How to Become a Forensic Accountant – A Guide

Move over, suit-clad, briefcase-toting accountants who work numbers within the four walls of an office. A new and exciting breed of accountants is here: They uncover fraud, solve financial crimes, and appear as expert witnesses in court. Their job can be filled with mystery, intrigue, and thrills-a far cry from the image of a stereotypical accountant. They’re called forensic accountants.

What Do Forensic Accountants Do?

Forensic accountants are people who use their accounting and auditing knowledge to investigate white-collar crime and provide analysis that is admissible in a court of law. Although forensic accountants have been around for some time, it’s only recently that they have come into the public eye, owing to a rise in the number of financial fraud cases and an increasingly complex business environment.

Given this background, the job of a forensic accountant is filled with challenges. Some of their duties include: -Legal investigation of a company’s financial documents -Examination of a firm’s accounting practices to detect illegal activities -Investigation of criminal matters like identity theft and insurance fraud -Probing financial crimes like securities fraud, embezzlement, money laundering, etc. -Investigating the financial angle of divorce cases -Examining bankruptcy cases filed by individuals or businesses -Supporting legal proceedings by participating in trials as expert witness

If you feel your adrenaline pump when you read that job description, you may want to give forensic accounting a serious shot.

How to Become a Forensic Accountant

Forensic accounting is a specialized branch of accounting and, consequently, you need specialized education to become a forensic accountant.

You can choose a bachelor’s degree in accounting, which is a four-year academic program available at most universities and colleges. Some institutions offer a forensic accounting degree or emphasis, which may include specially designed courses on the subject.

Whichever educational path you choose, your next step toward becoming a forensic accountant is to earn your certified public accountant (CPA) license, which takes additional time and expense outside of the degree. This involves taking a rigorous four-part examination conducted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

Training and Certifications

Several organizations, such as the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and the American College of Forensic Examiners International, also offer training and certifications for aspiring forensic accountants. Getting additional certification from these organizations may help forensic accountants prove their increased competency in the field and boost their prospects in the job market.

In addition to completing training and certifications, forensic accountants should join professional organizations to increase their credibility, as well as attend seminars and workshops to keep abreast of the changes taking place in the industry.

Employment Opportunities

Forensic accountants may find themselves on the rolls of any organization that needs their special investigative accounting skills. A diverse cross-section of organizations and industries retain the services of forensic accountants, including law enforcement agencies such as police departments and courts; insurance companies; banks and other financial institutions; government bodies; and private corporations.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, projects a 22 percent increase in the overall employment of accountants and auditors through 2018, so now could be the time to enter this exciting profession. (bls.gov/oco/ocos001.htm#emply)

Stevens-Henager College was established in 1891 and is one of the oldest colleges in Utah, offering degree programs for master’s, bachelor’s, associate’s, and associate of occupational studies degrees. Working professionals can enhance their careers and qualifications with the online degree programs offered by Stevens-Henager College’s Salt Lake City/Murray campus.

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