#59 Career Close-Up: Accounting Doesn’t Have to be Boring Transcript



Jim Vogt  00:00

One of the things about this path that I think surprises my students is how much we rely on the interviewing and those skills in interviewing techniques. And one of the topics I enjoy the most is working with accounting students who oftentimes think, well, accounting, I’m gonna be sitting in the back room by myself, and everybody’s gonna leave me alone. And to tell them that no, you’re going to interview witnesses and suspects. And not only that, I’m going to teach you skills to where you couldn’t even identify if somebody’s being deceptive.


Lisa Marker-Robbins  00:32

I often hear students at my launch Career Clarity course declare, accounting is boring. As a college major and career coach, I know this absolutely does not have to be true. My guest today is Jim boat. He has built an exciting accounting career working with businesses in fraud protection, and now teaches accounting and fraud at both San Diego State University and the University of Colorado Denver, you may be surprised to learn that this field is a great fit for those with not only an accounting degree, but other degrees, Jeb himself does not have an accounting degree. If you think accounting or investigation might be a great fit for your team, but they declare it’s a boring field, then this is a perfect episode for both of you. I’m Lisa marker Robbins, and I want to welcome you to the episode of College and Career Clarity, where we’re doing a close up on forensic accounting and other non boring accounting careers. Jeb boat, welcome to the podcast.


Jim Vogt  01:49

Well, thank you. Thank you, Lisa, I really appreciate being here.


Lisa Marker-Robbins  01:52

First of all, you’re working in the field of accounting, but you yourself don’t have an accounting degree. Tell me a little bit about that. You know,


Jim Vogt  02:01

you’re absolutely right. And it’s sometimes it’s a little discomforting to tell my students that at the beginning of every course that I teach. But I do that, to demonstrate to them that the thing, especially the things that I teach the fraud examination, the forensic accounting is really multidisciplinary, it’s, it’s about much more than accounting.


Lisa Marker-Robbins  02:22

I love that. So I want our listeners to know, it could be if your students thinking about an accounting degree, or even another path that this is a path that could be open to them. And I start to think about that. And I hear that well, yes, you are teaching accounting students. But there are many others in this field. And you’ve not always been a professor, you’ve actually worked in this field for a long time. Right? Correct. So as you’re thinking about that, you know, we’re talking about degrees, yes. But what are the attributes, interest, types of aptitudes of students who really might enjoy working at what I guess you would call fraud, prevention, investigation, all those things?


Jim Vogt  03:06

Well, yeah. And there’s actually quite a few questions wrapped into that. But I think that when you look at the characteristics of individuals like this, of course, from the accounting perspective, you want somebody that is, yeah, of course good with numbers and has that analytical mindset that you would expect from an accountant. But I think that when you talk about things like forensic accounting, when you talk about things like fraud investigations, or fraud prevention and detection, you add quite a few other elements. One of them is to me is you have to have a natural curiosity and incredible perseverance. And when you set off on a path, to investigate, or to try to understand maybe what’s happened in a particular situation, you have to be just so persistent, you have to be a bulldog and not let go of and until you have an answer that satisfies you. And so, yes, you’ve got that analytical aspect. But I think that persistence, you’ve got to be really good, critical thinker, you have to have excellent communication skills. One of the things about this path that I think surprises my students is how much we rely on the interviewing and those skills in interviewing techniques. And one of the topics I enjoy the most is working with accounting students who oftentimes think, well, accounting, I’m going to be sitting in the back room by myself, and everybody’s gonna leave me alone. And to tell them that no, you’re going to interview witnesses and suspects and not only that, I’m going to teach you skills to where you can even identify if somebody’s being deceptive. And so that really gets some people’s attention and get gets, you know, those future accounts eyes to light up.


