December 21, 2015
If you're interested in numbers and solving problems, forensic accounting could be the career for you. A field that combines math with a search for the truth to right wrongs, forensic accountants help companies, the government and individuals find discrepancies and problems with their financial records, alerting the proper authorities to potential theft, fraud or other illegal activity. It's a career that can be both challenging and fulfilling for those whose interests fall in this area.
To pursue a position in this exciting field, consider starting or furthering your career by earning an undergraduate or graduate online degree in accounting with an emphasis in forensic accounting or an MBA in Forensic Accounting from Southern New Hampshire University.
With a name that hints at both crime fighting and mathematical calculations, exactly what is forensic accounting? Forensic accounting is a field that's critical for identifying financial fraud and theft. Professionals in the field are like the detectives of the finance world. They use accounting skills to investigate illegal financial dealings, such as embezzlement. Forensic accountants are also used to analyze financial dealings for proceedings in courts of law, particularly for trials that prosecute white collar criminals.
As a forensic accountant, you could be called on to combine investigative skills with auditing and data analysis to conduct investigations into financial records that are of a dubious nature. You will be trained to not just see numbers on a page, but to recognize when something is not right and assess the situation appropriately. It's the perfect career choice for a person who enjoys working with numbers, but wants to use these skills to promote justice and the greater good in a challenging, but rewarding, career.
If you're also interested in computers, you're in luck. A career in forensic accounting can combine your interest in numbers and justice with increasing technological innovation. While accounting once was done primarily with pen, paper and perhaps a calculator, technology is playing a continually more prominent role in the field. Some forensic accountants are even tasked with creating computer programs to help analyze and present the financial analysis that they do in their line of work. This is in large part due to not just advancing technology, but a shift in how financial crime is being committed.
"More and more fraud is being perpetrated online," said Bruce Geddes, Ph.D., an adjunct professor in the forensic accounting department at SNHU.
While Geddes reported that he and others who are established in the field have had to learn how to incorporate computers as technology progressed, it will be a different game for those just entering the field who are accustomed to using computers in their daily lives.
"The next generation coming up is computer literate," he said. "They've grown up with it."
This makes the field a particularly appealing one for those who are interested in the way that technology is being used to combat crime in the digital age.
If forensic accounting sounds intriguing to you, there are several directions that you can take when you pursue a career. One size does not fit all when it comes to an accounting job. Many in this field end up working for the U.S. government. Both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the the U.S. Secret Service employ forensic accountants within their agencies. If the government route isn't your preference, you could go into the private industry. Large financial institutes are often in the market for those who specialize in this field.
Interested in starting your own business? There are opportunities for that as well when you work as a forensic accountant. Some professionals in the field end up starting their own consultant businesses. If you don't enjoy working within the confines of bureaucracy, this might be the option for you. Starting your own business will allow you to continue to do what you love, but give you more control over your day-to-day tasks and decisions. But be advised, you may need to put in your time first working with an organization to gain the experience and skills that you need to make your consulting business thrive.
Positions for accountants in general are expected to experience growth over the next several years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), between 2012 and 2020, employment opportunities for accountants and auditors is expected to grow from 1,275,400 to 1,442,100, an increase of 13 percent. The BLS additionally reported that the median salary for these positions as of 2012 was $63,550. However, specializing in forensic accounting may improve your financial prospects. In 2013, CNN placed the position of forensic accountant at no. 24 on its list of 100 Best Jobs in America, based on pay, job growth and work satisfaction. According to the news source, the median salary for a forensic accounting job that year was $103,000 and the expected 10-year job growth rate was 15.7 percent.
Geddes started his career as an auditor before going back to school, earning a Master of Science in Accounting and Tax and a Ph.D. in Business/Commerce. He is additionally a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), the premier certification for forensic accountants, and has been teaching at the college level since 2010.
According to Geddes, there are two routes that a student interested in forensic accounting can take to pursue a career in the field. One is to start by going straight into the professional work force to gain hands-on experience, the way that Geddes started his own career. He said that when he first began working he was tasked with finding fraud in payroll, which piqued his interest in forensic accounting.
However, that's not the only way to kickstart your career in this field. Others interested in forensic accounting have the option of starting their career off on the right foot by earning a degree. This can be especially helpful if you know that forensic accounting is the specific area of the accounting field that you're interested in and you want to be intentional about focusing in on a path that will get you a job in that area as efficiently as possible.
If you're specifically interested in the field of forensic accounting, consider pursuing an online accounting degree in this area with SNHU to jumpstart your career.
If you're at a place in your life where attending classes at a physical location several days a week might be challenging, an online accounting degree may be the right decision for your education and career. By taking courses online with SNHU, you're able to complete your degree on your own schedule without sacrificing the quality of your education. Whatever your work schedule or other personal responsibilities look like, you'll be able to arrange your academic work around those things to ensure the most efficient and effective use of your time.
