Forensic accountants combine their accounting knowledge with investigative skills in various litigation support and investigative accounting settings. Forensic accountants are employed by public accounting firms’ forensic accounting divisions; by consulting firms specializing in risk consulting and forensic accounting services; or by lawyers, law enforcement agencies, insurance companies, government organizations or financial institutions. Due to heightened awareness and growing intolerance of fraud, demand for forensic accountants is rapidly increasing.
Benefits of the CFE Credential
The Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) credential provides forensic accountants with the technical knowledge necessary to perform effective investigations. In contrast to auditors, who typically take a more consistent and standardized approach to their work, forensic accountants must determine which areas, people or functions of the organization require their attention. Because fraud is usually hidden, this process can be difficult and time- consuming. The CFE credential ensures forensic accountants have advanced knowledge of typical fraud schemes and data analysis techniques so that they can perform investigations efficiently and strategically.
The ACFE’s global salary study found that CFEs earn a 34% income premium over their peers without the credential, which demonstrates the value employers place on the credential. The study also provides valuable information and comparisons helpful to all anti-fraud professionals in benchmarking their compensation levels and career growth. The training, fraud resources and continuing education provided by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) will help in any stage of your career path. Refer to the Compensation section below for more information about the compensation ranges for forensic accountants.
Most forensic accounting positions require at least 1-3 years of accounting experience. Many forensic accountants obtain this experience by working as a general accountant. Some responsibilities unique to forensic accountants include:
- Perform forensic research to trace funds and identify assets for recovery.
- Conduct forensic analysis of financial data.
- Prepare forensic accounting reports from financial findings.
- Prepare analytical data for litigation and testifies as needed.
A bachelor’s or master’s degree in forensic accounting, accounting, finance or a related field is required for forensic accountants. Additional education in criminal justice or law enforcement is a plus. Many companies encourage obtaining the CFE credential and/or the license for Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Chartered Accountant (CA).
Knowledge, Skills and Abilities
It is important to plan and conduct an honest self-assessment of your knowledge, skills and abilities. In particular, employers are looking for:
|White-collar crime||Writing reports||Interpersonal communication|
|Money laundering||Testifying as an expert witness||Verbal communication|
|Insurance claims||Written communication|
|GAAP or GAAS violations||Attention to detail|
|Contract and procurement fraud||Objectivity|
|Financial statement fraud|
|Credit card fraud|
|Financial data analysis|
|Evidence integrity analysis|
|Computer application design|
|Tracing illicit funds|
|Locating hidden assets|
|Due diligence reviews|
|Forensic intelligence gathering|
|Legal system and its procedures|