In October 2019, the Palm Beach Post reported on a scandal involving the former chief financial officer of Jerome Golden Center for Behavioral Health, which has locations near Riviera Beach and Palm Bay. The CFO resigned in August after an internal investigation revealed that the treatment facility had fallen into major debt and was close to becoming insolvent; two weeks after the CFO’s departure, executives of the Jerome Golden Center learned of a federal indictment against him, and they consider retaining a forensic accounting firm to learn exactly about what really happened.
The work of forensic accounting professionals is seldom mentioned in news headlines; in the case of the aforementioned Palm Beach Post story, forensic accounting occupies just a single line amidst a dozen paragraphs. A month before the Jerome Golden Center case was reported, a Miami Beach nursing home operator was sentenced to 20 years in prison after an investigation revealed that he had defrauded Medicare of more than $1 billion, thus making this the largest healthcare fraud case in history; to secure a conviction in this case, federal prosecutors presented reams of forensic accounting reports.
In case you are not familiar with the field of forensic accounting, it helps to think about the popular “CSI Miami” television series; when you see forensic scientists using special flashlights to illuminate every inch of a crime scene, you can think about forensic accountants carefully reviewing financial records, statements, transactions, correspondence, and even social media accounts as they investigate fraud, money laundering, tax evasion, illicit enrichment, embezzlement, and other irregularities. As the name of their field suggests, forensic accountants operate in a capacity whereby their reports and findings can be used to determine the outcome of court cases; however, their work expands to other situations.
Forensic Accounting as a Professional Occupation
Even though the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics does not track forensic accounting separately, looking at the career outlook of accountants and auditors helps to shine a light in this regard. Certified Public Accountants are at the top of this professional field; if they are also forensic accounting and auditing specialists, they can earn more than $120,000 per year on average. The median pay of accountants in the U.S. was $70,500 per year in 2018, which is nearly double of what all other American workers make.
Since forensic accounting is a specialty within the accounting profession, those who choose this career can expect to earn more than the average annual salary. As for job demand, accountants and auditors are projected to see a 6% job growth from now until the year 2028, which is about the same as the national average. The good news for forensic accounting specialists is that their special skills make them more attractive to employers because financial crime and civil disputes at the corporate level never cease.
It is important to keep in mind that forensic accountants may be called upon to investigate matters that will not necessarily end up going to court. In many cases, fraud examinations are conducted to detect irregularities that can be improved upon through staffing or operational decisions.
Forensic Accounting Specializations
Accounting professionals in the U.S. can obtain forensic certifications through two main self-regulating bodies: the National Association of Forensic Accountants and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. The former is for CPA professionals while the latter is for individuals who have completed at least a bachelor’s degree program such as the ones granted by Florida National University, a private college serving the needs of students in the Miami metropolitan area. To learn more about the accounting programs offered by FNU, contact one of our admissions counselors today.
The NAFA certification focuses on full fraud auditing. The CFE credential is open to those who join the association and pass the examination. Most forensic accounting professionals start with ACFE membership before pursuing the CPA path and joining NAFA. Becoming a CFE opens the door to many jobs in law firms, banks, corporate accounting departments, investment firms, accountancy shops, law enforcement agencies, and auditing companies. NAFA members are more likely to appear in court as expert witnesses in high-profile cases.
Becoming a Forensic Accountant
There are various ways you can get into the accounting field before pursuing a forensic specialty. FNU offers Associate of Science and Associate of Arts in Accounting programs, but you will need a Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree to pursue the CFE credential. For your convenience, all FNU accounting programs can be fully completed online so that you can balance your work and family obligations.
FNU is fully accredited to grant college degrees by the Southern Association of Colleges and the Florida Department of Education. We offer two campus locations in Miami for students who enjoy traditional classroom environments, and qualified students may receive financial assistance or even scholarships. Learn more about our accounting degree programs by contacting FNU admissions today.