Lisa Marker-Robbins  04:48

Well, because I think when you know what they’re saying to me, but accounting is boring. They are thinking about, you know, maybe doing somebody’s tax returns or looking in a book Keeping, which doesn’t require the persistence, and maybe even the natural curiosity that someone in this branch of accounting would need, so I can see where, yeah, for those that want to use the word boring, there could be that path. And I’m sure the traditional CPA is gonna say, and it’s not boring, I like my job. But you’re bringing some real excitement to the potential career path. That’s a good way to look at like who the students are, we look at the people that are working in the field beyond the attributes of curiosity, and persistence and communication skills. You know, a lot of people call those soft skills. I know Simon Sinek, I love his name for it, he calls a human skills, a much better name. When you look at the people beyond having those attributes, what are the college degrees that you see? Is accounting the top one, but what other degrees might somebody have that works in this field?


Jim Vogt  06:00

Well, I think that accounting is certainly the most common and probably the best path. As I mentioned to you earlier, if I was starting today, and knew all these things existed when I started, accounting is probably the most applicable major, but it’s it’s certainly not the only one, having a background in finance or business. You know, my, I have a dual major undergraduate degree in business administration and psychology. And those have certainly served me well. And of course, I’ve I’ve learned a lot of accounting over the years. And then you could even go a specialized route, for example, my graduate degree is in economic crime management, you can’t get much more specialized than that. And that’s kind of what zeroed me in on this field a little bit, too. So there’s multiple routes, but I think a good solid foundation certainly can be found in that in that accounting degree,


Lisa Marker-Robbins  06:56

that makes sense, as their certificates. So say, somebody does have a different degree. And they’re like, I don’t want to go back and earn another bachelor’s, or I’m like a true crime junkie. So that’s just a true confession here. On the podcast, when you just gave the name of your master’s degree, I’m like, Ooh, that sounds really interesting. From the investigative side of things, let’s say somebody’s like, I want to get a different degree, or they they discover late in the process, this is of interest to them, are there different certificates, if they don’t want to go on to get a master’s degree?


Jim Vogt  07:31

You know, it’s not something that I’ve researched real closely. But I think you can find certificates or perhaps in forensic accounting, I know that there are schools that offer, say, a master’s in accounting, but have a specialization in fraud or forensics. But I think too, another thing to consider, and really, this is part of what worked for me, is there are many certifications out there for people in this field. So even if they don’t have that accounting degree, to go out and get your certification as a Certified Fraud Examiner, for example, or there’s a number of them. But those certifications also can help individuals get not only get into the field, but studies have shown that they can influence and impact their potential earnings down the road.


Lisa Marker-Robbins  08:20

So gaining those stacking on some of those specialized certifications are going to increase potential earnings in the future probably opened the doors to better employment. Absolutely, absolutely. So let’s talk about let’s say, we’ve got a team listening to this or their parents listening to it. They’re like, Yes, I’m gonna go that traditional path that Jim’s talking about, maybe they’ll even be one of your future students someday. So they go ahead and they set out to that path. Upon graduation, let’s talk about where they’re working, what their day to day looks like. Let’s start with where they’re working. Where would somebody who wants to go into forensic accounting fraud, what kind of industries where they might find a job?


Jim Vogt  09:08

You know, there’s no singular path at all. And I think that if you talk to a dozen professionals in this field, I bet you that every single one of them would have a different path. But I think that if someone knows that they want to get into this type of field that’s involved in the in the fraud arena, for example, I think one of the best places to start it is with banks for financial institutions, almost every one of them how someone working consumer fraud, credit card fraud, check fraud at some of those types of things within the bank organization itself, and it’s a great place to cut your teeth. I think, though, another thing that I see is people starting out maybe in more typical accounting, career pursuits, say as an auditor, somebody might go and get a couple years of auditing under their belt and then branch into something that’s more fraud specific. I think you’d be surprised, for example, to know that I don’t know the statistics, but I don’t know if it’s safe to say a majority, but a huge number, for example of FBI agents have accounting degrees. It’s actually


Lisa Marker-Robbins  10:18

huge. I know for a fact it’s huge. I don’t have the exact number. But accounting is the number one degree that the FBI hires. I do know that.


