For upcoming business professionals with an analytical mind and a passion for solving crimes, a career in forensic accounting might be the perfect fit. Forensic accountants act as financial detectives, sifting through financial records to help solve crimes and prevent fraud. This scope of work can include everyday activities like working on divorces to helping catch some of the world’s biggest criminals, like Sam Bankman-Fried of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX.
Business professionals can develop their forensic accounting expertise in programs like the Eastern Washington University (EWU) online Master of Professional Accounting (MPAcc) in Business Analysis and Reporting program, which offers courses focused on the various aspects of financial crime. Regardless of the path you choose, one aspect is certain: the need for international forensic accounts will likely grow as the business world becomes increasingly interconnected. If you want to pursue a career in forensic accounting, you should consider the responsibilities and potential outcomes of this profession.
What is Forensic Accounting?
Forensic accounting is the process of investigating the finances of an individual or business in search of crimes. Forensic accountants commonly work for insurance companies, financial institutions and law enforcement agencies. According to Indeed.com, this type of work occurs in three main industries: litigation support, criminal investigations and insurance.
Forensic accountants play a critical role in helping uncover potential financial crimes, particularly “white-collar” crimes. Forensic accountants are crucial in ensuring criminals are held accountable for their actions. In many cases, they are also responsible for interpreting complex financial data and communicating it to a judge, jury, regulator or law enforcement. Common scenarios that may require forensic accountants include:
- Employee theft
- Identity theft
- Securities fraud
- Insurance fraud
- Falsification of financial statement information
In addition to uncovering and reporting any wrongdoing, forensic accountants assign a quantifiable number to financial crimes. For example, if a hedge fund manager is convicted of embezzling a client’s money, then a forensic accountant might help determine the fine that this fund manager ultimately has to pay.
Anyone preparing to enter this industry would be well advised to study international forensic accounting because the world continues to grow more globalized. Most major corporations already have operations overseas, and understanding international practices will make you a much more attractive candidate to prominent companies.
Pursuing a Forensic Accounting Career
Due to the complex nature of forensic accounting, you should obtain certain credentials before entering the workforce. To pursue a career in forensic accounting, you usually must earn a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) qualification. These certifications are not 100% necessary, but they will make you a more appealing candidate. In addition to these qualifications, many also pursue an advanced degree.
EWU’s MPAcc in Business Analysis and Reporting online program prepares graduates to take the CPA exam. It refines students’ skills in accounting law, taxation, auditing and leadership. Graduates of EWU’s program are equipped to pursue roles like CPA, financial manager, forensic accountant, controller, accounting consultant and chief financial officer.
Once they’ve acquired the right certifications, forensic accountants can earn an average salary of $93,527 a year, but the top percentile of forensic accounting specialists earn up to $156,000, according to ZipRecruiter. Another benefit is the wide range of employers you can work for once you’ve entered the ranks. Potential employers for forensic accountants include:
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
- Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
- Law enforcement
- State and local governments
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
- S. Department of Defense (DOD)
- Government Accountability Office (GAO)
Few other career routes let you transfer skills so seamlessly between such established organizations.
Become a Forensic Accounting Foundation With an Advanced Degree
The first step to becoming a forensic accountant is to pursue an undergraduate degree in accounting, finance, business or a similar field. This is required before you can obtain the recommended CPA of CRE certification. From there, another vital step is obtaining an advanced degree.
Securing an advanced degree in accounting will make you a more attractive job candidate. In addition, employers will sometimes even count an MBA as comparable to job experience.
Beyond entering the workforce and gaining experience firsthand, programs like EWU’s are an excellent way to prepare for a career in international forensic accounting. Graduates gain the in-demand skills needed to achieve accounting success on an international scale.
Learn more about EWU’s online MPAcc in Business Analysis and Reporting program.