If you wish to become a forensic accountant, you’ll first need to combine your accounting expertise with solid investigative skills to provide this important litigation support. Forensic accounting is a specialized branch focused on examining accounting practices and financial records to determine whether illegal activities have happened. When an individual or business is suspected of illegality, lawyers, law enforcement agencies, insurance carriers, financial institutions, and other government organizations call on forensic accountants to find evidence of fraudulent activities. As anti-fraud professionals, forensic accountants must be aware of typical swindling schemes and possess the essential data analysis skills to perform strategic investigations. Below is a step-by-step guide for individuals seeking to build these professional abilities to work in the exciting forensic accounting field, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.
Earn a Relevant Bachelor’s Degree
At the bare minimum, forensic accountants will need to possess at least a four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Many aspiring forensic accountants choose an undergraduate major in accounting, but it’s also possible to receive a bachelor’s degree in business administration, finance, information technology, statistics, or even criminal justice. Just make sure that you have at least 24 credits of accounting courses within your schedule to build the introductory accounting skills necessary for graduate school. While completing your undergraduate program, jump on any opportunity to participate in a real-world internship or co-operative education experience in accounting firms to start crafting a competitive resume.
Pursue a Master’s Degree in Accounting
Whether you wish to earn a Master of Accountancy (MAcc) or Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Accounting, you’ll need to complete at least 30 credits in graduate school with an accounting concentration to satisfy licensing requirements. Thanks to the advent of online education, many accredited business schools now offer these programs entirely online to accommodate your busy work schedule. Graduate-level accounting programs are designed to give you extensive knowledge about auditing, investment analysis, taxation, accounting information systems, assurance, and international accounting. If possible, aspiring forensic accountants are encouraged to take courses related to business law, fraud examination, forensic accounting, quantitative analysis, and accounting research. Gaining proficiency in different accounting and auditing software programs is also a big plus.
Apply for Professional Certifications
Since the job market in forensic accounting is rather competitive, it’s advised that graduates take advantage of professional certifications to demonstrate their competency in the field. The majority of forensic accountants will need to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and pass the certification exam to show their understanding of general accounting practices. From there, you can choose to become a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) by passing a comprehensive exam in fraud prevention, detection, and deterrence. If you’re interested in completing at least 15 hours of forensic-related continuing education credits annually, you should also consider becoming a Certified Forensic Accountants through the American College of Forensic Examiners Institute.
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Overall, forensic accounting is a broad field that allows qualified accountants to investigate various crimes, such as money laundering, asset misappropriation, embezzlement, bankruptcy fraud, check kiting, identity theft, white-collar crime, GAAP violations, and insurance fraud. Once you complete these steps to become a forensic accountant, you’ll possess the analytical, investigative, and communication skills needed to conduct forensic analysis of financial data in preparation for litigation.