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Crime-fighting accountants? New specializations are changing long-held industry perceptions

(BPT) – Optimistic job forecasts for trending specializations in accounting are making the field more appealing than ever for recent graduates. Accounting jobs are projected to grow 13 percent between 2012 and 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with select specializations projected to grow even faster.

Emerging opportunities in the field call for new and diverse skill sets that have not been required in the past. Today’s accountants are being asked to go beyond number crunching to help companies make important business decisions that impact their bottom line, impart technologically-driven insight and even solve white-collar crimes. In fact, each of these assignments represents a hot, new professional specialization in the accounting field.

Financial analysis, business systems analysis and forensic accounting have emerged as exciting opportunities for job-seekers to fill in-demand business roles in almost every industry.

Financial analysis

Accountants who can analyze financial information and identify key trends are in high demand. These financial analysts weigh company risks and rewards by assessing the current state of the business, how the market is expected to perform and how the business will be impacted by a potential deal. Companies rely on this type of accountant to interpret financial data and turn it into insights that can be used to make investments and offer background information around mergers and acquisitions. Employment of financial analysts is expected to grow 16 percent between 2012 and 2022, faster than the national average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Business systems analysis

Many companies are looking for accountants who understand information technology (IT). Called business systems analysts (or sometimes computer systems analysts), these professionals use their knowledge of IT to determine the best way to implement and upgrade the use of technology to maximize business performance and profit. As cloud computing, cybersecurity and mobile networks are further integrated into everyday business, demand for business systems analysts will continue to increase. The field is expected to grow 25 percent between 2012 and 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Forensic accounting

Forensic accountants combine traditional accounting with investigative skills to help companies sniff out fraud and white-collar crime. Past high-profile fraud cases involving Bernie Madoff and Enron prompted stricter regulations and public calls for greater transparency. Large companies now routinely employ forensic accountants to protect them from similar activities. Nearly 40 percent of the top 100 accounting firms in the United States now have a forensic accounting department and the field is expected to be one of the top 20 job markets in the next few years.

Students interested in pursuing these career opportunities in accounting will first need a bachelor’s degree in the field. Graduates can enhance their career potential by earning a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation to demonstrate their high level technical skills, advanced knowledge and high ethical standards. A student can earn a CPA designation through 150 semester hours (typically 30 more than a bachelor’s degree), passing the CPA exam and then applying for licensure. Eligibility requirements for the exam vary by state.

Many schools now offer degree programs that address the growing demand for these “new” accountants. DeVry University, for example, offers a bachelor’s degree in accounting, and accounting specializations within its bachelor’s degree programs in business administration, management and technical management.

Upon completing their degree, students can begin training in the field for a specialized accounting career. Some companies offer applicants a self-selection test to help them determine the right specialization for their qualifications and interests. In general, finding the right specialization comes down to personal preference. Financial analysts require a more in-depth understanding of business markets, business systems analysts need a solid IT background, and forensic accountants require knowledge in law enforcement and criminal justice.

“The days are long gone when all accountants did was manage financial statements and taxes,” said Beth Rolison, accounting professor at DeVry University. “Today’s complex business environment requires accountants to be the eyes and ears of a company and demands that they possess a variety of soft and hard skills to live up to the role of trusted advisor.”

Trending specializations open the door for students with diverse backgrounds and interests to enter the field. Demand for accountants will continue to rise as they play an increasingly important role in helping businesses navigate the financial landscape in our dynamic marketplace.


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