Forensic Accounting: the CSI of AR/AP

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

For people who enjoy detective work and investigating crime scenes, but prefer to stick with numbers and facts instead of gory details, Forensic Accounting is the perfect fit. These specialized accountants use their skills to investigate financial wrongdoing and often provide expert testimony in legal proceedings.

What Do Forensic Accountants Do?

While most accountants compile current financial transactions into reports and records, the expertise of a forensic accountant is used to deconstruct, analyze, and interpret existing financial documents and transactions. The next steps include summarizing findings in a way that is easily understood by those without a financial background.

Forensic accountants prepare reports and collect supporting documents to catalog their findings. They may also create and explain exhibits and visual aids as part of a trial, testify as an expert witness on behalf of the prosecution or defense, or assist attorneys with cross-examination of an opposing side’s witness.

The position also entails identifying areas of loss and preparing damage reports, hiring private investigators to uncover missing documents, identifying falsified or hidden records, and identifying or recovering hidden and lost assets.

Who Hires Forensic Accountants?

Forensic accountants may work as independent consultants or part of a firm of accountants who are retained to investigate particular situations. They are often hired by insurance companies, banks, or other large corporations for ongoing work, or as part of a legal team that frequently works to prosecute or defend businesses accused of financial wrongdoing.

Career Outlook

The median salary for forensic accountants is about $65,000. Professionals with a few years’ experience or with expertise in a demanding niche can easily expect to earn greater than six figures. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, more than 166,000 new accounting positions will be added to the economy by 2022. Accounting is an occupation that is closely tied to the health of the economy. As the US continues to recover from recession, employment of all accounting occupations will continue to grow accordingly.

Is Forensic Accounting Right For Me?

Forensic accountants should have a natural curiosity that compels them to get to the bottom of complex puzzles and attempts to confuse or obscure evidence. You will need to be naturally persistent and a bit skeptical of the surface value of reports and information. You must possess excellent organization skills as you dig through and re-document financials. Discretion is an essential part of the job as financial information is always extremely sensitive, and court documents and proceedings–especially during discovery and preparation phases–are often confidential.

Becoming a Forensic Accountant?

The path to a forensic accounting career begins with a solid background in accounting and auditing. Forensic accountants get their start with a degree in accounting and work experience as a professional accountant. Assisting or mentoring under experienced forensic accountants is ideal, but not required.

The American Board of Forensic Accounting offers a certification process for professionals who have already achieved an advanced degree and a Certified Public Accountant credential. You can get your start right here at CCE @ Assumption. Our certificate program will provide you with the financial foundation you need to get started down this exciting path, and our bachelor’s degree will help you take the first steps toward becoming a certified forensic accountant.

how to become an accountant

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