How to Become a Forensic Accountant (With Crucial Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 17, 2022 | Published October 18, 2021

Updated November 17, 2022

Published October 18, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

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In this video, we follow Ektaa, a tax accountant working for a family-owned accounting firm, as she shares the skills and education needed to be a successful accountant.

Forensic accounting is a field that combines financial insight with critical thinking and interviewing. With so many industries in need of forensic accountants, this job can be very gratifying. Understanding the essential duties of a forensic accountant and the steps to get this profession might help you determine if it's right for you. In this article, we discuss how to become a forensic accountant, explore who uses these services, view examples, and learn the skills needed to become a forensic accountant.

How to become a forensic accountant

Forensic accounting is a field of accountancy that deals with how to investigate and how to provide the results in court. It also uses financial insight, critical thinking, and interviewing skills. This job can be very gratifying because you're able to combine your analytical knowledge with practical application. If you're considering a career as a professional accountant in the field of forensics, you can follow these steps:

1. Obtain a bachelor's degree in accounting or finance

A bachelor's degree in accounting or another closely related discipline is necessary for all forensic accountants. Statistics, economics, finance, marketing, and business administration are among the classes that budding accountants may take in these programs.

Complete the required studies and exams to become an accountant with CPA, CA, or CIA designation. All professional accountants must pass a rigorous exam in order to be recognized as such by their respective provincial licensing bodies. This is necessary for all professionals who work in the field of forensics. Here are some examples:

CPA (Certified Public Accountant)

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants administers this designation which allows members to practice public accounting in Canada. The exam is comprehensive and covers many aspects of accounting including auditing, regulation, and taxation laws. A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirements to take this exam.

CA (Chartered Accountant)

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario administers this designation. In addition to passing a series of exams, individuals must complete a minimum amount of work experience in order to become members. This is necessary for people wanting to practice public accounting in Canada. A bachelor's degree from an accredited university is required as well as a post-graduate diploma or a graduate degree from a recognized school of accountancy.

CIA (Certified Internal Auditor)

This designation comes from the Institute of Internal Auditors and it requires candidates to pass one exam which covers all aspects of internal auditing functions such as management consulting, financial statement analysis, and risk assessment. To sit for the exam, you need at least two years of experience working in a relevant field, in addition to a bachelor's degree from an accredited university.

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2. Earn a master's degree

Forensic accountants can enhance their careers by earning a master's degree in forensic accounting that provides knowledge you can use to become an expert in how fraud is committed and how it might be detected. This allows you to differentiate yourself from other candidates. You may choose to do an internship at a forensic accounting firm when you've graduated from your bachelor's degree program. A well-paid internship with forensic accounting firms can give you the knowledge you need to enter this profession.

You can gain relevant work experience after obtaining your education, as it's essential that you get as much real world training and practise.

3. Obtain a CPA certification

Forensic accountants are usually certified public accountants (CPAs). To become a CPA, you must complete the required education and experience. Once this is achieved, it's necessary to pass one or more exams that demonstrate knowledge of how forensic accounting works with fraud cases. CPA members are now required to do and pass the exam and meet education and business experience requirements before they can be awarded the CFF credential.

A forensic accountant who holds CFF credentials can utilize their skills in multiple practice areas, including:

  • litigation support

  • bankruptcy and insolvency

  • shareholder disputes

  • fraud investigations

  • family law

  • valuations

  • computer forensics

  • economic damages

4. Gain relevant work experience

Look for an entry-level position in forensic accounting or another entry-level accounting job that allows you to acquire experience as an accountant. When you have more expertise, you may receive formal on-the-job training that can prepare you for more skilled possibilities.

5. Consider additional certification in forensic accounting

Forensic accountants who want to specialize in a particular area of forensics may consider additional certifications that are specific to their interests. These include CFE, ACFE, and CFF. The most popular among these is the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) certification offered by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).

Once you become a forensic accountant, you may get to work with law enforcement and legal professionals as they uncover how fraud was committed. Once the case is closed, you may testify in court about how financial crimes were discovered. Also, working as a forensic accountant can be very rewarding since you'll help ensure that businesses and organizations are operating efficiently.

Related: 13 Types of Accountants and What They Do

Who uses forensic accounting?

Forensic accountants are called in to assist with a variety of cases. This includes insider trading, embezzlement, and bankruptcy fraud investigations. People might also use this profession to recover stolen money or property. A forensic accountant can also be involved in litigation support, which means they provide expert testimony at trial that can have a huge impact on how a judge decides a case. There are also forensic accountants who consult with management and boards of directors to improve business performance, provide litigation support, or implement controls for their clients to avoid any future fraud.

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What does a forensic accountant do?

Forensic accountants help a lot of people. For example, they may assist in catching a financial advisor from stealing large sums of money from their clients over a long period of time without the clients knowing anything about it. The forensic accountant's job would be to find out how much money this person stole, and lead a criminal investigation if it's warranted. Forensic accountants also help decrease how much employees steal from their employers through misconduct, such as:

  • embezzlement

  • bribery and corruption

  • frauds committed by third parties, including suppliers, contractors, and agents who act for or on behalf of a company

  • theft of inventory

  • fraudulent financial reporting

This is how forensic accountants help companies. They are very useful with their many talents. They work hard to make sure any company or organization that hires them will not have issues again when it comes to fraud, theft, and embezzlement by employees.

Related: 12 Skills Accountants Need for Workplace Success

Beneficial skills for forensic accountants

Forensic accountants must acquire a variety of abilities in order to be successful in their professions. They include:

  • Critical thinking skills: As a forensic accountant, you must examine everything skeptically, since fraudulent behaviour isn't always easy to spot.

  • Analytical abilities: When reading papers and conducting interviews, analytical skills are required. Forensics accountants must be able to examine the data available in order to determine whether financial fraud has occurred.

  • Interviewing: Interviewing is a key part of the job for many criminal justice and accounting professionals, as they frequently have to interview individuals to better comprehend the material they're reading in papers. A competent forensic accountant may put the person they're talking with at ease in order to get the information she or he needs, so active listening abilities are important for successful interviews.

  • Problem-solving abilities: Problem-solving skills are required of forensic accountants because as new information becomes available during an investigation, it may alter rapidly. They must be able to evaluate several potential situations and determine which is the most consistent with the evidence that's accessible using their problem-solving talents.

  • Strong communication abilities: Communication is required for this profession, as forensic accountants write reports and convey them in writing and orally. They may also be expert witnesses and must be able to summarize complex facts to a jury.

  • Attention to detail: Forensic accountants must have high attention to detail in order to detect financial irregularities and minor variances. They also must be able to meticulously record everything they do as part of their investigations.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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