April 18, 2016
Accounting is a career that offers both stability and growth. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)*, jobs in the field are projected to grow by 11 percent by 2024, significantly higher than the cross-industry average of seven percent. Businesses across all sectors and of all sizes need accountants, and they're in turn well-compensated: the median income for accounting jobs was $65,940 as of 2014.
Forensic accounting is a particularly fascinating branch of the profession. Its primary focus is collecting and leveraging data for litigation: "forensic" literally means "suitable for use in a court of law." Thus, accountants in this field are often tasked with investigating fraud in complicated financial transactions, such as mergers and acquisitions, bankruptcies and contract disputes. Forensic accountants are also indispensable in the task of catching white collar criminals and bringing them to justice.
If you love data and find complex challenges appealing, this might just be the right field for you. Here's how to become a forensic accountant:
Every degree program is slightly different, so it's important to research different institutions and find the one that best meets your needs. For many busy professionals, an online degree course provides the flexibility required to take the next step toward becoming a forensic accountant.
If this applies to you, consider applying to Southern New Hampshire University's (SNHU) online Bachelor of Science in Accounting with a concentration in Forensic Accounting and Fraud Examination. The admissions team will complete an official credit evaluation and contact any previous institutions you've attended. When you pursue an online degree through SNHU you can transfer up to 90 undergraduate credits, so you just might be closer to your goal than you imagined.
SNHU online programs are affordable, with some of the most student-friendly tuition rates in the country. The forensics online program is convenient, offering 24/7 access to education that's ready whenever you are. You'll be taught by instructors who know exactly how to become a forensic accountant, because they have real world, tangible experience in the field.
During this degree program, you'll be taught the basic tenets of how to become a forensic accountant. Keep in mind, however, that state requirements to vary on what it takes to become an accountant and you should always check within your own state to ensure you are on track with requirements specific to your own location.
The framework begins with learning the concepts and practices used in the recording, classification and reporting of cost data, along with issues particular to this discipline. You'll then go through financial accounting practices, and gain a deeper understanding of the standards that are used to evaluate them. Once that groundwork has been laid, students are able to begin the conversation regarding liabilities, including recording and disclosure requirements. As part of this endeavor, you'll also gain insight into CPA simulation questions and the usage of the FARS database.
A large part of the job of a forensic accountant is being able to accurately identify fraud, and SNHU's online degree program prepares students well. You will learn, in detail, how to spot its symptoms, including accounting fraud, stock fraud, employee theft and embezzlement. Coursework also includes a deeper look into the ways fraud impacts the presentation of financial information, and how to review and analyze financial statements for evidence of wrongdoing. You will be given the tools necessary to judge the financial health of a company, and determine whether it is right for merger or acquisition.
Fraud changes as fast as technology does, so any thorough education in forensic accounting must cover computer crimes. Course material includes locations of digital evidence, fundamentals of working with data and how to present findings. You'll learn about identity theft and other cyber crimes, and how to follow best practices in a fast-changing digital landscape. You'll also learn what happens after fraud has been potentially uncovered, such as what the relevant legislation to the situation is, how to interview the people involved and what legal proceedings may arise when fraud is suspected.
If you wish to enhance your knowledge of how to become a forensic accountant beyond the courses offered in the undergraduate program, you have two options: pursuing a Master of Science in Accounting with a concentration in Forensic Accounting or a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Forensic Accounting. While the former offers a strong accounting foundation with a specialized focus in forensic accounting, the MBA provides a graduate business degree that positions candidates across broad industries in many roles, yet has an extra emphasis on forensic accounting as well.
The benefits are clear: those with master's degrees earn 20 percent more on average than those with just a bachelor's, and enjoy much greater job security, according to BLS.
SNHU offers one of the most affordable MBA programs in the country, and it can be finished in just over a year. Not only will you gain a more in-depth understanding of the principles of forensic accounting while earning your master's degree, you'll also get professional business training and the tools required to improve job prospects and earning potential. You can also learn how these principles apply on a greater scale, thanks to SNHU's International MBA program, which offers a concentration in forensics accounting that deals with global financial issues.
As a SNHU student you'll receive an automatic networking boost simply by being taught by long-time professionals in the field. You'll be encouraged to attend networking events and socialize with others in the field. Searching a list of accounting associations, and joining the one most relevant to your goals, is a strong first step to creating the lasting industry connections that lead to career opportunities.
In addition, you'll have access to a full range of critical career services available to you, as a student and post-graduation as well, through the SNHU Career team. From networking advice and opportunities to resume and cover letter review and assistance, mock interviews, salary negotiation advice and so much more, you'll have someone on your side, supporting your success, every step of the way.
*Job market data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook is intended to provide insight on occupational opportunities and is not to be construed as a guarantee of salary or job title. SNHU cannot guarantee employment.
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