Learn How to Become a Forensic Accountant
There has been no standard set to become a forensic accountant. Many forensic accountants started off as Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) working in audit departments. With experience they moved into formal forensic accounting job roles with accounting firms or the federal government. Since the late '90s there has been considerable growth in the forensic accounting field. This can mean tremendous job opportunities for those educated, trained and certified as forensic accountants.
The first step to becoming a forensic accountant is to earn a bachelor's degree in general accounting, forensic accounting or a related area with significant credit hours in accounting. The bachelor's degree is often the minimum educational level for this profession and a master's in forensic accounting or accounting with a forensic accounting or related concentration is becoming common. With the emergence of bachelor's degree programs in forensic accounting there have been opportunities to gain specialized forensic accounting education while at the college or university level. Graduates of bachelor degree programs in forensic accounting or general general accounting need to pursue certification as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in order to be competitive when applying for positions at the federal, private or public level. The CPA designation is also a requirement for forensic accountant professional certification such as the Certified Forensic Accountant (Cr.FA) designation offered through the American College of Forensic Examiners.
What Do Forensic Accountants Do?
Forensic accountants investigate financial documents to determine if there are any accounting irregularities, fraud or improper accounting methods. They analyze this data and prepare a report or presentation for their client or employer. The report generally provides a summary of their findings including the methods they used, their sources for of their findings and a complete analysis of their findings in a format that a no-accounting professional can understand. Forensic accountants often work in litigation support scenarios preparing for potential litigation or during litigation. Forensic accountants may also be called upon as expert witnesses or to evaluate an expert witness testimony. Forensic investigative accounting may also include fraud investigations such as employee theft, identity theft, health care fraud, insurance fraud, securities fraud, medicare fraud, kickbacks and various other fraud cases.
Once an accounting irregularity has been detected a forensic accountant may also assist in the recovery of assets process and help develop programs that can help minimize the risk of any future losses or irregularities. Forensic accountants are sometimes hired by attorneys during divorce cases to investigate any hidden assets that have been hidden by the other party. An area where forensic accountants have been used extensively is in law enforcement, primarily the federal government. The FBI, IRS, SEC, CIA and other federal agencies have employed the services of forensic accountants to help investigate terrorist financing. Forensic accountants use their skills and training to detect where the funds come from and where they go and how they can stop the flow of the money. Needless to say, the federal government is one of the major employers of forensic accountants, including entry-level accountants.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2012-13 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for accountants and auditors is $61,690. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.
Learn more about general accounting and forensic accounting degree programs by contacting the schools listed below. Take the first step toward an exciting and rewarding forensic accounting career.
Online Criminal Justice Schools
- Master of Accountancy in General & Forensic Accounting (Online)
- Certificate - Forensic Accounting (Online)
- BSA - Auditing/Forensic Accountancy (Online)