How Do You Become a Forensic Accountant?

Forensic accounting is a branch of the accounting field that deals with the investigation of fraud or embezzlement, and those interested in working in this field often inquire on what it takes to become a forensic accountant. Forensic accountants evaluate, interpret, and present complicated financial and tax information to identify any irregularities that may indicate wrongdoings. These professionals often assist in cases regarding illegal activity related to money and accounting. They assist in legal proceedings and present evidence in court. They commonly work with law enforcement agencies or on behalf of large organizations or public accounting firms. To become a forensic accountant, individuals must complete a postsecondary degree program, take and pass the Certified Public Accountant Examination, and apply for positions, complete interviews, and receive on the job training.

Accounting Degree Program

Forensic accountants typically complete at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting to gain a solid understanding of basic and advanced accounting practices. Some employers prefer individuals who have completed a master’s degree in accounting or related area. Examples of core courses in accounting programs include principles of accounting, principles of management, managerial accounting, business communication, microeconomics, macroeconomics, business ethics, business law, intermediate accounting, taxation, cost accounting, and auditing. Some students complete elective courses in fraud and criminal investigation. Many programs also require students to complete a capstone component in accounting. Some colleges and universities offer certificate programs in forensic accounting to complement an accounting degree.

Certified Public Accountant Examination

The Certified Public Accountant Examination, commonly called the CPA, is the standardized test administered to all individuals seeking to work as Certified Public Accountants in the U.S. If someone is wanting to become a forensic accountant, he or she must pass this examination. The CPA exam is governed and scored by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and it is administered at various secure test centers around the country. The exam evaluates the crucial knowledge CPAs must possess as well as the necessary expected skills. The exam is fourteen hours and it is divided into four separate sections including auditing and attestation, financial accounting and reporting, regulation, and business environment and concepts.

Applying for Positions and On the Job Training

Upon completion of a college degree in accounting and receiving a passing score on the CPA exam, individuals wanting to work as forensic accountants apply for open positions. They submit their resumes with their education information along with any acquired experiences related to the field. Some employers require forensic accountants to have at least some type of work experience in accounting. Many employers require applicants to undergo numerous interviews as well as background checks. The on-the-job training varies greatly depending on the employer. For example, those who pursue forensic accountant positions with the FBI are required to complete six weeks of training that includes financial investigation methods, legal training, and how to testify in court as an accounting expert witness.

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Forensic accounting is one of the fastest growing areas in today’s law enforcement field. Working in this field is a great option for those who have a passion for accounting paired with challenging situations and assisting with law enforcement strategies. Upon completion of the steps to become a forensic accountant, students are ready for a lively, dynamic fast-paced career.