This strategy can be especially helpful for potential students who are already working full- or part-time, such as those who are already employed in a more general accounting job and are interested in entering into this specialized field in the future. But it's also a great option for those who are working in a different field and are looking to make a switch without quitting their current jobs and moving to a new location to physically attend classes on campus. Pursuing an online degree gives you the flexibility to further your education without putting your job or income on hold. You can pursue your degree in a way that's best for your own life and responsibilities.
When choosing to pursue an online degree in forensic accounting, there's no better partner than SNHU. According to Geddes, SNHU was one of the first schools to specifically offer a degree program geared toward the field of forensic accounting, making it a desirable choice for those who want to specialize in this specific area.
"The term [forensic accounting] has only been coined recently," Geddes said. "SNHU is on the forefront of recognizing that it's a specialized field."
At SNHU, you have multiple options when it comes to earning an online accounting degree in this particular area of study. If this is your first college experience or you have an undergraduate degree in a different field, you can also choose to enroll in the Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree with a concentration in Forensic Accounting. This program will help you to focus your education on being equipped with the tools and knowledge that you'll need to investigate financial records and determine where illegal activity has occurred. The online courses will emphasize the development of skills that will be directly applicable in your career after graduation, setting you up well to enter the workforce upon completion of the program.
If you already have a degree in forensic accounting or a similar field, a master's degree might be the right next step for your career. Earning a higher degree can spruce up your resume by adding depth to your real-world experiences. You'll consequently be a more reputable candidate when you go to apply for a new job or promotion. Geddes confirmed this idea, and added another benefit as to how the degree can help when you're called to the stand.
"The master's program does two things. It adds credibility as far as marketing yourself, and as an expert witness testimony," he said. "Often when you're giving testimony, that expertise is going to give credibility to it."
Because forensic accountants often analyze and work with numbers that have to do with illegal proceedings, it's not unusual for those in some positions to be called to court to testify at a trial. As Geddes pointed out, those who are called to the stand and have a higher degree are often seen as more reliable than those who do not. This can make job candidates more appealing to potential employers who are looking to fill positions where they'll need credible witnesses.
The SNHU online Master of Science in Accounting degree program with a concentration in Forensic Accounting will allow you to enhance your career by learning how to apply forensics principles to complex financial records and transactions. You'll also be instructed on how to use these abilities to prosecute white-collar criminals in court. It's the perfect career move for the accountant with an undergraduate degree who wants to pursue a higher education.
Alternatively, you can also enroll in SNHU's online Forensic Accounting and Fraud Examination Graduate Certificate.This option helps you to dig deeper in the world of investigative accounting through learning about specific practices such as investigations about mergers, tax evasion, acquisitions, specialized audits and more. The knowledge of and experience in these specialized topics will help set you up for career advancement and opportunities.
Another route is to earn an MBA. SNHU's online MBA in Forensic Accounting combines a traditional MBA program with an advanced understanding of the way that principles of accounting can be applied to investigating fraud and other financial crimes. Not only is the program one of the most affordable of its type in the nation, it can be completed in just over a year. You can also earn an online International MBA in Forensic Accounting. This program is similar to the other program but additionally looks at the way external factors such as cultural beliefs, regulatory systems and international law influences decision-making.
Earning a master's degree can also help you to qualify to take the Certified Fraud Examiner certification test, making it possible that one day you'll join Geddes among the fraud examiner elite.
SNHU's online forensic accounting degree program sets itself apart in a variety of ways.
When you enroll in a degree program at SNHU, you'll also receive assistance in every other area of your academic career. If you're pursuing an undergraduate degree, you'll first be assigned a new student advisor who will help you learn the ropes of your program, including Blackboard, the online platform that will be used in your courses. Your designated new student advisor will also arrange for weekly check-in calls to make sure that you're navigating your degree program well from the very start. Once you're comfortable you'll transition to a program advisor, who will have the experience and knowledge necessary to help you succeed in your specific degree program.
Should you pursue a master’s degree, you’ll also receive specialized assistance from student advisors related to your field of study. Like program advisors for undergraduates, these graduate advisors are familiar with the challenges that you will face earning a higher degree and are available to help you navigate the process effectively to ensure your future success.
Additionally, the program at SNHU is designed by subject matter experts, one of which is Geddes. These experts bring real-life experience to the table to design a curriculum that will prepare students for a successful career after graduation. Everything from the instructors to the courses are chosen to give students the best possible chance for landing their dream job once they complete their degree. Because forensic accounting strategies and technologies can change quickly, these experts get together regularly to assess the program and see if any changes need to be made to meet the needs of the students in the best possible way.
"We meet twice a year to discuss what's new in the field," Geddes said. "What's changed? What do we need to change in the curriculum?"
When you graduate with a degree from SNHU, you're set up for success long after you finish your program. You'll have the option to work closely with a career advisor who will help you to navigate the process of writing cover letters, applying for jobs and preparing for interviews. That assistance doesn't end after graduation. If you're applying for a new job down the road, you'll be able to seek the assistance of career advisors and other career resources as if you were still a student. When you become a part of the SNHU community, you're never alone on your academic and professional journey.
To learn more about how SNHU can help you take the next step in your career in forensic accounting, contact one of our representatives by phone or email to discuss starting an online degree program.
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