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Part Criminal Investigator, Part Finance Specialist: Profiling the Forensic Accountant

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Pursuing a career as a forensic accountant means that you will investigate the financial activities of businesses and individuals in order to determine if there has been any illegal activity. If it is found that there has been illegal activity, you will often serve as an expert witness during trial when that business or individual is prosecuted.

One word: Enron. No other company in recent memory epitomizes corporate scandal and financial negligence like Enron does. The company was an accountant’s nightmare: corporate executives intentionally participated in corporate accounting fraud, resulting in millions of lost dollars and thousands of shattered lives. Since that time, both the public and businesses themselves have placed greater emphasis on preventing these financial disasters. And the best way they have found to do this is to hire forensic accountants to investigate corporations and subsequently prosecute them for any underhanded accounting practices.

Currently, 40 percent of the country’s top 100 accounting firms have established departments that focus exclusively on forensic accounting. As one of the most rapidly expanding areas in the accounting industry, forensic accounting is expected to have one of the top 20 job markets in the coming years, making forensic accounting a great career option for individuals looking to find a job in the accounting field. Utilizing a wide range of skills, including investigative, auditing, and accounting expertise, forensic accountants serve as detectives and examine the business and financial activities of corporations and individuals.

Education: To become a forensic accountant, candidates must possess an accounting degree from a four-year university, as well as CPA certification. (For recent accounting graduates, a minimum of 24 accounting hours is typically required.) Coursework in the areas of law enforcement and criminal justice are also highly desirable. Also, although not required, it is highly recommended that an individual looking to pursue a career as a forensic accountant become a Certified Fraud Examiner or Certified Forensic Accountant.

Required Skills: The ideal forensic accountant candidate will possess a solid accounting foundation, as well as knowledge of various legal procedures. Prospects should also be inquisitive by nature, detail-oriented, critical thinkers, and possess excellent communication, analytical, and research skills.

Forensic Accountant Job Duties: To properly investigate the company or organization in question, forensic accountants will spend time at the business and collect financial data. After collecting the pertinent financial information, the forensic accountant will input this information into a computer program that will assist in the analysis of the information and prepare accompanying reports. Documents and other evidence may also be collected to be presented at a later date in court. If the company or an individual is prosecuted, the forensic accountant will be summoned to testify in court. The job of the forensic accountant will typically fall into one of two categories: investigative accounting or litigation support.

Potential Employers: Forensic accountants are needed in a variety of capacities and can work for corporations, banks, accounting firms, law firms, insurance companies, and various government agencies such as the IRS, FBI, CIA, or local police departments. It should be noted that if you choose to pursue an accounting job with any government agency, you must be a United States citizen and pass an intensive background check.

Compensation: The average salary for a forensic accountant varies depending on several factors, including experience. However, the typical forensic accountant earns between $30,000 and $60,000 when he or she is first starting out in his or her career, and can make between $125,000 and $150,000 after he or she has become established in the industry.

Ultimately, choosing to become a forensic accountant is a noble career aspiration. The field allows its professionals to utilize a diverse skill-set, solve problems, and help the community at large by working daily to prevent the next financial scandal.
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Certified Fraud Examiner

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 industry  U.S. citizens  police  businesses  CFA Institute  job market  Enron  Certified Fraud Examiner  corporate executives  accounting fraud

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