Forensic accounting is a combination of accounting and investigative skills, usually to ferret out corporate fraud, embezzlement or keeping track of where the money is going. Forensic accounting is a much more exciting job for many than standard accounting; in the age of giant corporate frauds such as Enron the demand for forensic accountants has increased, so there is great scope for a career in forensic accounting. This article provides simple instructions on how to get a job in forensic accounting. The best way to start is by getting a degree in accounting.
Skills and qualifications
A job in forensic accounting requires completion of educational qualifications applicable to accountants and/or auditors, as follows:
- A Bachelor's or higher degree in accounting, or an MBA with specialization in accounting.
- Secure a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) accreditation, clearing all four parts of the CPA examination within a period of 18 months, though not all at once.
- Secure certification from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) – Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). This requires a 4-year Bachelor degree, 2 years of work experience, and passing another 4-part examination.
- Skills required include an aptitude for numbers, excellent research and analytical skills, investigative abilities, an attention for detail and a thorough knowledge of accounting practices and ethics.
Job scope&employment avenues
Forensic accountants are primarily fraud investigators who assist government, law enforcement and corporate entities in fraud detection and prevention. As a forensic accountant, you can either work for the government or federal agencies such as the FBI, SEC, IRS, ATF or related state authorities; alternatively work as a forensic accountant on the corporate payroll or as a self-employed independent consultant or as a salaried consultant in an accounting firm.
A forensic accountant’s job, according to the ACFE involves expertise in four main areas: (a) financial and accounting transactions; (b) criminal activities, (c) investigation; and (d) legal implications and principles. Forensic accountants can be designated as investigators, internal or external auditors, law enforcement personnel or government accountants. As a forensic accountant you will work on a variety of fraud cases such as tax evasion, embezzlement, money-laundering, insurance fraud, hiding of assets in offshore jurisdictions, identity theft, fraudulent bookkeeping, etc.
Salaries for freshly-qualified forensic accountants are between $30,000 and $60,000 depending on educational qualifications and prior work experience, if any. Professionals with five or more years of experience can earn salaries in excess of $80k and above.
Forensic accounting is considered to be among the twenty ‘hottest’ jobs in the US today, and it's easy to get started on this career path with an online accounting degree. With more and more financial and accounting scandals being discovered, a job in forensic accounting may just be the job for an enterprising and confident individual like you!