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How to Become a Forensic Accountant in the US

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Forensic accountants are not your ordinary accountants or auditors. These are financial detectives. If you defraud a company and wire the money to a foreign country, forensic accountants will track it down and possibly recover it. If you fake an injury and file an insurance claim, be prepared to be expertly uncovered by these accountants…In short, they investigate all sorts of white collar crimes.

So, what does it take to join this profession? Read on!

What Do Forensic Accountants Do?

The duties of forensic accountants include:

  • Obtaining the financial and personal records of people suspected of financial crimes – Where there are no records, these accountants can construct the individual’s financial profile
  • Thoroughly analyzing these documents to find the dirt in the details – This may involve scrutinizing a chain of financial transactions
  • Gathering evidence to be used in legal proceedings – They may also serve as expert witnesses
  • Offering professional support to lawyers involved in financial cases
  • Serving as consultants in firms that develop fraud detection applications for organizations

Work Environment

Forensic accountants work from 9am, Monday to Friday. They typically spend their day in an office environment where they conduct their investigations.

The job may also involve some travelling, especially when required to testify in a court of law. Those who work for government agencies may accompany law enforcement officers on interviews of suspected fraudsters.

Salary

The median annual salary for forensic accountants is $64,353, according to Payscale. The following table highlights the salaries for the lowest ad highest earners:

Occupations

Annual Wage

Lowest earning forensic accountants

$45,000

Highest earning forensic accountants

$110,000

Entry Requirements

Although some forensic accountants have degrees in accounting or finance, the best way to prepare yourself for this job is to earn a bachelor’s degree in forensic accounting. Unlike other accounting programs, this degree includes courses in criminal justice and legal studies.

Examples of universities offering this program include:

To improve your employment prospects, earn the Certified Public Accountant credential from the American Institute of CPAs.

20 percent discount
20 percent discount

Important Qualities

To be accomplished forensic accountant, you need:

  • Excellent investigative skills
  • A high attention to detail
  • Strong legal skills
  • Excellent analytical and decision making skills
  • Strong problem-solving skills
  • To be highly inquisitive
  • Excellent skills in gathering information
  • Good report writing and presentation skills
  • Good speaking skills for giving clear testimonies
  • Good computer skills

Career Development

As a newly-hired forensic accountant, you may undergo on-the-job training to improve your knowledge of legal issues in forensic investigations. After that, you can:

  • Earn the Certified Forensic Accountant credential from American College of Forensic Examiners Institute – The program provides in-depth training in areas such as fraud auditing and government auditing techniques. The college also offers membership opportunities.
  • Pursue a master’s degree in forensic accounting.

Job Opportunities

The employers of forensic accountants include:

  • Insurance companies
  • Government agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service and the FBI
  • Law firms
  • Banks and other lending institutions.

With vast experience and advanced professional and academic credentials, you can qualify for employment as a forensic accounting manager. You can also start your own forensic accounting company.

Finally, Franklin University estimates there will be 1.8 million new jobs for forensic accountants by 2022. So if you believe you have what it takes to detect white color crimes, then will be plenty of opportunities for you to do so. But you must first earn the required qualifications. Good luck!

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