Financial Scandals Turn Forensic Accounting Into a Hot Job

The growing number of financial scandals and frauds in recent years have made forensic accounting one of the fastest growing areas of accounting and one of the most secure career paths for accountants. On April 11, 2002, ABC News carried a fanciful item imagining a new TV series named "Fraud Squad" that would dramatize this fast growing field. "You can almost hear the pitch now," writes ABC. "It's like Quincy, only with balance sheets instead of cadavers!"

Some facts and resources for those considering this exciting new career path:

  • U.S. News and World Report named forensic accounting one of the eight most secure career tracks in America in its February 8, 2002 report.
  • Many forensic accountants find this field more exciting than auditing because the job responsibilities are less structured and defined.
  • The market for forensic accounting continues to grow, as the recent rash of corporate collapses and business failures is prompting businesses to hire forensic accountants to prevent as well as investigate various types of wrongdoings.
  • The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners has grown from just 5,500 members in 1992 to 25,000 in 2002.
  • Only a handful of schools in the U.S. offer forensic accounting classes as part of their programs. Most forensic accountants are CPAs who have learned forensic techniques on the job by working on cases.
  • Required training usually includes an undergraduate degree in accounting plus two to four years of experience. A CPA license is often required. In addition, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners offers a certified fraud examiner designation, and the American College of Forensic Examiners offers its own certified forensic accountant credential.
  • Pay ranges from $30,000 to $110,000 and up at CPA firms, law firms, corporations and government agencies such as the FBI.

One educator, D. Larry Crumbley, the KPMG Professor of Accounting at Louisiana State University, has written 12 novels about the adventures of forensic accountants. His latest novel, "The Big R: An Internal Auditing Action Adventure," tells how a certified internal auditor, a forensic accountant and an FBI agent work together to find serial killers that strike at baseball parks. Other sources of information include the American Institute of CPAs, the Institute of Internal Auditors, and the Society of Professional Investigators.

-Rosemary Schlank

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