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Forensic accounting is one of the fastest growing areas of accounting jobs in the market today. This specialized area is interesting and dynamic, and provides unlimited opportunities for the next few decades.
Forensic accountants work in two primary areas, investigative accounting and litigation support. Investigative accounting encompasses not just the numbers and documents of a company, but the business environment as well. Forensic accountants investigate the financial operations of an enterprise and prepare information that may be used in a criminal or civil court case. Forensic accountants provide investigative services or provide support for litigation.
Forensic accountants will often spend time at the business they are investigating, collecting and analyzing financial data. Most of this analysis is done on the computer, so good computer skills and knowledge of software is essential to this position. The forensic accountant will collect evidence and documentation that may be used in a courtroom proceeding, and will prepare reports to be used the management of the company being investigated, parties to the litigation or law enforcement agencies. Often, the forensic accountant will be required to testify in court or provide depositions as to their findings.
Forensic accountants are employed by a variety of companies and agencies. Many law enforcement agencies have forensic accountants on staff to assist with criminal investigations. Often, these accountants follow the money trail to help track and prosecute a criminal. Many CPA firms have forensic accountants on staff, and more firms are specializing in forensic accounting to assist with shareholder and partnership disputes, business loss, fraud or employee theft investigations and professional negligence issues. Other forensic accountants work for or with insurance companies to investigate business interruption and other types of claims. Forensic accountants routinely work for or with law enforcement agencies, lawyers, insurance companies, business owners and government agencies.
About 40% of the top 100 accounting firms in the United States now have a forensic accounting department, and the field is expected to be one of the top 20 job markets in the next few years. How do you become a forensic accountant? A bachelor's degree in accounting is required, and most are already certified public accountants (CPA's). Additional coursework in areas like law enforcement and criminal justice is usually required, and some legal training is helpful. You may want to pursue a accreditation as a certified fraud examiner (CFE) from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. This is a nationally recognized accreditation similar to the CPA designation.
Entry salaries in this field range from upwards of $30,000 to $60,000, but experienced forensic accountants often exceed $100,000 per year and more. So, if you are looking for a lucrative, interesting job with plenty of upward mobility, consider forensic accounting. With almost unlimited growth for the next few decades, it's an accounting job with great potential.
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