In addition to the mathematical and analytical abilities required in any accounting role, forensic accountants also leverage many different skills depending on their position. Accountants specializing in financial forensics can find work in many different fields and industries, including law enforcement, insurance, finance, and risk consulting. Prospective professionals typically enter the profession with a bachelor’s or master’s degree, but there are several key soft skills that students may need to master outside of a conventional academic program.
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Research and Reference
Even forensic accountants who have researchers to support them still spend plenty of time reading and consulting reference material. Forensic research into financial records requires strict attention to detail and precision, so the ability to quickly and accurately comprehend written material is a valuable skill. Access and familiarity with key reference material is also necessary for many people in forensic roles, particularly for those who need to navigate legal codes and various levels of regulation to find potential violations or signs of misconduct.
Interviewing and Investigation
Forensic accounting does involve many technical skills, but the profession also demands strong personal communication and conversational ability. Pursuing and conducting interviews can be a pivotal point in an investigation, so accountants rely on social skills and perception on a regular basis. Having a strong sense of empathy, the ability to listen, and put people at ease are all valuable skills for any forensic accountant, according to the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.
Writing and Presentation
Whether they work for law enforcement, corporate employers, or government institutions, every forensic accountant should be able to write and present their findings. While written reports don’t need to be poetic, they do need to present a coherent and descriptive viewpoint. Accountants working in finance, law or technical industries also need to understand industry vernacular and specific terminology expected by a specific audience. Accounting students should explore courses that revolve around writing, speaking, and presenting as part of their curriculum to help prepare them for future responsibilities as an intern or employee.
High Standards for Personal Conduct
Personal conduct may not be a skill in the conventional sense, but it is just as important as any other characteristic for forensic accountants. High standards of ethical conduct are generally expected of professional accountants, especially those who wish to maintain their status as a certified professional accountant (CPA). However, forensic accountants rely on their personal reputation and standards more than most of their peers. This is particularly true for those working in a law enforcement or investigatory environment. Accountants are also expected to know protocol and procedure so they can present themselves appropriately in various professional settings.
Accountants rely on math and method for many of their core job responsibilities. Critical thinking and technical ability are indispensable in the profession, so there is no substitute for a firm practical understanding of all the basics. However, forensic accountants who want to push themselves towards a successful career also need to develop strong communications skills, a sense of self-discipline and genuine personal commitment to the responsibilities of the job.