In recent years, the importance of forensic accounting has been growing rapidly. This is a professional field with a landscape that is being shaped by the rise of financial technology (FinTech). Forensic accounting specialists do not only work for law enforcement agencies; they can also be found in the compliance departments of business entities, at law firms, banks, and government agencies. The majority of forensic accountants are hired for compliance purposes; they make sure a company’s finances are being kept safe and in good order.
While many companies have always had in-house accountants to monitor and minimize any irregularities or complications that may arise over the course of regular business, sophisticated instances of fraudulent activity are becoming increasingly common.
Modern businesses are bound to find cleverly masked fraudulent activity when they go through their books, but only when forensic accountants find such evidence. Forensic accountants are often called upon by insurance companies to investigate specific suspicions of fraudulent activity, or they can sometimes be brought on as a preventative measure.
Florida National University, an accredited private college serving the South Florida community, gives individuals interested in the forensic accounting field a solid chance to get started. FNU offers both associate and bachelor degree programs to help students get started in accounting, the first step to take before getting into forensics.
Prospective students stand to gain valuable information through FNU accounting degree programs that can be fully completed online and with the benefit of financial assistance for those who qualify. Get in touch with FNU admissions counselors to learn more about the career opportunities waiting for you in the world of accounting.
What is Forensic Accounting?
Forensic accounting is the use of accounting skills to investigate fraud, embezzlement and other irregularities hidden as financial transactions. In many cases, forensic accounting investigations are used in legal proceedings, but they are also used for compliance efforts and to prevent crimes.
Whereas traditional accounting deals in the assessment of business funds and properly conveying information to investors and management, a forensic accountant is called upon to investigate the flow of funds through a business for the purpose of evaluating the paths they take and determine whether illegal transactions have occurred.
A forensic accountant investigates a wide range of different activities related to fraud that can take place within corporate, healthcare, real estate, mass marketing, hedge funds, and securities trading fields.
These professionals may also investigate other crimes such as contract disagreements, money laundering, bribery, and embezzlement. While the duties of forensic accountants mainly lead them to investigate and analyze, they may also be called upon to serve as expert witnesses in court.
There are instances in which the skills forensic accountants employ are used in more personal matters. In a dissolution of a marriage, for example, a forensic accountant will review the financial situations of both parties as well as their spending to advance the settlement process and to provide attorneys with accurate information to use in court. Forensic accountants are able to trace assets through investment accounts, and they can also identify hidden income or assets.
Importance of Forensic Accountant
As a modern discipline, forensic accounting is beginning to see many avenues for additional skills that go beyond accounting and finances. There is a greater need for knowledge of the legal process and information technology.
Forensic accounting has seen increased demand because we have seen the emergence of hopeful entrepreneurs and business professionals setting up their own enterprises. Each year, half a million startup companies are established startups, many of them with the intention of operating solely online.
With the current reliance on internet technologies, the role of forensic accountants has expanded accordingly. Online financial transactions give prospective lawbreakers a false sense of security because they believe that they can easily conceal their tracks; nonetheless, sophisticated individuals can use the internet to obfuscate illegal transactions, and this is when the expertise of forensic accountants is called upon.
With new technology, forensic accountants can sift through countless email messages and ledgers as they look for fraudulent activity, but in many cases, they must still sort through boxes of paper files.
How Do You Become a Forensic Accountant
The process of becoming a certified forensic accountant is similar to that of a traditional accountant. For the most part, you start off with a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related subject. To truly advance in your field, you will need to pursue the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) path, which requires passing a national exam and meeting other state requirements.
Nearly all states require CPA candidates to complete 150 semester hours of college coursework to be certified, which is about 30 hours over the traditional four-year bachelor’s degree. Additionally, forensic accounting positions require a minimum of one to three years of accounting experience, which can be acquired by working as a general accountant.
Often, employers will encourage obtaining the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) credentials because of the technical knowledge it provides for carrying out investigations. With CFE credentials, forensic accountants have an advanced understanding of fraud and data analysis procedures that will aid them considerably in the search for criminal activity. In the U.S., the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners issues certificates to members in good standing who have completed a bachelor’s degree program.
Forensic Accountant Job Outlook
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 Examples
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.
FNU’s Forensic Accounting Degree Program
FNU takes pride in giving students the knowledge and skills necessary to take advantage of fresh opportunities like those found in the forensic accounting field. Staying informed about current developments in the workplace is the key to building a solid career plan that will bring you closer to your dream job. Put your educational aspirations in motion by contacting one of our admissions advisers today.
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.