Certificate gives students license to fight fraud

One can hardly view a newspaper, the Internet or the nightly news these days without encountering a story about corporate fraud. From June 2015 to November 2015 alone, nine sentences were handed out in high-profile cases.

American University’s Kogod School of Business offers a professional graduate certificate in forensic accounting to meet the demand for professionals skilled in investigating fraud.

Its 12-credit program is designed for forensic-accounting professionals looking to advance in their career, and for those hoping to move into the field. Program courses include forensic accounting, financial statement analysis, advanced forensic accounting and fraud detection, along with electives in ethics, accounting information systems and assurance and audit services.

Students who complete the program are prepared to take the CFE exam, administered by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, and become credentialed examiners, said Casey Evans, program director in the master of science in accounting program at American University.

Before her appointment to American University, Evans was a senior director in the forensic and litigation consulting practice at FTI Consulting. She said she and her partners at FTI investigated Bernie Madoff’s $65 billion Ponzi scheme.

“I now use my experiences to educate students about the fascinating world of fraud investigation,” Evans said. “I designed this program to arm students with the investigative, analytical and communications skills that I know are necessary to be a successful fraud examiner. Our cutting-edge curriculum and our engaging faculty prepare students to work in international consulting firms, major corporations and law enforcement agencies.”

Other benefits students enjoy at American University include regular class lectures from fraud professionals, an anti-money-laundering boot camp and an annual lecture on fraud and forensic accounting. Speakers have included Frank Abagnale Jr., whose life inspired the movie “Catch Me If You Can”; Jordan Belfort, “The Wolf of Wall Street”; and Cynthia Cooper, whistleblower on the $9 billion WorldCom fraud and a former Time magazine person of the year.

Evans suggests students pursue a master’s in accounting at a school with a forensic accounting certificate program. “A strong understanding of accounting is essential to a long career as a forensic accountant,” she said. “Many successful forensic accounting professionals are both CPAs and CFEs.”

At George Mason University, the 12-credit graduate certificate program requires students to enroll in four courses in forensic accounting and can be earned in conjunction with a master’s degree in accounting, said Keith Jones, director of the school’s Investor Protection and Corporate Fraud Research Center.

Students with a bachelor’s degree in accounting can use the certificate program toward the 150 hours of academic credits necessary to sit for the Virginia CPA exam. Many of those enrolled in the certificate program are part-time students.

“The graduate certificate in forensic accounting at George Mason helps prepare students to become certified fraud examiners through collaboration with the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners,” Jones said.

The field of forensic accounting includes fraud investigation as well as valuation, Jones said. Forensic accountants can work for, among other employers, public accounting firms, government agencies, consulting firms, law enforcement agencies, internal audit departments, insurance departments and financial institutions.

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