Forensic Accounting Career Path

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Forensic Accounting Career Path

If you’re looking for a career that offers excitement, challenge, and the chance to make a real difference in the world, forensic accounting may be just what you’re looking for. This field is all about investigating financial crimes and helping to bring wrongdoers to justice. But it’s not just about detecting and preventing crime – forensic accountants also play a vital role in recovering lost assets and helping victims rebuild their lives. If that sounds like something you might be interested in, keep reading to learn more about what a career in forensic accounting entails.

1. What Is Forensic Accounting?

Forensic Accounting is a unique form of accounting that deals with legal issues. Forensic accountants can be called upon to investigate financial crimes and lawsuits and make sure the information obtained is accurate and valid. Forensic accounting ensures that money laundering and improper actions such as embezzlement and theft cannot go undetected. Accountants who are forensic specialists must study the laws of evidence and procedure within their jurisdictions to determine what is allowed in court.

Forensic accountants work in a wide range of locations. They may be employed by corporations or public accounting firms or even pursue independent contracts with law firms and government agencies. Forensic accountants who are self-employed often advertise their services in online business directories and specialist publications, such as the “Forensic Accounting Review.” The largest employers of forensic accountants tend to be corporations and government agencies. Forensic accounting jobs include those in private practice and those at government institutions such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

2. What Is the Difference Between Forensic Accounting and Forensic Auditing?

Forensic accounting can be distinguished from forensic auditing, as forensic auditing focuses on financial issues that arise during litigation. These accountants may specialize in either litigation support, financial intelligence, or fraud investigation. Law firms usually employ forensic accountants to understand better the guidelines of evidence and procedure within their jurisdiction to determine what is allowed in court.

3. What Are the Main Requirements for Someone Working as a Forensic Accountant?

The essential requirement for becoming a forensic accountant is having experience with accounting and becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Forensic accounting often deals with legal issues; forensic accountants must know the law thoroughly. In addition to being qualified in forensic accounting and auditing, they should also be skilled in the computer applications used for financial analysis. Forensic accountants can specialize in fraud investigation or litigation support. Litigation support accountants can specialize in various areas such as business valuation, electronic discovery, and damages analysis.

4. What Kind of Education Is Needed to Become a Forensic Accountant?

To become a forensic accountant, one would need to have experience with accounting and complete the requirements for obtaining a CPA certification.

A degree in Forensic Accounting and Finance is a logical first step. These degrees will give the student an introduction to Forensic Accounting and allow them to learn how it may be used to detect and communicate fraudulent activities. Forensic Accounting and Finance is a relatively new field, so there are few programs to choose from. The CPA certification is a crucial step for an accounting professional, and this will allow them to have the opportunities that being a Forensic Accountant can offer.

5. What Is the Average Salary for a Forensic Accountant?

The median hourly wage of forensic accountants was $36.29 in May 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS reported that during this period, half of the forensic accountants reported hourly earnings ranging from $18.78 to $51.53. Twenty percent of forensic accountants reported earning less than $20 per hour, while 10% earned more than $63.75 per hour. The median annual salary for forensic accountants was $62,910 in May 2012, according to the BLS report.

6. What did Forensic Accountants Do Throughout History, and How did their Work Impact Society?

Many believe that forensic accountants originated during the late Roman Republic. Before then, there were no official requirements for someone to take on the title of an accountant, so it is said that accountants would take on cases to demonstrate their skill. The first recorded forensic accounting case was between Cato the Elder and an accountant who embezzled public funds. Forensic accounting eventually spread to China, where accountants were used as advisers for Kings during the Spring and Autumn Period. They would often be employed by royalty to investigate corruption within their kingdoms.

Forensic Accountant also helped track many embezzlers during the Ming and Ching dynasties.
Due to its popularity, forensic accounting has traveled across many continents and countries throughout history. However, it was not until England that we began to see a system of laws created for dealing with financial crimes such as embezzlement or theft. In 1732, Sir William Pritchard was convicted of a financial crime and sentenced to death. This is one of the earliest recorded cases of a professional being brought to justice for wrongdoing in the area of finance.

