Forensic Accounting Degree
Most accounting firms now have a department of forensic accountants that are hired by government agencies, businesses and other entities. Nobody wants to be caught in the middle of a corporate scandal these days! The Enron scandal will forever change the landscape of corporate accounting and auditing. Forensic accountants are charged to constantly and actively look for incidents of fraud and other white collar crimes amidst financial transactions. If you are interested in crunching financial numbers, auditing, investigating, providing evidence in legal cases and helping prevent fraud then a forensic accounting degree may just be a good fit.
Online Forensic Accounting Programs
Certain universities and colleges offer forensic accounting programs either at the certificate, Bachelors or Masters levels. You can also take a Bachelor of Science/Commerce in Accounting with a specialization in Forensic Accounting. With the availability of remote technology, many of these institutions can offer online forensic accounting degree or diploma programs. Completing an online program allows you to study at a time and place that conveniently match your lifestyle. Depending on what level of education you pursue, length of study varies from eight weeks for a certificate program to four plus years for undergraduate/graduate degrees. As part of a forensic accounting degree, you will complete courses that delve into areas such as criminal justice, fraud prevention, white collar crime, criminal investigation, forensic accounting procedures, computer forensics, auditing, interview techniques, statistics and database management.
Forensic Accounting Certification
The American College of Forensic Examiners International offers a Certified Forensic Accounting (Cr.FA®) program. The program allows candidates to complete a certification exam and provides them with a reference manual to study before taking the exam. Candidates that pass the exam can then use the designation Cr.FA®. To be eligible for this designation and taking the forensic accounting certification exam, candidates must have already completed a Bachelors degree, be a licensed CPA (Certified Public Accountant) and provide the names and contact information of three professional references.
The American Institute of CPAs also offers a credential program – the Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF) credential. Interested candidates should also be a licensed CPA and pass a certification exam. The Institute also requires five years of accounting experience and evidence that you are engaging in continuous, professional education.
Some forensic accountants also gain certification through completing an exam with the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.
Forensic Accounting FAQ’s
Should I earn an accounting degree or a forensics degree? How can I incorporate both into my education?
It is better to earn an accounting degree over a general forensics education to become a certified forensic accountant. Since you have to be a licensed CPA to sit for the forensic accounting certification exam, you need to meet the educational requirements to sit for the Uniform CPA Examination to become a CPA. The educational requirements vary from state to state. For example, in North Carolina a minimum of 30 semester hours of your Bachelors degree must be in accounting; in Washington, your Bachelor degree must have included at least 24 semester hours in accounting and 24 semester hours in business courses. To visit the CPA Examination and certification educational requirements by state, visit: http://www.becker.com/accounting/cpaexamreview/ state/.
You may have the option of taking elective courses from the forensics or forensic sciences faculty at your institution while pursuing an accounting or forensic accounting degree. Courses such as Justice Studies and Research Methods from this faculty may prove useful for you understanding the criminal justice system and building up your investigative skills.
Do I need to be a CPA (Chartered Public Accountant) to become a forensic accountant?
Most accounting firms and government or corporate employers require accountants to be CPA certified in the first place. Additionally, if you wish to become certified as a forensic accountant through The American College of Forensic Examiners International or The American Institute of CPAs you must be a CPA.
What are the differences between forensic accountants, fraud examiners, and internal auditors? Do they overlap?
Although it may depend on who you ask, and while there is overlap between the three roles, there are distinctive differences between forensic accountants, fraud examiners and internal auditors. Forensic accountants are strictly accountants (usually CPAs), whereas fraud examiners and internal auditors may come from a variety of educational backgrounds and expertise. Forensic accountants tend to be hired to always look for potential occurrences of fraud and white crimes among financial transactions to reduce the risk of litigation. Internal auditors are not only looking for occurrences of fraud, but monitoring all financial processes and developing plans to avoid the risk of fraud. Fraud examiners tend to delve deeper into suspected cases of fraud and seek evidence to prove or disprove these occurrences. However, certain internal auditors and forensic accountants may choose to fill this detective role as well.
What types of employers hire forensic accountants?
Major accounting firms are all starting to hire accountants for their forensic departments. Also, government agencies, corporations, non-profit organizations and any other entity wishing to avoid the risk of financial scandal will hire a forensic accountant.
What degree level do I need to become a forensic accountant?
Generally, it is recommended that you have a Bachelor degree (with courses in accounting and business) to become a forensic accountant, especially if you want to be certified. In some cases, however, professional experience can be used as a substitute for credits or years of study. If you already have a Bachelor degree under your belt and know nothing about the field of forensic accounting, then taking a Masters Forensic Accounting Degree will prepare you immensely for this career. For those just getting started, an associates program could help set up a solid foundation for further education and development.
Do I need a degree or formal education to become a certified forensic accountant?
Whether you seek certification from The American College of Forensic Examiners International, The American Institute of CPAs or the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, you generally need a minimum of a Bachelors degree, although exceptions are sometimes made for relevant professional experience.