What Exactly is Forensic Accounting?
Forensic accounting sounds like a lot to take in, but when you think about the subject as the sum of its parts, it’s a lot easier to understand. Let’s break it down into forensics and accounting to better explain what forensic accounting careers entail.
What is Forensics?
Forensics refers to the study of the science behind crimes. In fact, the official title is actually forensic science because forensics is the study of all that criminal behavior entails. Forensic science looks to understand the law, determine how criminals act in discordance with legal regulations, and learn to draw conclusions from all of the discrepancies.
What is Accounting?
Accounting, on the other hand, is all about numbers. More specifically, accounting is a way of tracking and understanding where money goes (usually in relation to businesses), though personal accounting can also be involved. Accounting is a process by which financial decisions are recorded, analyzed, and documented for the sake of being able to be referenced at a later date.
Forensic Accounting 101
Essentially, accounting is a way of being responsible and staying on top of expenses, as well as making note of income that is accrued. To summarize, forensics is everything relating to criminality. Bringing these two concepts together, forensic accounting is essentially a subsection of accounting that zeroes in on criminal acts that involve money, such as cases of embezzlement, laundering, fraud, tax evasion, counterfeit behavior, and identity theft, to name a few.
Top 5 Forensic Accounting Careers
Like other majors at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, forensic accounting is a major that can open the doors to a plethora of different job opportunities. Not all forensic accounting majors end up becoming a forensic accountant, though that is certainly a viable career in the forensic accounting industry!
Five of the most common forensic accounting careers include:
- Forensic accountants
- Financial security and risk management
- Lawyers who practice financial law
- Law enforcement officers
- Financial consultants
Become a Forensic Accountant
Forensic accountants earn an average salary of about $59,430 annually, with highly experienced forensic accountants making upwards of $102,000 per year. Within the forensic accounting industry, forensic accountants have been known to start out with higher salaries than those who hold other job positions in the same industry.
Focus on Security as a Financial Risk Manager
As a financial risk manager, you are responsible for minimizing the financial risks that a business takes. From foreign exchange risks and operational risks to market risk and credit risk, the types of risks you are on the lookout for as a financial risk manager vary.
While it sounds daunting at face value, financial risk managers excel at avoiding errors and steering clear of potentially irreversible financial decisions. They study the global market and make decisions based on their observations. On average, financial risk managers tend to make anywhere between $98,000 and over $131,149 per year, depending on each individual’s skill set and overall experience level.
Go on to Become a Lawyer
Forensic lawyers practice forensic law, which focuses on how money-related laws are broken and how to penalize the people who disregard financial rules. There is a wide array of finance-related crimes, ranging from petty charges that result in probation, to federal-level behavior that lands people in prison for a very long time.
Many professions in the forensic accounting industry require higher education at the graduate level in order to yield a greater salary. Forensic lawyers are no different. By the time you complete law school and all the requirements that it entails, you can earn a good salary as a forensic lawyer.
However, you’ll have to work your way up to a six-figure salary. When forensic law school students graduate and are ready to become an attorney at a law firm, the salaries are higher, as one would expect. Typically, forensic lawyers make upwards of $118,700 per year, though this value varies depending on where you practice law. Bigger cities in the US will result in a higher salary for both forensic lawyers and people who work in the forensic accounting industry alike.
Work as an Officer in Law Enforcement
Forensic accounting students might also enter the industry as law enforcement officers. Whether you choose to be part of the IRS, or you lean more towards the FBI or CIA, a job as a law enforcement officer is perfect for people with a background in forensic accounting. Salaries vary depending on the law enforcement agency you choose to work for, but on average, forensic law enforcement officers can earn anywhere between $50,000 and over $160,000 annually.
Share Your Knowledge as a Financial Consultant
As a financial consultant, you can expect to exhibit more of your accounting-related skills than the forensics side of your education. Even so, a job as a financial consultant falls into the top five forensic accounting careers, and it’s an admirable position to hold! The average salary of a financial consultant ranges between $35,000 and around $92,000 annually.
Where Should People Interested in Forensic Accounting Get Their Degree?
When it comes to deciding on where to enroll for a forensic accounting degree, one of the main details to look for is that the degree is offered at the schools you’re eyeing. Even more so, you want to ensure that the school has a concentration that focuses on forensic accounting in particular, rather than simply offering an accounting program in general.
While accounting is a similar program, majoring in forensic accounting specifically makes your experience all the more relevant to getting a job in one of the many forensic accounting careers. When looking into where you should get your forensic accounting degree, one of the most important details to factor into the situation is the credibility of the courses. At St. Thomas University in Miami, all classes associated with forensic accounting are accredited.
St. Thomas University Forensic Accounting Curriculum
At St. Thomas University, there are two options for forensic accounting. For students seeking out an undergraduate degree in forensic accounting, St. Thomas University offers a Master of Accounting degree with a focus on forensic accounting. For graduate students, a Graduate Certificate in Forensic Accounting is open to students at St. Thomas University. Courses for both undergraduate and graduate degrees in forensic accounting are available on-campus.