7. What Are the Career Possibilities for Someone Who has Obtained Training in forensic Accounting?

Forensic accountants are in high demand by government agencies, corporations, law firms, and public accounting firms. The skills of forensic accountants can be used for litigation support, fraud investigation, dispute resolution, and regulatory compliance. Many forensic Accountant work on a contract or retainer basis to provide their services when needed. A forensic accountant can work on a full-time forensic accounting assignment, part-time forensic accounting assignment, or an outside consulting basis. Many forensic accountants focus their careers in one of the following four areas:

1. Fraud and error detection/prevention and internal controls evaluation
2. Financial statement fraud investigation and litigation support
3. Forensic analytics
4. Compliance and regulatory matters

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants lists several possible career paths. Most of these opportunities require some form of licensing or certification. While not every job requires it, the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) certification from the ACFE is considered the “gold standard.” As many jobs in the field require some form of certification, there are several online and in-class courses to choose from.

8. The Job Outlook for a Forensic Accountant

According to the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics, employment opportunities for forensic accountants are expected to increase by 17 percent between 2010 and 2020. The only other profession with comparable projected growth is Predictive Analytics, which is expected to grow by 22 percent. This growth can be attributed to the increased use of technology in business areas such as finance, the government’s push for improved transparency and accountability, and new legislation that requires forensic accountants on staff or retainer. As of 2015, forensic accountants at all levels are in high demand, with an under two percent unemployment rate.

9. Skills One Needs to Become a Forensic Accountant.

Some of the skills one need to become a forensic accountant include

  • Good communication skills
  • Investigative skills
  • The ability to understand complex financial transactions and information
  • A talent for spotting inconsistencies in financial data
  • The ability to work under pressure, meet deadlines, and maintain composure during stressful situations
  • Accounting knowledge is also helpful. However, forensic accounting software can be used by those who lack accounting knowledge.
  • Attention to detail and a strong work ethic
  • A curious mind and curiosity about how things work (financial transactions, significantly) help with investigations.

This is not an exhaustive list of the skills necessary to become a forensic accountant; these are just some examples.

10. Top Recruiting Companies for a Forensic Accountant

The Forensic Accountant is essential for any company that needs to keep accurate records. The companies that are most in need of a forensic accountant are those with the most significant amount of financial transactions, typically banks and large businesses. These people typically have an undergraduate degree in accounting or finance, as well as specialized training in forensics accounting.

The best places to find these professionals are at the top recruiting companies for this field, such as Korn Ferry International and Robert Half International Incorporated.

Korn Ferry International has been a top recruiting company for forensic accountants since 2009. Their offices are located in major cities worldwide, including Chicago.

Robert Half International Incorporated is based out of California and is another successful company that has recruited top professionals for this profession since 1991.

11. Best Colleges to Study Forensic Accountancy

If you are considering a career in forensic accountancy, knowing which schools have the best programs is essential. The top colleges for this profession are based on their curriculum and training opportunities.

These schools include St. John’s University, Stony Brook University, Washington College, and Northeastern University.

St. John’s University has been ranked as one of the best accounting schools by US News & World Report since 2012 with its “top-notch” faculty members. The latter provides students with an education that prepares them for business or government service careers, and they can use their analytical skills to investigate complex fraud or corruption cases. >Stony Brook offers bachelor’s degree programs in Accountancy and Forensic Accounting and has provided students with well-respected faculty members since 1965.

Washington College is known for its “outstanding” accountancy program, which offers bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees in the subject. The college also offers honors programs to its best graduates.

Northeastern University’s forensic accounting graduate program was ranked #12 in the nation by the public accounting report in 2013. The program is also one of the best programs for students who are looking to specialize in either financial forensics or fraud examination.


Forensic accountants are in high demand due to their unique skill set to uncover financial fraud and white-collar crime. If you have a passion for numbers and want to help catch criminals, then a career in forensic accounting may be the perfect fit for you. We hope this article has helped give you a better understanding of what forensic accountancy is all about and how to get started on your journey towards becoming a qualified forensic accountant.

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