By Cooper Nelson
Forensic accounting involves examining records to look for evidence of financial crimes. In this career, you might investigate crimes related to fraud, tax evasion, embezzlement or other forms of financial theft or misdeeds. Skilled forensic accountants are often called upon to serve as expert witnesses in court or provide reports and organize evidence for criminal or civil legal proceedings.
To jump into this career, take a look at what it takes to become a forensic accountant.
Forensic accountants read financial statements and look into financial records and transactions to find irregularities. They may work on cases involving money laundering, fraudulent tax returns, insider trading and other white-collar crimes.
These accounting specialists can work on criminal cases as part of an investigative team. They generally work in an office setting where they assess financial data and gather evidence to aid other investigators and legal prosecutors. Lawyers also might work with forensic accountants on civil cases.
Here’s a look at some of the duties one may perform in this career.
These are the primary duties of most forensic accountants, though the exact nature of the job can vary from place to place.
This career is often associated with law enforcement, but you can also work in other areas for private employers.
Here are examples of industries where one might find work as a qualified forensic accountant:
Regardless of their specialization, forensic accountants work in a similar setting to those in other accounting specialties. They rarely work in the field and spend most of their time in an office.
Forensic accountants acquire technical and specialized skills. This career also requires honing soft skills, which you can develop throughout your lifetime and in the early days of your career.
Here are just some of the soft skills you’ll need to succeed in this career:
Although the number of skills you’ll need to develop to be a successful forensic accountant might seem overwhelming, most of them can be honed during your undergraduate and graduate studies.
Most forensic accountants start by pursuing a degree in accounting to understand the principles of accounting before beginning to hone investigative skills. However, an education journey doesn’t stop here. Many forensic accountants also have to pass a licensure and certification test as well.
Before you consider a forensic accounting career any further, take a look at the education journey you’ll have to take:
Because of the technical skills needed for this job, entry-level positions require at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting. You may also be able to find a specialized undergraduate program in forensic accounting.
While the undergraduate degree is the minimum requirement for most employers, some positions require additional education. For this reason, you might consider a Bachelor of Science in Business program with a Financial Planning Certificate, an additional undergraduate Financial Planning Certificate or even a Graduate Finance Certificate.
Earning a bachelor’s degree can take up to four years or more, with up to two more years for a master’s degree. During your studies, you’ll cover different subjects, including the following:
In each subject, you’ll need to pass your exams. To successfully pass your exams and become a responsible student, regular class attendance will be required along with being able to study effectively at home.
Of course, studying at home is easier said than done, and typically involves advanced exam preparation practices. This may require reviewing your study material weeks before your exams instead of the last-minute studying that many students fall victim to.
Technically, you do not need professional certification to start a career as a forensic accountant. However, some employers, such as law enforcement agencies, may require professional certification or licensure. Such accreditations can also help with career advancement and get you a better entry-level position.
There are two key accreditations that forensic accountants can pursue.
CPA requirements can differ from state to state, and law enforcement and government agencies may have certification requirements for all forensic accounting applicants.
Salaries for forensic accountants can depend on degree level, certification, experience, type of employer and job location. Because positions have different requirements and demands, this career has a rather wide salary range. The annual salary for this occupation ranges from $45,220 to$128,680.
The salary ranges are not specific to students or graduates of University of Phoenix. Actual outcomes vary based on multiple factors, including prior work experience, geographic location and other factors specific to the individual. University of Phoenix does not guarantee employment, salary level or career advancement. BLS data is geographically based. Information for a specific state/city can be researched on the BLS website.
BLS projects that demand for accounting professionals is projected to grow by 7% between 2020 to 2030. This is about as fast as the average growth in demand for all occupations.
As commerce continues to globalize and more people rely on the internet for transactions, there will likely be a strong demand for forensic accountants to monitor the flow of money and investigate financial crimes related to e-commerce and cybercrimes.
Forensic accounting could be a good career if you have math-related skills or naturally hold soft skills like analytical thinking or problem-solving. You also need the desire to work on investigations as part of a legal or law enforcement team.
You have to commit to a specific education to reach your career goals. Because of the importance of a degree in this field, you need to be sure you find the right college program so that you can learn all the skills necessary for a career in forensic accounting.
Interested in learning more about what a bachelor’s degree in accounting from University of Phoenix can do for your career? Learn more here!
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