Obtaining a Master of Accountancy (MAcc) degree can open up numerous career paths. From management and leadership positions in general accounting practice to highly specialized roles, the opportunities are far-reaching. Forensic accounting jobs are one option for MAcc graduates. The specialized coursework in a MAcc program can help individuals gain the unique skills needed to perform forensic accounting and position professionals to advance their careers in that segment.
Job opportunities in forensic accounting
In a broad sense, the accounting industry features fairly strong job prospects. Accountants and auditors made a median salary of $70,500 per year in 2018. For the 2018 to 2028 period, job growth will occur at a 6% rate in the sector, which is around the national average. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019)
While the accounting industry is extremely stable, the forensic sector is a bit more complex, particularly when it comes to salaries. The average annual salary for forensic accounting jobs comes to just more than $66,000, with average bonuses of nearly $5,000 and approximately $2,000 in profit sharing. (PayScale, 2019)
Per separate research, the average base pay for forensic accountants is more than $77,000, with other cash compensation coming to an average of $3,000 per year. (Glassdoor, 2019)
What both publications highlight is the diversity of work environments in the sector, as the participants providing salary data come from organization types including:
- Large government agencies, such as the FBI and NSA, which Glassdoor found pay well above the industry average, which is unique to the sector.
- Major consulting firms, such as KPMG and PwC, which pay significantly above average per both publications.
- Smaller private-sector businesses and state government agencies, where salaries are highly variable.
While salary expectations for forensic accounting can be highly variable, the stability in the accounting industry showcases the potential for solid job prospects in the field. What’s more, the specialized skills required for forensic accounting jobs can add a degree of excitement to a typical workday.
Looking at everyday work in forensic accounting
Forensic accounting jobs exist in many sectors, but the actual work is similar regardless of setting. A forensic accountant analyzes financial data and other information regarding an investigation, engages in interviews and similar practices to gather more information about cases and reports on their discoveries.
Today, the data analytics techniques involved with investigations incorporate the latest technology. Using advanced algorithms to sort through large quantities of unstructured data can lead to quicker and more in-depth results.
A report highlighted this process in depth, showcasing one professional’s journey from a general accounting job into forensic accounting. The profiled individual made this shift over multiple years in the relatively early stages of the forensic accounting industry’s development, but the report details the type of work that goes into most cases. (The CPA Journal, 2019)
These duties include:
- Analyzing financial records to identify any information that seems suspicious and taking action to investigate that data in more detail. For example, the report noted a case in which a former CFO appeared to have embezzled money, which the forensic accountant first identified through a close look at organization charts and meticulous analysis of the company’s books.
- Interviewing stakeholders and gathering further information on cases. In the embezzlement situation highlighted in the report, this involved not only tracking down the former CFO to ask questions, but also gaining access to that person’s financial records.
- Identifying the specific evidence of fraud, reporting the incident(s) in a formal criminal complaint and testifying in front of a jury to present evidence.
The forensic accounting process also involves thorough discussions with clients to better understand their concerns and requires a blend of knowledge about accounting, psychology and general business practices. (The CPA Journal, 2019)
A MAcc degree can help students build these skills through courses providing in-depth coverage of such issues as:
- Ethical accounting practices
- Accounting requirements in government and not-for-profit settings
- Specialized regulations for corporate and international accounting
- Auditing and business analysis
- Advanced data analytics, including transformation and the use of SQL servers
Courses covering these topics are key components in a MAcc program and can lay the groundwork for the niche, highly varied tasks that come up in forensic accounting. This kind of skill development is essential, because forensic accounting practices can be applied to a wide range of uses.
Common applications for forensic accounting skills
Forensic accountants work in diverse fields, with practices including everything from performing an accounting audit to providing litigation support. These professionals can function in government, corporate, consulting, nonprofit and law enforcement settings.
Forensic accountants will perform fraud investigations – seeking falsification in reporting – often for taxes, securities and similar areas. Other key tasks can include identifying evidence of money laundering, analyzing business economic losses and bankruptcy cases or identifying assets that have been hidden or misappropriated. On top of all this, forensic accountants may also get involved in insurance claims, investigate the funding behind instances of terrorism or work elsewhere in counterintelligence. Forensic accountants are sometimes even used in marital disputes. (Accounting.com, 2019)
Forensic accounting is a varied profession that offers many engaging applications for employees’ skills. For those seeking to explore an exciting branch of the accounting sector, it could be a great fit.
Take the next step toward a future in forensic accounting
In many cases, individuals who pursue forensic accounting spend a few years in a general public accounting role and receive training, sometimes in-house, in forensic accounting. Those who are specifically interested in the field can build their expertise by earning a MAcc degree and attaining some of the specialized knowledge needed to pursue forensic accounting jobs.
The online MAcc program at the University of Nevada, Reno, provides a flexible, accessible way to attain this advanced degree. The fully online program empowers students to fit their academic work into their professional schedules, creating an opportunity to develop specialty skills without having to put day-to-day career work on hold. Contact us today to learn more about how our online MAcc program can help you advance your career.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019. Accountants and Auditors. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm
PayScale, 2019. Average Forensic Accountant Salary. Retrieved from https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Forensic_Accountant/Salary
Glassdoor, 2019. Forensic Accountant Salaries. Retrived from https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/forensic-accounting-salary-SRCH_KO0,19.htm
The CPA Journal, 2019. A Successful Career Transition to Forensic Accounting. Retrieved from https://www.cpajournal.com/2019/10/28/a-successful-career-transition-to-forensic-accounting/
Accounting.com, 2019. Basics of Forensic Accounting. Retrived from https://www.accounting.com/resources/forensic-accounting-basics/