A forensic accountant is proficient in a specific field of accounting. Forensic accountants are supposed to audit and analyze the financial statement, investigate other complicated issues that the lawyer or the police provides, then summarize and interpret the professional result to the court as an evidence. Even, forensic accountants can stand on the court to be the witness.
Clearly, the position of the forensic accountant is set for being a part of maintaining fairness and integrity through accounting.
Then how can you become a forensic accountant?
#1. Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting
Before you become a forensic accountant, you should be an accountant. This way, Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) suggests that: a bachelor degree in accounting, finance, economics or a related field major is required for becoming a forensic accountant. Even, if you have made a career plan to be a professional forensic accountant, a master degree in forensic accounting is a plus. Moreover, a systematic accounting education can help you gain a comprehensive sense of what accounting is.
#2. Certified Public Accounting (CPA)
The certified public accountant credential has a high reputation in accounting nowadays. However, business methods are getting more complicated and changing rapidly. Also, more and more companies are using information systems to manage their statements and data. CPA candidates should always study and absorb latest knowledge about accounting. Thus, one of the prerequisites of taking the CPA exam is that students should complete 150 semester hours of accounting related education. That is another reason why we suggest you obtain a bachelor degree in such related fields before.
#3. Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)
The CFE credential offered by ACFE requires learners the required skill and knowledge to be a forensic accountant. In addition, it is one of the four credentials that FBI accepts when hiring a forensic accountant. This way, CFE can strongly support a general accountant to be a forensic accountant.
#4. Improve Your Related Knowledge
To be a forensic accountant, the accounting skill is not the only thing you need to pay attention to. Financial criminals will always try to hide their evidence in a complex way that you can’t forecast. Then you will seem like a detective to investigate, explore the true, and find the evidence from details. As a result, you should know about the legal system, finance, criminal psychology and more.
Moreover, to be a forensic accountant, you also need to polish the writing skill. The final report that you submit to the court can be the evidence to identify the criminals or help innocence. A well-rounded but brief report can help the jury and the judge precisely pinpoint the problem.
#5. Work Experience
After you pass the exams and receive your CPA and CFE certificates, you need to practice your knowledge. Forensic accounting is practical, but not a subject that just exists in books. A forensic accountant should take full advantage of the advanced skills and experience to expose the crime and report objectively. However, fraudsters will conceal the truth. This way, work experience is the most important way for you to accumulate experience to be a skilled forensic accountant. The closer you are to the “crime scene”, the more you can learn about what the fraudsters are doing, and how they approach the offense.
In addition, some organizations will ask their new forensic accountants to attend a job training session. For example, all candidates (forensic accountants) hired by FBI must attend a five-week training program at the FBI Academy.
According to a report published by PayScale, the median number of the salary of a forensic accountant was $64,520 in the end of 2016. Becoming a forensic accountant can be a good option if you are interested in it.