Jim Vogt  10:29

Absolutely. I have FBI agents come in and talk to my classes. But it’s similar to that the IRS has criminal investigators, IRS criminal investigations is another particular area. But the FBI not only has agents that have accounting degrees, but they also hire just specifically forensic accountants. And that’s a great place to go with those analytical skills and that type of thing.


Lisa Marker-Robbins  10:53

A lot of times I have a lot of students say who I want to work for the FBI. I think it just sounds exciting sometimes. And they don’t necessarily know a ton about it. And I don’t know the answer to this question. But on the forensic accounting side, do you feel like the FBI is looking for prior work experience between graduation and joining the FBI? Are they recruiting undergraduates right out of school?


Jim Vogt  11:16

Yes. Yes to both. I think that it’s not unusual at all, for them to hire graduates right out of school, I think they do like to see some work experience. It see the thing with the FBI and similar type positions is it’s a very long hiring process, much longer than what you would expect. It can even take up to a year from the time that you apply and become an applicant. And you go through all the rigmarole. It’s actually something that I went through early in my career, and it’s a it’s a long, very thorough process. And so that’s something that somebody can be working while they’re, you know, waiting and going through that process. So they like that. But I think that the FBI has internships, and I know that that’s sometimes a great foot in the door, that they talk to my students about quite a bit as well. And again, they have the agents, you know, the FBI agents, but they also have the forensic accountants that aren’t the, you know, that are in the office more, but they’re working alongside the agents and doing these investigations.


Lisa Marker-Robbins  12:22

So we’re talking a lot about investigating, but I’m assuming there’s a good amount of work just on the prevention side as well, how does that side of the field maybe differ? And and is it a 5050? Or most people working on the investigative side? Or are they working on the prevention side?


Jim Vogt  12:42

Well, you know, it, it’s, it’s probably even more diverse than, than even that. So when I talk about fraud, the full spectrum of of the career path includes prevention. Obviously, we’d like to prevent fraud, if we could, that’s the best way that’s going to do, but we can’t prevent 100% of it. So the next thing to do is detection, or to try to detect it as early as we can. And then when when there is some indication, then we go through the investigation. But we also have to resolve that. And there’s a whole legal side of that from that perspective. And then even more broadly, when you consider forensic accounting as a career, what often people overlook is that there’s a site of forensic accounting that doesn’t even have anything to do with fraud. It’s an even broader field than fraud investigation or fraud examination, because they get involved with things like valuation of businesses, determining commercial damages in lawsuits, or breaches of contract, a lot of things even outside of fraud. But when you talk about prevention and detection, that’s where I tend to focus. But I think that’s more a function of how I came into the career. And because I’m an educator at heart, but I think that unfortunately, the sad statement is that a big part of it does end up on the investigation side. And the reason for that is too many organizations aren’t willing to spend the money on prevention and detection because they can’t show a return on their investment. They can’t prove what didn’t happen. So that becomes my challenge in trying to work with organizations. And oftentimes what happens is they end up waiting until something happens and then having to call in the investigator and having to spend 10s, or even hundreds of 1000s of dollars to get that situation addressed. But there’s room all along the spectrum, I believe whether you know, someone wants to look at the prevention side, I think that detection side has become probably growing even more than some of the others because of the advances in technology, we can be a whole lot more proactive in looking at data analyzing data to try to find suspicious activity that would lead to further investigation. So the detection side is becoming I think far more pourtant and probably will see growth in that area because of it.


Lisa Marker-Robbins  15:03

I was wondering, as you were talking, you know, thinking back in time, is there more of a need for this field, because we’re also connected, and we all have a computer in our pocket? Or is there less of a need on at least the investigation side, because we’re getting really good at prevention and all the protections for our devices and the detection side,


Jim Vogt  15:32

I don’t know that technology is the root of it. But fraud is on the increase, no matter how hard we work, fraud is on the increase a part of that is because it’s it’s technology makes it easier. I mean, in the old days, so to speak, to con somebody, you had to look them in the eye, it was a face to face, interpersonal thing. But now, you know, with the internet, and with technology, and just the whole global reach, it’s become much more efficient for fraudsters just like it is for us. Technology makes it more efficient. And it makes it makes it easier to reach out. And so while technology helps the criminals, obviously, technology also helps us but we’re always one step behind, it’s almost impossible to get ahead of them. Because they’re always finding new ways to attack things. And so we have to try to make sure that we do what we can to keep up with that. And oftentimes, it’s the technology. I think the advances in technology probably have helped most on the detection side, though.


