In this post, you are going to learn – How to become a forensic accountant with just a Forensic Accounting Degree, No CA / CPA qualifications!
In fact – These are the exact strategies Jose Potgieter used to plan his career in Forensic Accounting without opting to become a Chartered Accountant or CPA.
Prior to this, he was associated with EY Cape Town, South Africa in their Fraud Investigations and Dispute Services Team.
My Journey Becoming a Forensic Accountant Without Pursuing CA Qualification
I have always been a very curious person wanting to learn more.
While still in school, I was researching about the University I need to apply to for further studies. Around the same time, I met up with a lecturer who tried helping me find my interests on the basis of which I could plan my career ahead.
During my discussion with him, he realized that :
- I am an outgoing person who is good with numbers.
- Who did not want to sit with a routine job doing the same thing every day. Thus he suggested Forensic Accounting.
He explained to me the job role of a Forensic Accountant, the global scope of it in South Africa and other countries and the job opportunities.
I did my research and got very fascinated with the role of a Forensic Accountant.
In Forensic Accounting, every engagement is different and the field of work is so diverse. It is difficult to get bored as a Forensic Accountant.
Each project is a different experience and you learn so many different things in different sectors when you prepare for the engagements.
I just knew that Forensic Accounting will be the best job for me in the accounting world and since then there has been no turning back.
Graduating in Forensic Accounting
Since I was interested in having a diverse job + Wanted to do different engagements on a weekly basis I preferred going the Forensic Accounting route.
Also in South Africa in order to be a Chartered Accountant one needs to do 3 years of practical experience (articles/internship) in Audit. Now for me to invest 3 years in Audit without having any interest in it did not make sense.
So, I thought it is a wise decision – to focus on my goal of being a successful Forensic Accountant instead of focussing on a Chartered Accountancy degree.
In fact, many of my friends were pursuing Chartered Accountancy from SAICA (The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants) but I stayed firm on my decision.
I always wanted to ensure that my certification will make me unique within the market.
So I decided to do my Graduation in Forensic Accounting from North-West University, Potchefstroom.
I Graduated from University after 5 years. Of which 3 years were spent to obtain my Bachelors in Forensic Accounting and the next 2 years on obtaining Honours in Bachelor Forensic accounting.
That’s how I planned my career and went with a Forensic Accounting Degree.
The Forensic courses focused on 3 elements:
- I attended classes with the Chartered Accountant students for – Law subject and a Forensic subject per semester.
- Management Accounting (costing) and Financial Management was not included in the Forensic Accounting course.
- So I decided to take those subjects in addition (except for my third year) just in case I wanted to continue with Chartered Accountancy in the future.
So by taking a LEAP OF FAITH – I focussed purely on Forensic Accounting taking additional subjects as a backup (just in case!).
Should You Pursue only a Forensic Accounting Degree and Not CA
Now the above statement has no foolproof answer.
Difficult to answer this one, but I think the growth scope depends on the INDIVIDUAL and not necessarily the career path.
According to me whether to go for CA/ CPA or just specialize in Forensic Accounting depends on – What ‘YOU’ want to specialize in within Forensic Accounting.
For instance – If you want to work in Disputes or Valuations then the growth scope for CA/CPA is much higher as they learn that technical skills within the audit.
When it comes to Financial Crime and Forensic investigations then I think Chartered Accountants and Forensic Accountants (with no CA / CPA degree) are on the same level.
I believe that the opportunities to grow within the Big 4 Accounting Firms are endless, but you have to seek out for those opportunities.
If you feel you require more experience within a certain sector, then you can reach out to a team who specializes within a specified sector to assist on an engagement
I was also lucky enough to assist on a few audits and I have learned a lot within the financial sectors.
Growth completely depends on the willingness of each individual.
Scope of Forensic Accounting in South Africa
The Big 4 Accounting Firms dominates the Forensic Accountants market in South Africa.
However, mid-tier firms also provide forensic services along with legal companies.
Johannesburg is South Africa’s biggest financial market and therefore there are more opportunities in over there.
It will be difficult to mention firms who provide Forensic Accounting services as there are quite a lot.
I believe the best way to know what companies provide forensic services is to go on job search websites like www.indeed.co.za.
List of Forensic Accounting Firms in South Africa
The companies listed below are the companies who are into Forensic Accounting in my knowledge, but there might be more of which I might not be aware of. So please do your own research as well.
I have also mentioned a few banks who hire a lot for Forensic Accountants.
- Big 4 Accounting Firms
- Moore Stephens
- Grant Thornton
- Sizwe Ntsaluba Gobodo
- Nexus Forensics
- Grid Forensics
- Special investigation unit
- Provincial government internal forensic departments
- Capitec Bank
- Investec Bank
- ENS Africa
My Career Goal
- To be a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) from ACFE.
- I also want to do the CAMS certificate
- In about 7 to 8 years I want to do my MBA.
- The only advice I can give students is to – Understand where you want to be in the next 3 – 4 years.
- If you are not sure in which field you want to specialize then you have to ensure that your qualification gives you a broad spectrum to select from.
- If you know what you want to specialize in – Then you have to ensure that you stand out and that your skillset is unique.
- As soon as you get into a specialization it can get quite competitive so you have to be different.
- It is important for firms when they hire someone that they fill up gaps within their teams so you have to be able to showcase how you will fit in within any team.
BONUS: Actionable Advice from a Forensic Accountant
Nirav Shah, Forensic Accountant
When I started my career in Forensic Accounting in 2011, most of my team members were Chartered Accountants.
If you are ‘just an MBA graduate from a not so famous school or a semi-qualified professional‘ initially you will be given a lot of clerical work. But yes you can learn a lot from that work if you take it positively.
Every presentation given to you for formatting will teach you a lot. It will give you an idea of how the assignment can get done.
You can read my journey: Becoming a Forensic Accountant Without a CA/ CPA Qualification
Now It’s Your Turn
I’d like to hear from you:
Do you agree that a Forensic Accounting Degree is enough? Or a CA / CPA degree is better?
Or maybe you have a question about something you read.
Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now.
You can connect with me on Linkedin at – Jose Potgieter.