One of the top concerns most accountants have when they wish to work in forensics and accountability is about which degree is needed to become an auditor. Many accountants assume that a specialized degree is needed if they wish to turn their career into one that investigates other entities, holds them accountable for any accounting mistakes or deliberate attempts at fraud, and enforces accounting principles and ethical guidelines across the board. This is not necessarily the case, however. Entry into this profession requires only a general bachelor’s degree, while advancement through the ranks might require a bit more advanced education over time. Either way, auditing positions are easily and readily available to skilled accountants.

Start with a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting

Auditors need to be highly proficient in accounting, especially since their job is to spot irregularities or mistakes. For this reason, virtually all auditing jobs require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree in accounting from a regionally accredited college or university. Accountants who want to have the best chance of being hired might want to find a school that offers an AACSB-accredited accounting program, since this accreditation generally is perceived to be the most prestigious one available in the United States, according to the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

In addition to picking a program with the proper major and accreditation, aspiring auditors should find a concentration that lines up with their interests and long-term career goals. Many universities offer a minor in forensic science, forensic accounting, external auditing, or another auditing-related skill that could sway employers as they review a candidate’s resume. A minor in this area will focus the degree on a very narrow set of skills and competencies necessary when reviewing corporate accounting work and investigating the procedures used by an organization’s accounting department.

Consider a Graduate Degree in Accounting

Most auditing firms only require a bachelor’s degree in order to be hired, but this is essentially a starting point for candidates with the right educational background and professional interests. Those accountants who wish to advance into senior leadership roles, management, and even executive roles within an auditing firm must possess a graduate degree in most cases. Generally speaking, auditors will want to seek a Master’s of Science in Accounting, a Master’s in Accounting, or a Master’s of Accountancy. These three degrees are nearly identical, with minor differences that won’t carry much weight in an auditing role.

The good news for graduate students is that there are many narrowly focused degree programs that emphasize auditing and forensics above all else. These focused programs will convey the skills and procedures needed to succeed in a managerial role, especially because auditing managers control the hiring process and set the tone for company procedures and policies in the field.

Related Resource: Jobs at the Federal Reserve

Auditing is a Lucrative, Growing Segment of the Accounting Profession

The complex nature of auditing work causes many accountants to assume that graduate education is required merely to obtain an entry-level position. The good news for aspiring auditors is that this is rarely the case. Most auditing firms simply want their new hires to be highly proficient in accounting, able to spot irregularities or indicators of fraud, and skilled enough to recommend changes to corporate clients as needed. A bachelor’s degree offers all of these core competencies to today’s candidates, while a graduate degree is needed only for career advancement and managerial work. For this reason, the degree needed to become an auditor most often is a B.A. or B.S. in accounting, along with a strong academic focus on accountability or forensics.