How to Become a Forensic Accountant

If you have an interest in the law, criminal justice, and a good head for finance and accounting, you might like to become a forensic accountant.

Forensic accountants are qualified accountants who specialize in investigating reports of white collar crime such as fraud and embezzlement.

If you’re interested in accounting, but looking for something a little beyond the normal scope of this field, then this career might be for you.

To become a forensic accountant, you’ll of course need strong skills accountancy.

You’ll also need a good knowledge of the law as it relates to these fields.

Patience and a high level of attention to detail come in handy in this role, since you might spend months on one particular case.

Education Requirements to Become a Forensic Accountant

To become a forensic accountant, you’ll first need to become a qualified accountant.

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Your first step it to attain a four year accounting degree at a good college.

Similar degrees which have an accounting component as part of their required coursework, such as finance or business administration, are also acceptable.

While some colleges offer degrees in forensic accounting or fraud detection, these are not essential to become a forensic accountant.

After college, your next step is to become a CPA, or certified public accountant.

You will then need to attain a certificate as a certified fraud examiner, or CFE, which will allow you to work as a forensic accountant.

After you have the right certifications, you should look for an entry level job at a firm that specializes in forensic accounting.

Forensic Accountant Job Description

When you become a forensic accountant, your role is a combination of both finance and law enforcement.

Most forensic accountants work closely with law enforcement agencies to find evidence in a suspected case of white collar crime.

Common crimes are fraud, embezzlement, bankruptcy, and contract disputes.

They are sometimes involved by private companies who suspect such activity within their own business.

Sometimes they are employed by lawyers who are preparing a defense against those charged with such crimes.

Working as a forensic accountant can involve long hours scouring over files, or going over computer records.

It’s up to you to join the dots on the records of companies.

Your task can be difficult, because often individuals go to great lengths to hide their own wrong-doings.

You could spend days or months on the one case.

Forensic accountants usually work in a team.

You might work from your own offices with files which have been seized.

You could also work on site for a company.

After your investigation is complete, you will need to make a final report.

This will show your findings, along with evidence of such.

Often a forensic accountant is required to testify in court.

Here are some of the duties of a forensic accountant:

  • Check financial records for accuracy
  • Detect discrepancies
  • Look for missing files and records
  • Look for false records and files
  • Look for instances of criminal activity
  • Make a final report on findings
  • Testify in court

Forensic Accountant Salary and Career Path

When you become a forensic accountant, you’ll probably get your first role in an accountancy firm that specializes in forensic accounting.

In your first few years, you’ll work as a junior or assistant.

After a while you will get more responsibility.

Many forensic accountants go on to lead their own investigations and manage a team.

Some go on to other careers within finance, while others decide to enter the world of law enforcement.

The median salary of a forensic accountant is $59,000 a year.

A forensic accountant with experience may secure a higher salary due to their specialized knowledge.

Some similar roles to that of forensic accountant include:

Working as a forensic accountant will certainly have you exposed to some exiting and intriguing situations.

When you become a forensic accountant you can also look forward to a secure career and plenty of job opportunity.

There is also the opportunity for promotion and professional development.

Another benefit of this career is that you are making a contribution to law enforcement, and helping to protect your community from financial crime.

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