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A budding program at Hostos Community College that is a cross between "CSI" and accounting is providing students with limitless career opportunities, while helping to fight fraud and corruption.

"Forensic Accounting" is a jointly registered, dual-admission program between Hostos and John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Hector López, Professor and Chair of the Business Department at Hostos, brought the program to Hostos and explains that after earning 60 credits, students graduate with an A.S. in Accounting for Forensic Accounting. They can then transfer to John Jay to earn a Bachelor of Science in Economics: Forensic Financial Analysis.

Forensic accountants are specially trained to identify evidence of fraud, investigate finances, and provide litigation support. The profession requires knowledge of accounting principles, law and investigation techniques, as well as theory of criminology and ethics.

"All you have to do is open the newspaper or turn on the news to see developments on Wall Street or fraud being committed in corporate America to realize what an important job a forensic accountant has, López said, adding that because minorities and women are underrepresented in the field of accounting, the new program provides a great opportunity for students in this field.

Forensic accountants are also in particularly high demand around tax time.

"Really, a student can start here at Hostos, learn the fundamentals of accounting, and after they finish at John Jay, the sky is really the limit. Students can complete this degree, get some solid fundamental experience in fraud investigation, and seek a career with the FBI, IRS, or get a job in corporate America," López said.

López helped launch the dual program with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Fall 2009 after attending a National Business Education Association conference.

He said that in addition to earning a bachelor's degree, students can obtain another credential by taking the examination administered by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE). This certification, Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), provides unlimited possibilities for a rewarding career in the field of Fraud Investigation.

The increased demand for forensic accountants was verified in a recent survey conducted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. It showed that 68 percent of the 5,400 members of the AICPA's Forensic Valuation Services Section who were polled said forensic practices have grown over the past year.

The FBI also reported that since 2007, there have been more than 1,700 pending corporate, securities, commodities and investment fraud cases - an increase of 37 percent since 2001.

López also cited the Occupational Outlook Handbook's prediction that employment opportunities for accountants and auditors are expected to grow by 18 percent between 2006 and 2016, which is greater than the average for all other occupations.

Furthermore for those who want to mix a little crime fighting with their number crunching, forensic accounting might be the perfect career.


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