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Why Forensic Accounting?

In a 2012 report, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) estimated that approximately 5% of annual revenue around the world is lost to fraud. Globally, this translates to $3.5 trillion in potential losses. Fraud is difficult to detect and counteract. The typical perpetrator is intelligent, well educated and in a position that allows them to easily cover their tracks. It is the job of a forensic accountant to uncover evidence of illicit activity and help bring the fraudster to justice.

Forensic accountants are fortunate in having a diverse range of entry-level options available to them. Unlike other career paths in the accounting world, forensic auditors tend to perform the same functions throughout their career and move up from analyst, to manager, to supervisor/senior consultant over the course of their employment. Compensation generally begins around $50,000 (ACFE stat) and increases with professional certification, education, and years of experience. Senior level auditors can earn a salary upwards of $150,000.

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A bachelor’s degree is beneficial to start your career. This article will look at samples of college programs offering forensic accounting, including their respective classes/courses. The following examples will provide an overview of the types of courses you can expect.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, a non-profit school in Florida, offers a Bachelor of Science in Forensic Accounting and Fraud Examination. The degree emphasizes accounting, with business, computer, law, and security courses rounding out the students’ knowledge. The coursework includes accounting, criminal justice, finance, and cybersecurity studies and prepares students for the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) exam and certification.

Franklin University began in 1902, as a private nonprofit institution in central Ohio. Their Bachelor of Science in Forensic Accounting Degree program is available online. The major courses consist of 36 hours. Some of these are:

Fraud Examination: This course provides an overview of the behavioral research associated with occupational fraud and the methodology of fraud examination.

Interviewing Techniques: This course provides an overview of techniques and strategies used in interviewing and interrogating occupational fraud suspects and other parties of interest.

California College San Diego, a non-profit school, offers a 36-month online Bachelor of Science with a Forensic Accounting emphasis. Some of the course titles are Principles of Accounting, Principles of Finance, Fraud Examination, Legal Elements of Fraud, and Accounting Research and Analysis. Only 19.5 of the 181 total hours focus on forensic accounting.

Another title for this degree field is a Bachelor of Science in Accounting Systems & Forensics. Topics include accounting database design and development, business process mapping, accounting software, data analytics, internal control, cybersecurity, IT Audit and forensic accounting. This program includes more business courses than others do, such as microeconomics, business law, macroeconomics, and marketing. The major courses deal with forensic accounting, IT auditing, and cybersecurity. The latter examines IT security fundamentals and the role of information security in the enterprise.

A New York state college offers a Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation. This program has two concentrations:

The Financial Investigation concentration teaches students forensic accounting skills to pinpoint and document potential financial misdeeds. Coursework in the concentration includes accounting concepts and procedures, data analysis, methods of detecting fraud and tracing illicit funds, the steps of due diligence, and damage assessment.

The Fraud Prevention and Detection concentration teaches you to identify potential deception and other forms of economic crimes as well as areas of potential vulnerability to fraud and economic crime. Topics include investigation and interviewing techniques, the use of technology in detecting and preventing crime, government and legal regulations, and how to recognize suspicious behavior patterns.

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Both of these concentrations take you into the arena of fraud analysis, cybersecurity, financial fraud, investigative procedures, and technology.

As stated above, there are programs, which focus more on the criminal elements of accounting. Of these, some are part of  the school’s College of Criminal Justice. A degree titled-Bachelor of Science in Economics with a specialization in Fraud Examination and Financial Forensics prepares students for a successful career in Fraud Examination. Class work studies The Individual and Society, Foundations in Accounting, Business Law, Macroeconomics, and Finance.

The course of study, for the typical program in this discipline, consists of 120 credit hours. Coursework includes fraud prevention and ethics, basic accounting foundations and principles, business management skills, and engagement with the technological aspects of the field, including Excel and other software related competencies. Students may also engage with a practicum, internship, and/or research project.

Many degrees offer the provision of being eligible to take the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) and/or the Certified in Financial Forensics Credential (CFF). Many forensic accounting and fraud examiner positions will require one of these credentials. In addition, certified forensic accountants earn on average 25% more than their uncertified colleagues do.

Employment

The U.S. Bureau of Labor (BLS) only recognizes the occupation of Financial Examiner. The BLS expects the job growth rate at 10% with a change in 5,100 jobs over ten years–through 2026. The median salary was $81,690 as of May 2017, with a bachelor’s degree.