Forensic Accountant Career, Salary and Training Info

Adding the adjective “forensic” to the career description of accountant adds a legal element to this career choice. Jobs described as forensic are those that produce information suitable for use in a court of law.

Most large accounting firms have forensic accounting departments. There are specializations within the department that may focus on personal injury claims, insurance claims, royalty audits, or fraud investigations.

You could be hired to analyze someone’s lifestyle and spending to help the court set spousal support in a divorce action or to divide property under state law. You may investigate cases of identity theft and financial fraud.

You may take on a major project as part of a group of forensic accountants who are investigating the daily operations of a fraud perpetrated over months or even years. Your findings may result in exposing money laundering schemes or hidden funds to be refunded to those who were defrauded.

Forensic Accountant Requirements

You’ll need a four year business degree in accounting or finance from an accredited college or university as well as your Certified Public Accountant license (CPA) to enter the field of forensic accounting.

The rapid growth of forensic specialties has led to many colleges and universities offering advanced programs for these specialty professions. Additional educational opportunities can also be found through some professional associations.

Training in legal processes is valuable as forensic accounting evidence is often challenged very aggressively in court and the ability to document and defend the results of your investigation are crucial elements in this career.

Forensic Accountant Education and Training

Those new to the field of forensic accounting will not begin their career by working on a high profile fraud investigation but will often spend time on more routine investigations and as support personnel for a team investigative effort.

Some employers are also willing to cover the cost of pursuing a graduate degree while you are gaining experience on the job.

Forensic Accountant Salary

Forensic accountants will begin their career earning anywhere from $30,000 to $60,000 per year. The lower salary will apply to those new hires just beginning their accounting career. The higher salaries are paid to new forensic accountants who have years of practical accounting experience in the past.

Experienced forensic accounts can work their way up to the level of $125,000 to $150,000.

Forensic Accountant Career Opportunities

Forensic accounting job opportunities are growing rapidly with companies hiring forensic accountants to tackle problems with inventory loss, business income loss, or fraudulent activity online.

On the federal level, you might work with the FBI, ATF, DEA, or the Secret Service in uncovering money laundering schemes and following the paper trail of illegal transactions. You might be employed by the transportation industry, a health care provider, insurance company, or may join the faculty of a university and teach while also serving as a consultant or an expert witness. Some forensic accountants work with state and local law enforcement as part of a special investigation task force.

Take a look at other great Criminal Justice Careers.

Article written by Radek Gadek

Radek holds a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Boston University. He is currently doing consulting work and runs this blog to provide relevant information on criminal justice degrees, colleges and related careers.

4 comments… add one
  • Brittany Hughes

    Hi, I am a senior accounting student but am thinking of following this career path. Do you think it would benefit me more to get a master’s in accounting or criminal justice in order to do this? Thanks!

    • Radek Gadek

      Accounting or Forensic Accounting… hands down :-)

  • B.

    Hi! I have my bachelors in science criminal justice. However, I want to work as a Forensic Accountant in the FBI later. Is it better to go for a Masters in Accounting or an MBA? Also, am I even able to get into a Masters program for Accounting if I only have a Bachelors in C.J.? Is an MBA a mistake if I later want to get my CPA? thanks!

  • mary

    Hi! This is kind of a stupid question but if you work as a forensic accountant for a major accounting firm do you work in a corporate building such as the ones in NY? I want to become a forensic accountant but there are so many unanswered questions that I can’t find and I have searched and searched the Internet. I have received vague descriptions for entry level tasks! :p also, is it better to get a degree in criminal justice/ safety studies or criminology? I’m taking business math and a criminology course next year and business law senior year of high school. (FYI) :p sorry for so much info! Thanks in advance!

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