Imagine, it’s another normal day at the office, solving financial discrepancies, when you are sent to a business to conduct interviews of employees in the accounting department. Their numbers aren’t adding up and neither are their stories. As it turns out, the owner of the business is making fraudulent business statements and using the money he’s stolen to
pay for extravagant vacations with his secretary-slash-mistress.
Just another day in the life of an accountant.
One popular area of accounting is forensic accounting. “Forensic” means the use of science or technology in the investigation of a crime. Forensic accountants solve “white-collar crimes,” just like the one in the situation depicted above. According to the FBI, white-collar crimes include everything from identity theft to adoption scams. And, while the career isn’t always as glamorous as in the television crime dramas, careers in accounting can provide a variety of exciting opportunities, like travelling abroad or working as a special agent for the FBI.
And if that isn’t exciting, then the money should be. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, on average, accountants make $61,690 per year, which is almost $10,000 more than the nationwide average income. Also, according to USNews, the highest paid accountants can earn up to $109,870. Those earning the most money usually work in large metropolitan areas, such as New York City and San Francisco.
As a matter of fact, there are several interesting careers in the wonderful world of accounting: Chief Financial Officers (CFOs), International Accountants and IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agents.
Because of the variety of career paths accounting can have, the types of education and level of experience can vary. However, at least an undergraduate degree in accounting or business is required for most accounting positions. Higher level, and generally higher paying, positions will require that you are certified as a CPA (Certified Public Accountant). For some who plan on entering an accounting field involving crimes, such the field of forensic accounting or working for the IRS, a degree in criminal justice can also be very useful for those who want to move up in their career.
Those certified in financial forensics (CFF-AICPA) typically make more in entry level positions than those who are not. Usually, work experience in related accounting fields, like government accounting, public accounting-auditing and forensic accounting outside of the government is highly desired. More work experience and certifications can not only allow for higher pay, but guarantees a better chance at getting the position that you want.
For aspiring accountants like myself, it is possible to get a jumpstart on an accounting career in high school. One of the many CTE courses here at Leesville is Accounting I, taught by Ms. Luca. The class not only teaches students about the fundamentals of accounting, but also educates students about the importance of ethical business practices, such as confidentiality, integrity and objectivity.
“One thing that I stress is the importance of accounting in any business major during college,” said Luca. “There are 2500 kids in this school and only 26 in accounting. That is going to give [the accounting students] something extra. [They’re] going to be ahead in college. Even if you don’t take [accounting] for another two or three years, it’s going to come back and [they’ll] be prepared.”
Josh Quesenberry, sophomore and a student of Ms. Luca’s accounting class, doesn’t want to follow the accounting path, but feels like the principles taught in the class could be applied to almost any aspects of business. “[Small business owners] don’t have to rely on someone to do [their] finances,” said Quesenberry.
While the class may not direct the career path of a lot of students, a general interest in the subject reels in those who want to sign up each year. “It’s an interesting class,” said Quesenberry. “I like learning how to do the transactions and posting; it’s really cool when I catch onto things fast. It’s actually kind of fun.”
While a career in accounting is going to require hard work and diligence, it will definitely be interesting and rewarding in the long run.