How to Become a Forensic Accountant

Forensic accounting is an accounting specialty that applies accounting principles to legal matters. Forensic accountants are specially trained professionals that are experts in the field that examine and understand a variety of financial crimes.

What does a forensic accountant do?

Forensic accountants investigate and interpret many different crimes such as embezzlement, fraud and other criminal financial transactions. They use their accounting knowledge to determine if certain financial activities are illegal and present the evidence to law enforcement personnel and lawyers. They also often help build legal cases by preparing evidence, conducting interviews, and testifying as expert witnesses for civil and criminal trials. They communicate their analysis through reports and collections or documents. Some forensic accountants specialize in specific area including insurance claims, fraud, royalty audits, personal injury claims, or construction.

What kind of training does a forensic accountant need?

Forensic accountants typically need at least a bachelor degree in accounting. Some employers prefer candidates with a master degree. Most prospective forensic accountants select programs that have an option to specialize in forensic accounting. Many also complete internships or obtain part time jobs working in forensic settings to gain practical experience while completing their education. Most employers require forensic accountants to have a Certified Public Accountant designation. The requirements typically include passing a national examination and meeting educational requirements. Most forensic accountants also gain the Certified Forensic Accountant (CrFA) or Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) designations. The requirements include at least a bachelor degree, a minimum of 2 years work experience, passing an examination, and adhering by a code of ethics. Forensic accountants must complete annual continuing education courses to renew their certifications.

What are the prospects for a career as a forensic accountant?

Employment of all accountants is expected to grow faster than average for all professions, increasing 18% from 2006 to 2016 (1). The increase in finance related crimes and criminal investigations will drive job growth of forensic accountants.

Job prospects are expected to good especially for forensic accountants with advanced education and certification. Numerous job openings will arise from the need to replace forensic accountants that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do forensic accountants make?

As of November 2009, the average annual salary for forensic accountants was $73,000; average annual forensic accountant salaries vary greatly on location, industry, employer, education, experience, and benefits (2).

A career as a forensic accountant is an excellent choice for individuals with a strong interest in forensics and accounting. Forensic accountants must have strong understanding of accounting operations and the legal process and excellent analytical skills. They must be organized, confident, detail oriented, and persistent. Forensic accountants must have mathematical aptitude and ability to quickly examine, compare, and interpret a variety of figures. They must also have excellent communication and be able to interact with a variety of people.

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