Lisa Marker-Robbins  16:37

So for sure is going to continue to be build that needed and growing. No doubt. Now, as a professor, you are working with college students that I know you when we first met offline and another organization, you were like, I’m a teacher at heart. And you said it today, and your students I can tell are so fortunate to have you. If you could be talking to a teenager before they even start to select this path. Do you have any parting words of advice for teens who are thinking about this?


Jim Vogt  17:12

In essence, what you’re talking about is finding your purpose? Yes. Right. I really believe that we all have at least one purpose, if not multiple purposes. And I think that sometimes the clues are in our childhood. Oh, I could not agree more. If you think back and you think about what is it that engaged you? What is it that growing up that you could get involved with and completely lose track of time? I think that gives us clues. Okay, I’m gonna really date myself here. But I grew up I used to love reading arty boy novels. I don’t know if


Lisa Marker-Robbins  17:50

you, Nancy Drew, I read Nancy Drew all through the 70s.


Jim Vogt  17:55

So I love that stuff. And in fact, there was another series called encyclopedia Brown. Yeah, the stories were written so that you got clues, and then they’d stop, and you had to figure them out. And then you could check and see if you figured it out. Right. And I used to love that stuff. But that’s one way I think, look back at the things that you love, and see, well, how does that potentially translate into a career or that or a direction that I want to go that and just evaluate what you enjoy and what you’re passionate about, I’ve always believed that you can only become excellent in something that you’re passionate about. And so yes, it’s it’s real common for students to be looking at, well, I’m gonna gauge my career path, maybe on whether it’s the most demand or where I can make the best money. But you know, you’re gonna be doing this for a long time, folks. And so make sure that it’s something that you’re passionate about, or something that you that you enjoy.


Lisa Marker-Robbins  18:51

I have a great statistic to back up what you said, you’re gonna be doing this for a long time, folks, students kindergarten through 12th grade, go to school for 16,000 hours in every time I say that to a teenager. And you could probably say to your college students, if you would see their face and go like, Yes, I feel every one of those hours. And then you tell them and the average adult will work 95,000 hours in their working adult life. So you better do what you love, which is all about when I’m helping them figure out in my launch Career Clarity course. And this podcast episode will be so helpful to that. And this is just fantastic advice. As you were talking, I remembered, FBI does have some summer experiences for high school students. So I’m gonna go ahead and be sure that our show notes that we dropped the link to that because we talked a lot about the FBI here. I’ll also go ahead and put links to the show notes for your two universities where hey, maybe Someday one of our listeners will be one of your students and class. Yeah, never know. Thanks, Jim for making time for me today and helping our listeners. Well, I’m convinced that careers is accounting do not have to be boring. As a true crime junkie myself. I’m fascinated with this work. I’m adding to the show notes, the promise links on FBI jobs and FBI summer experiences for teens. And I’m also adding another link. It’s to the association of international certified professional accountants site on this site. They have a lot of information on forensic accounting careers. If I’m honest, when I went to get you this link, my curiosity got me and I spent way more time than necessary learning about this field while on their site. If you’ve listened this far, you likely have a student in mind for whom this field could be a fit. Perhaps it’s your own team. Well, your college bound homework this week is to practice those investigation skills by investigating career fit with the links I provided in the show notes. If you’re a teen wants to work towards gaining Career Clarity or you know they need to check out my college major and Career Clarity course at flourish coaching co.com forward slash course, in sign up to be notified when enrollment opens for our next cohort. I’ll drop that link in the show notes as well. Thank you once again for listening to the College and Career Clarity podcast, where I help your family move from overwhelmed and confused to motivated clear and confident about your teens future.