Certified Fraud Examiner

Updated on January 4, 2024
Article byNanditha Saravanakumar
Edited byShreya Bansal
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What Is A Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)?

A Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) is an independent professional who verifies and reviews an organization’s financial statements and records to identify illegal or unethical activities. It also refers to the professional certification offered by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), an anti-fraud organization.

Certified Fraud Examiner

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Candidates must fulfill specific requirements to be certified by the ACFE, such as a work experience of at least two years in a relevant field and a bachelor’s degree, apart from passing the association’s exam. Further, CFEs are subject to fulfilling continuous educational requirements to maintain their certification.

Key Takeaways

  • The certified fraud examiner certification enables professionals to work with organizations to detect, verify, and resolve cases of financial fraud. ACFE, the world’s largest anti-fraud organization, provides the certification. 
  • CFEs work as fraud investigators, accountants, and internal and external auditors in banks, insurance agencies, government departments, manufacturing industries, and retail firms.
  • CFEs can be certified once they pass the official exam conducted by ACFE, provided they are a member with a bachelor’s degree. They have a minimum of two years of relevant professional experience.

Certified Fraud Examiner Explained

A certified fraud examiner certification facilitates finance professionals to take up jobs related to fraud detection. These professionals can either be independent or work in the accounts department of a company. They have three essential functions: review, detect, and resolve.

CFEs must verify the firm’s financial statements, records, and transactions. If they detect fraud, they try to reach the source and hold the responsible person accountable. It helps the firm in two ways. Firstly, the management is able to reduce any losses through employee fraud, and secondly, it helps manage any legal repercussions that might arise due to external sources.

CFEs are subject to meeting constant professional and educational requirements to maintain their certification. It mandates them to stay updated with any new changes in their field and enhances the certificate’s validity. This requirement is similar to that of certified public accountants (CPAs).

The top five job functions specified by the ACFE are fraud examination, internal audit, investigation, compliance and ethics, and accounting. Their services are required by banking, insurance, education, health, manufacturing industries, and the government.


Here are the eligibility requirements on how to become a certified fraud examiner.

  1. ACFE Membership – The first step to CFE certification is to become an associate member of the ACFE.
  2. Eligibility points – Candidates should have at least 40 points to be eligible to attempt the CFE exam and 50 points to be certified. These points are scored based on professional work experience and graduation.
  3. Work experience – Candidates should mandatorily have work experience of two years related to fraud detection – accounting and auditing, law, loss prevention, fraud investigation, criminology, and sociology. If candidates do not qualify for the two-year mark, they can still attempt the exam, and once they gain the experience, they can get certified.
  4. Certified fraud examiner exam – The CFE exam tests the candidate’s knowledge and awareness about the law, financial transactions and fraud schemes, fraud prevention and deterrence, investigation, etc. The exam can be given online or in person. It consists of 400 multiple-choice questions to be attempted in eight hours.
  5. Agreement to abide by the ACFE Code of Professional Ethics – Candidates seeking to be certified by ACFE should always adhere to moral and professional ethics.

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Exam Cost

The registration cost for the CFE exam is $450. But if candidates purchase the prep course by paying $1062, they can enjoy a $100 credit on the exam fee, thereby paying only $350. Members can take up the prep course at a discounted price of $849.60. Further, ACFE members also get an opportunity to make payments in installments.

Here, it is essential to note that candidates do not have to be members to attend the exam but should have a membership to get certified. Hence, the disparity in cost.


In 2020, the ACFE published findings related to the compensation of CFEs. Here are some insights:

  • CFEs earned an annual median compensation of $95,937.
  • CFEs earned 34% more salary than non-CFEs.
  • In the Northwest U.S. region alone, CFEs made 46% more money than non-CFEs.
  • The highest disparity was in the Africa/ Middle East, where certified examiners earned 63% more than their non-certified counterparts.

Certified Fraud Examiner vs Certified Forensic Accountant

In this comparison table, let’s understand the differences between CFEs and CFAs, shedding light on the unique roles and expertise each brings to finance and law.

Authorizing BodyAssociation of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE)Institute of Certified Forensic Accountants (ICFA)
Primary FocusFraud detection and resolutionLegal aspects of financial accounts, including but not limited to fraud
Certification ProcessRequires fulfilling educational and professional requirements, passing an examObtained upon completion of an online course provided by the institute
Membership RequirementsOne-time membership with ongoing requirements to maintain credentialsAnnual subscription with no ongoing certification requirements
Roles in an OrganizationImportant role in fraud detection and preventionKey role in legal processes related to financial accounts and legal cases

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Is CFE a good certification?

The CFE certification is highly regarded in finance, auditing, and fraud detection. It equips professionals with specialized knowledge and skills to combat financial fraud, making them valuable assets to organizations seeking to prevent and investigate fraudulent activities.

2. Is CFE harder than CPA?

The difficulty of the CFE and Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certifications can vary depending on individual strengths and backgrounds. Generally, the CFE focuses on fraud detection and prevention, while the CPA covers a broader range of accounting and financial topics. Some may find the CFE more challenging due to its specialized nature and investigative aspects. In contrast, others may find the CPA more demanding due to its extensive coverage of accounting principles and regulations.

3. Who should take CFE?

The CFE certification suits professionals in various fields, including auditors, accountants, investigators, law enforcement personnel, and individuals interested in fraud prevention and detection. It is precious for those who want to specialize in investigating financial fraud, working in roles such as fraud examiners, forensic accountants, internal auditors, or compliance officers.

This article has been a guide to what is a Certified Fraud Examiner. Here, we explain it with its salary, exam cost, requirements, and comparison with CFA. You may also find some useful articles here –

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