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Forensic Accounting Careers

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You probably already know that being a CPA can be a lucrative and rewarding career. But did you also know that there are specializations within the CPA profession? Forensic accounting is one such specialty area. Forensic accounting, also referred to as financial forensics, is a career in demand within the CPA profession, which focuses on litigation and investigation. Yes, it is similar to what you might see in popular crime television shows like Law and Order, CSI, and so forth.

Forensic accountants have a number of career options, including working for the FBI. You are not just an accountant, but also an investigator, an auditor, and a detective. A forensic accountant can be involved in bankruptcies, divorces, securities fraud, business valuations, and more. There is no limit to what a forensic accountant can be involved in, especially in today’s global economy.

Qualified forensic accountants must be educated, however. A good place to start is with the CPA exam. Obtaining this designation first and then pursuing an additional credential in forensic accounting is the path many successful forensic accountants take and is a prerequisite for some of the forensic credentials and a requirement for many positions. Of course, passing the certified public accounting exam is no easy task and in most cases requires a master’s degree. The education you will gain, though, will only make you a more successful forensic accountant and make your job easier. Each credential in financial forensics though has different requirements, so you should research which credential you want to obtain and pursue the necessary requirements.

Forensic accountants are also well paid. The median starting salary for most CPAs, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $67,000. Add in your financial forensic certification and expertise and you may be looking at a median starting salary of more than $70,000. There is also a lot of room for growth within the forensic accounting profession, which can increase your salary significantly.

Of course salary is also impacted by your geographic location and industry. Major metropolitan areas typically equate to higher salaries, not just because of a higher cost of living, but because the demand is greater. Salaries can also vary based on your industry, whether it is working for the government, insurance, or your own practice. There are also several perks you may find with your job, such as comprehensive health, medical, and life insurance, a 401(k) plan and paid time off.

Now that you have decided to become a forensic accountant, what can you expect to work on? Well there are a lot of options out there. If you work for the government, you could be involved in criminal proceedings and investigating white collar crimes. You may also choose to start your own practice, which could involve you in divorce proceedings, bankruptcies, company reorganizations and business valuations, or computer forensics. Insurance is a popular industry for forensic accountants as well.

The career of a forensic accountant can be an exciting and lucrative career. It may require some additional education beyond becoming a CPA, but the payoff is well worth it. As our economy becomes more dependent on financial services and financial reporting becomes more complex, the value of a forensic accountant will continue to go up.

–Grant Webb, Bisk Education. Bisk has been training accountants and financial professionals for more than 40 years. For questions or comments, Grant can be reached on Twitter @grantwebb2.

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I think this will be discussed further at the 6th annual Fraud Conference at Rutgers. All folks are invited to come, especially accounting students, graduates and CPAs. More info on this blog https://uandacpas.com/blog/2012/05/jeff-urbach-speaking-fraud-conference/

Thanks for the space!

Good overview to the profession! I have been in this field for 20 years and have worked on some high-profile cases (Madoff, Bennett Funding, Holocaust Assets, etc.) It has been an incredibly rewarding and professionally fulfilling career.
I have continued to develop my skills and network and now I also teach forensic accounting and speak at professional conferences.
Like Steve (above) I would like to plug an upcoming Anti-Fraud conference I am chairing for the NYS Society of CPAs on June 12 in NYC www.nysscpa.org/antifraud

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