Career Guide: What Can I Do With An Accounting Degree?

Forensic Accountant

Job Description:

Forensic accountants are specially trained to identify and investigate financial crimes, like securities fraud and embezzlement, bankruptcies, and contract disputes. They use their knowledge of accounting and finance along with their legal and investigative skills to identify illegal activity and participate as expert witnesses during trials. Insurance companies, banks, law enforcement, and government agencies employ forensic accountants.

Forensic accountants need at least a bachelor's degree in accounting or related field and certified public accountant (CPA) certification. But completing a specialized degree program in forensic accounting is best; a typical accounting degree program will not provide the knowledge and skills required for this field. Knowledge of business law and the basics of civil and criminal law are also crucial. Many forensic accountants also obtain additional professional certification, such as a CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner) or CFA (Certified Forensic Accountant) certification.
Median Salary:
According to the Robert Half Finance & Accounting 2013 Salary Guide, forensic accountants working at companies of all sizes earned between $64,500 and $106,000 in 2013. The Guide notes that forensic accounting is among the specialty areas in accounting that is currently seeing more hiring activity. Salaries for forensic accountants will vary depending on the size, location, and industry of the employer as well as an accountant's years of experience.
Job Outlook:

Projected to grow 16% between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS.

Forensic accountants are sought-after in an industry that continues to experience its share of financial scandals and legal cases. As global expansion grows, professionals with extensive experience in international mergers and acquisitions, as well as those who are up-to-date on the latest complicated financial laws and regulations, are well-suited to this occupation. Nearly a quarter of all professionals in forensic accounting work in accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services , according to the BLS, with the next highest percentage working in finance and insurance, followed by state and local government, excluding education and hospitals, then manufacturing, then management of companies and enterprises, respectively. In addition to holding an advanced degree in accounting or a business-related major, candidates with certification and/or specialty professional skills may have an advantage over other candidates for top jobs. Through the year 2020, competition in this industry is expected to be high, showing favor only to those whose credentials are above-and-beyond the rest.

Continuing Education:

Forensic accountants often choose to pursue continuing education as a means of furthering their professional experience and/or specialty financial skills. Professional forensic accountants are required to obtain certified public accountant (CPA) certification through a national exam, as well as obtain a license to operate in their state. The American College of Forensic Examiners Institute offers licensure through completion of online course work in fraud auditing, asset scams, document retrieval and analysis, and alternate dispute resolution, among other topics. Once a candidate has received their license, they must also complete the minimum number of course credits required to maintain their license each year thereafter. Being able to add the professional skills gained from continuing education to your resume can maximize your chances for a top job in forensic accounting.