While traditional accountants and CPAs (Certified Public Accountants) have been around for centuries, a new breed of accountants, “Forensic Accountants”, have only come into existence during the last few years. Well, truth be known, forensic accountants have been around as long as the profession of accounting has existed. However, it’s just been in recently years, given the growth in white collar criminal activity and the increasing complexity of financial crimes, that forensic accounting has become a mainstream branch of accounting with its own set of specialized processes, procedures and training requirements. Forensic accountants use state-of-the-art technology and employ sophisticated investigative methods, techniques and specialized auditing procedures to investigate and apprehend white-collar criminals. Forensic accountants assist lawyers with complex litigation proceedings, bankruptcies and contract disputes, and appear as expert witnesses during trials. They also help law enforcement officers investigate money laundering schemes, prove that fraud and/or embezzlement has occured, and analyze complex criminal financial transactions. In short, forensic accountants are the crime watchdogs of the financial world.
Job Growth in Forensic Accounting
In 2002, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was established by congress in response to the litany of corporate accounting scandals of recent years and in a effort to thwart corporations’ irresponsible, deceptive, possibly criminal accounting and financial reporting practices. This act forces businesses to more accurately report their financial position and strengthen the integrity of their financial systems. As as result, accountants in all specialties, including forensic accounting, can look forward to strong and stable job growth and demand for years to come.
Unfortunately, crime is on the rise–particulary white collar crime. Financial crime is more prevalent than ever before, and its more complex than ever before too. Gone are the days, when your run-of-the-mill police officers could track down and catch your average white collar criminal kiting checks. Why? Because white collar criminals aren’t average anymore. They use sophisticated techniques, strategies and technologies to perpetrate fraud, embezzle money, and commit bribery in ways never before imagined. To address the growing need for advanced financial criminal investigation most accounting firms now have a separate forensic accounting division that specializes in fraud, embezzlement, personal injury claims, insurance claims, and other forms of potential criminal activity. In addition to accounting firms, forensic accountants work with insurance companies, police units, government agencies, education institutions and as independent consultants.
Education and Training Requirement
While there aren’t any specific requirements for becoming a forensic accountant, the majority of firms, agencies and organizations that hire for this specialty will require that candidates possess the following credentials:
- A bachelor’s degree in accounting or forensic accounting. However, most employers seeking forensic accounting professionals will require that candidates have a master’s degree in accounting and/or be a licensed CPA.
- Certified Financial Forensic Accountant (CFFA) or Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) designation. Either of these credentials can be earned by studying for and passing the CFFA and/or CFE exams. To sit for the CFE exam you must have a bachelor’s degree in accounting and at least two years of related work experience.
- Membership in a reputable industry association such as the American College of Forensic Examiners (ACFE).
Degrees, certificates and training programs that will prepare you to become a forensic accountant are offered at college campuses across America. However, given that much, if not all, of the coursework required to earn an accounting degree can be hosted on the Internet, there are now a large number of reputable and accredited schools and colleges that offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in accounting entirely online. Online accounting degrees will not only qualify you for a career in forensic accounting, they offer the flexibility to earn your degree while you work full-time or pursue your career.
Forensic Accounting Degrees and Programs
Southern New Hampshire University
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