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Forensic Accountant Degrees and Careers

No matter what type of crime is being investigated, money usually plays a significant role. Looking into financial transactions and following a money trail can help investigators learn a lot about crimes that have been committed, possible fraudulent activities, and even terrorism. However, you need a certain amount of expertise to properly examine and follow financial tracks. Forensic accountants have both the criminal justice skills and the accounting skills to investigate financial crime. If you have the mind of an accountant, but the curiosity of a detective, use our school listings to request more information about criminal justice programs near you.

Forensic Accountant Job Description

Forensic accountants use a variety of tools to get a full picture of someone’s financial activities and habits. You may use accounting software to track spending patterns, look for red flags, and combine information from multiple financial accounts. This job also requires you to work closely with other criminal justice professionals. Your findings may be used by attorneys in a court of law. It’s likely that you’ll also work together with police, investigators, and other law enforcement personnel to help them try to get to the bottom of investigations.

Forensic accounting jobs are often less physically demanding than other criminal justice jobs. Since this job mostly centers around information gathering, interpretation, and analysis, you may spend most of your time sitting at a desk. However, while this job may not be physically demanding, it can be very mentally demanding. You may have to weed through dozens of financial reports, looking for trends and marking items for further investigation.

Common crimes forensic accountants investigate include money laundering, tax evasion, misappropriation of funds, and corruption. For example, in April of 2018, an accountant for the city of Dunbar in West Virginia was arrested for embezzling over $200,000 from the city government. Forensic accountants spent two years putting together a case against her.

You must have quite a bit of education and experience to become a forensic accountant. You’ll likely need a graduate degree in this field, as well as several years of accounting experience. It can take several years to become a forensic accountant, but all your hard work can lead you to a very rewarding career.

How to Become a Forensic Accountant

If you’re considering becoming a forensic accountant, you should know that there are several educational requirements at most employers. You’ll need to start with a bachelor’s degree in either criminal justice or accounting. Since both fields are incorporated into a forensic accounting career, you can choose whichever one is most appealing to you. Note that this is only for students that are planning to pursue a master’s degree after completing a Bachelor’s degree. If you plan on stopping after a bachelor’s degree, you’ll likely need an accounting degree to be considered for forensic accounting positions.

There are many forensic accounting graduate programs in the United States. Quite a few employers require applicants to have specialized training in forensic accounting. You may learn how to detect fraud, develop an understanding of common financial fraud schemes, create programs and systems that catch fraud early, and put together evidence for court cases. You may take courses like Fraud Examination, Fraudulent Financial Reporting, Fraud in the Governmental Environment, and Digital Forensic Analysis.

Several forensic accounting programs prepare you to get your CPA license. This is a crucial part of working as a forensic accountant. The vast majority of employers may require you to get your Certified Public Accountant license before you can be considered for a position.

There may be work experience requirements at many employers. For example, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission requires applicants to have at least one year of specialized work experience in accounting. Other employers have even more intensive requirements, as they look for applicants with three years or more of accounting experience. Some of these requirements may be partially met by a student internship experience.

Forensic Accountant Salary and Career Outlook

According to O*Net, the demand for fraud examiners and fraud investigators is expected to grow between 10-14% between 2016 and 2026. This is faster than average when compared to other careers.

Salaries vary quite a bit in this field. The national average salary is $69,250 per year as of 2017. The average salary in California is similar; fraud investigators in this state earn an average of $71,980. Florida fraud examiners may earn lower salaries, as O*Net reports that the average salary in this state is $65,990 per year. In many states, salaries are significantly higher. In New York, the average fraud examiner earns $84,470 per year.

In some cases, forensic accountants are hired by the federal or state government. Working for the government may allow you to claim a higher salary and excellent benefits. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission offers salaries of up to $201,131 per year.

Learn more about becoming a forensic accountant today. Contact the schools near you to find out which criminal justice program can help you meet your goals!