What Do Forensic Accountants Do?
More often the stuff of a Raymond Chandler hard-boiled detective or a Cold War-era secret agent, the crime-fighting, mystery-filled life of a forensic accountant is miles away from the "bean counter" accounting stereotype. Working on anything from bankruptcy and divorce, to major fraud and capital crime cases, forensic accountants have a love of the excitement that comes with law as well as order.
Those in a forensic accounting career combine their accounting, auditing and investigative skills to analyze and interpret business and financial evidence, and can participate in trials as expert witnesses. Before you begin your sleuthing however, you'll need to find the right forensic accounting program.
Required education: You must have a bachelors degree in accounting and are generally expected to have CPA certification to begin a forensic accounting career. It is also beneficial to become a CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner) or a CrFA (Certified Forensic Accountant).
Forensic Accounting Salary: Forensic accountants are part of the larger field of accountants and auditors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for accountants and auditors is $63,550. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors.
Required skills: In addition to strong accounting skills and legal knowledge, forensic accountants must have the following:
- Remarkable curiosity
- Attention to detail
- The ability to think creatively
- Communicate effectively
- Analytical and research skills
Places forensic accountants work: Those who have completed a forensic accounting program will work anywhere investigative accounting is needed. This ranges from private corporations or firms that help specific companies deal with suspected (or known) fraud and embezzlement to government organizations like police departments, the FBI or the CIA. Forensic accountants also frequently work for public accounting firms, banks, the IRS, insurance companies and law firms.
Sources: Journal of Forensic Accounting, 2012; ForensicAccounting.com