use or entries. These teams often travel to company sites to audit their systems and determine whether any misuse or hacking has occurred.
How Much Do Forensic Accountants Earn?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, accountants of all types earn a median annual salary of $61,690 per year with a four-year degree. With a specialization in forensic accounting, one may be in line to earn somewhat more than the median salary for all accountants.
What Is the Job Outlook for Forensic Accountants?
Jobs for accountants are predicted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to grow by 16 percent over the next ten years.
If you enjoy the criminal investigative aspects of accounting, forensic accounting could be the perfect job field for you. However, you should have or develop the skill of great attention to detail as well as an intuitiveness that allows you to think “outside the box” and investigate leads that will turn up financial wrongdoing. If you have the type of personality that allows you to think both in a linear and abstract way, you could find great satisfaction working as a forensic accountant.