Forensic accountants are tasked with uncovering financial crimes and investigating fraud. Because their work often goes hand in hand with the work of law enforcement officers, forensic accountants work with law enforcement officers to investigate embezzlement, financial transactions, and many other different types of financial crimes. Forensic accountants can also help resolve civil cases where their job would be to examine and review financial documents with the aim of doing just that.
If you want to become a forensic accountant, you will be happy to note that there is strong job growth in the secret. This can be attributed to the fact that the way we transact these days leaves a lot of room for criminal activity to take place.
What Skills Do You Need to Become a Forensic Accountant?
Financial accountants have specialized skills in a lot of different areas and fields. Some of these skills include:
- Investigative skills – Financial accountants rely heavily on this skill when doing their job and it has been discovered that they use this skill more than they use any other skill. This skill is especially useful when forensics accountants are working with law enforcement, building cases or conducting their own investigations
- Financial Analysis – Forensics accountants spend the majority of their time analyzing financial documents. Because of this, they need strong financial analysis skills. Some of the additional skills they need in this respect include data analysis and critical thinking skills.
- Organization – Because forensic accountants can work with a large number of documents at a time, they need to be very organized.
- Auditing – Auditing skills come in handy when forensic accountants need to identify errors in the documents they are working with, review financial documents properly, and find out if there is fraud.
- Communication – Some forensics accountants work as expert witnesses. In this role, they have to be able to communicate effectively to become valuable witnesses. Their communication skills also come in handy when they are preparing investigation reports.
- Computer Skills – The roles and uses of computers keep growing and changing in the financial forensics world. Because of this, forensic accountants need strong computer skills. These skills are vital if a forensic accountant wants to do a cyber forensic investigation or as they often do, use data analysis software.
Becoming a Forensic Accountant
Forensic accountants must, at a minimum, have a bachelor’s degree. This degree will allow them to get some entry-level positions. There are lots of different certifications that can make career progression easier, but these usually take at least a year.
If you want to become a forensic accountant:
- Get a bachelor’s degree in accounting – This is the first step as it will allow you to apply for entry-level jobs. When choosing an accounting program, you should choose one that has a forensic accounting option or one that has fraud examination and forensic accounting built-in.
- Specialize in forensic accounting – When studying for your bachelor’s degree, you can opt to take as many specialized forensic accounting classes as possible. These classes will better prepare you for the job market.
- Consider a master’s degree – While a bachelor’s degree will give you the minimum requirements you need to become a forensic accountant, some employers only consider candidates with a master’s degree. Once you have a bachelor’s degree, you can opt for an online program. Earning your forensic accounting masters degree online will allow you to keep working while learning so you have some experience and a master’s degree at the end of it all.
- Find a job – Graduates can find forensic accounting opportunities after they are done with their degrees. If you want to make things easier on yourself, find an internship position while in school. These positions will not only give you some experience, but they can also help show potential employers that have the requisite skills.
- Earn extra certification – Forensic accountants can advance their careers by earning additional certifications. These include certifications like CPA credentials. Just check to ensure that you have the right qualifications because some of these certifications require at least a master’s degree to earn.
How Long Will It Take to Become a Forensic Accountant?
Typically, becoming a forensic accountant will take 4 to 6 years. You can add some years on top of that depending on whether you pursue a master’s degree or other certifications.
Certifications and Credentials
Forensic accountants can position themselves better in the job market if they have some specific certifications:
- CPA credential – The American Institute of CPAs offers this option as well as two other certifications; a specialized forensic accounting certification and a core forensic accounting certification.
- Certified fraud examiner credential – Forensic accountants can also pursue a certified fraud examiner credential. This certification is important for forensic accountants who would like to concentrate on fraud examination, detection, and investigation. Having this credential can often lead to earning 30% more than other forensic accountants.
- State License – Even though many forensic accountants do not need any licenses, CPAs must have a state license. Some employers also require that they have the credentials from a reputable organization like the American Institute of CPAs.
Is This the Right Career for You?
A forensic accountant career is a very fulfilling one because you know you will be helping law enforcement officers solve crimes. If you are comfortable working hand in hand with law enforcement, then you will have no trouble navigating this career.
The world of forensic accounting is always changing because crime is always changing. Therefore, you have to be open to learning as new information becomes available and things change. Computers can help you keep up but they are merely tools that you use to complete tasks.
Finally, if you love solving puzzles, this career could be right for you. Forensic accountants are often tasked with making sense of information that seems unrelated. All this is in an effort to find areas where there are financial issues. It could be said that they solve puzzles and see things most other people would miss.
Becoming a forensic accountant can be challenging, but the career you will have afterward will be rewarding. Ensure that you are ready for any challenges that come your way because there will be lots of them.