Forensic Accountant Careers

ENTRY LEVEL EDUCATION

Bachelor's Degree in Accounting

CAREER TRAINING

Accounting Certification

NUMBER OF JOBS

1,216,000

JOB OPENINGS

19,700

JOB GROWTH

16%

AVG. SALARY

$61,690 /yr

$29.66 /hr

All Stats from BLS.gov

Forensic accountants are the detectives of the accounting world. They analyze financial transactions, records, and accounts to find evidence for criminal activity. They play an important role in identifying instances of white-collar crime, such as bribery, embezzlement, securities fraud, theft, or tax evasion.

Forensic Accountant Job Description

Many people think of accounting as a rather solitary field, but forensic accountants are often called upon in a public-speaking capacity. A big part of a forensic accountant’s job involves delivering presentations in court and serving as an expert witness; forensic accountants are often called upon to explain their conclusions in laymen’s terms. They work closely with the legal system, and must have an in-depth understanding of laws and regulations that affect various financial and accounting practices and transactions.

Becoming a Forensic Accountant

Forensic accounting is a highly specialized field. Most positions require at least a Bachelor’s degree to start; it’s best to have a degree in accounting, statistics, finance, or another related field. Some employers prefer to hire people with Master’s degrees.

There are few degree programs that focus specifically on forensic accounting. However, there are a handful of universities that offer specialized degrees in areas such as internal auditing, which may be more relevant to the forensic accounting field than a generalized accounting degree.

Once you have a Bachelor’s degree, you’ll likely need certification. The most common certification is the CPA, or Certified Public Accountant credential. Administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, it’s required for any accountant filing reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This is generally not part of a forensic accountant’s job, but the CPA is frequently required by accounting firms even when it’s not required by law—so it can still be useful for your career.

There are also, however, specific forensic accountant certification programs. These include the Certified Forensic Accountant (CrFA) credential, offered by the American College of Forensic Examiners International (ACFEI); the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) credential from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE); and the Certified Fraud Specialist (CFS) designation from the

Where to Find Forensic Accounting Jobs

Forensic accountants may work in salaried positions for accounting firms, or they may work directly for companies. A lot of forensic accountants work for the government, in both local, regional, and federal agencies as well as for the FBI, the IRS, and the CIA.

It’s possible more private companies will hire salaried forensic accountants in the future to deal with increased financial regulation at the federal level. Forensic accountants can also be highly useful in uncovering the real picture of a company’s financial status during mergers and acquisitions. In addition, some forensic accountants are self-employed.

Acceptance of Online Degrees in Forensic Accounting

The level of acceptance for online finance degree programs will depend, in large part, on the employer, the industry, and often on the individual hiring manager.

It’s worth pointing out that accounting is a knowledge-based field in which forms of learning that do not require an in-person component tend to be more accepted. In addition, many of the certification programs in the field offer studies either partially or entirely online, so many employers are used to online education in this area.

However, accounting can also be a fairly conservative industry that puts a great deal of weight on the reputation of the school you went to—especially in the more prestigious “Big Four” accounting firms. If in doubt, choose an established traditional school with a decent online degree program in forensic accounting or another accounting specialty.

Average Forensic Accounting Salary

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, accountants and auditors in general earned an average of $61,690 as of 2010. Those at the lower end of the pay scale earned about $38,940, while those at the top earned over $106,880.

Forensic Accountant Job Outlook

The field of auditors and accountants as a whole is projected to grow 16% in the coming decade—about as fast as the projected growth for all professions nationwide. The

Pros and Cons of Becoming a Forensic Accountant 

This field requires some extra credentialing in the form of the CPA and more specific credentials in addition to a Bachelor’s or Masters degree. And its job growth is about average—making it not a sure bet in this economy. However, very few positions are sure bets—and forensic accounting also pays fairly well. In addition, it has a certain amount of glamour associated with it compared to other accounting positions. Take your time to look into it—and decide whether forensic accounting is a good match for you.

Where to Look for Forensic Accounting Jobs

CareerBuilder.com

SimplyHired.com

Indeed.com