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.
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