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Forensic Accountant and Auditor Job Description, Career as a Forensic Accountant and Auditor, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training Bachelor’s degree

Average Salary $81,000 per year

Job Outlook Very good

Basic Job Description

Forensic accountants and auditors help to unravel and solve crimes through the use of financial information, embezzlement activity records, security fraud, bankruptcies and money laundering. They interpret financial records and history to find information that may contribute to answers in a criminal case. Some forensic accountants work closely with law enforcement officers to investigate paperwork and the history of criminal suspects. Forensic accountants and auditors are skilled to unravel detailed and complex financial transactions to determine whether or not they could potentially have something to do with criminal activity. They then report them to law enforcement officials and work with them to combine information and piece together details that may be used to solve a crime or benefit a court case.

Education and Training Requirements

Forensic accounts get a Bachelor’s degree in business, accounting or a related field. Some also take courses in law, criminal justice, chemistry or biology if they plan to work in forensics.

Forensic accountants and auditors typically start off working as an accountant or auditor for a law firm or police station. This helps them to gain an understanding of accounting and auditing in the field of criminal law. Most accountants who plan to move up to work in forensics will continue their education to get a Master’s degree in accounting or auditing. Many employers prefer to hire an accountant and auditor with a Master’s degree and several years of experience working in the field before allowing them to work in forensics.

Getting the Job

Forensic accountants and auditors will benefit in the field if they have previous experience working as an accountant or auditor. Many start off working in accounting for law firms or police stations to familiarize themselves with paperwork that would be involved in criminal cases.

Forensic accountants and auditors must be detail oriented and be able to closely analyze confidential documents to find information that could potentially alter a criminal case. In some cases, the work of a forensic accountant can find out crucial information that could alter an entire case. Accountants need to be able to look deeper than the surface of documents and use computerized software and resources to find more information regarding money or business transactions.

Accountants and auditors in the forensics field must also have excellent written and oral communication skills. They will have to write up reports regarding their findings and report them to law enforcement officials. Often times the paperwork they write up will be used as official court documentation in a case, so it is crucial for them to have good technical writing skill and the ability to effectively and thoroughly explain detailed financial information.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

Forensic accountants and auditors can expect more jobs to open up over the next several years. Job outlook is positive for forensic accountants and auditors due to the increased number of white collar crimes being committed by owners of large businesses regarding money laundering and other financial crimes. In recent years there have also been stricter laws enforced regarding money transactions and businesses, so these enforcements are causing the need for forensic accountants to increase significantly.

Forensic accountants and auditors who have worked in the field for several years can advance to working for a larger law enforcement agency or working as a financial investigator on larger crimes. Many also lead up to the head of the entire forensic accounting department, leading a team of accountants and auditors by giving each person a role or specific duty to perform in order to find all the information needed regarding a case. Large cases often require the use of several forensic accountants and auditors to look at information from different angles and perform different research techniques in order to obtain all the necessary information.

Forensic accountants and auditors can reach the top of their career ladder by becoming an accountant or auditor for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They will then investigate crimes on a national level that can even involve federal government employees. Those who work for the FBI have usually worked a number of years in a smaller government agency and worked their way up to leadership positions.

Working Conditions and Environment

Forensic accountants work in a variety of environments. They spend most of their time in an office in front of a computer observing financial information they have obtained regarding a criminal case. They also work with criminal investigators, police officers, forensic scientists and other agents involved in a criminal case to help piece information together and determine what information needs to be found. Forensic accountants and auditors may even have to go on site of a crime scene to interview suspects regarding financial information or collect paperwork and information.

It is not uncommon for forensic accountants and auditors to work long or unusual hours. If there is a large criminal case involving money laundering or similar financial scams, accounts may work unusually long hours in order to organize information and perform research that needs to be done quickly. If there is a case that is about to go on trial, accountants and auditors will often have to work extra late or extra long hours to make sure all the information is ready and available for the case.

Salary and Benefits

The average salary for a forensic accountant and auditor is about $81,000 per year. Those who work in law enforcement are usually employed by the government, so they receive excellent salaries as well as benefits packages. Forensic accountants and auditors receive a full medical and dental insurance plan as well as vacation and sick leave allowance.

Where to Go for More Information

US Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20530

Association of Certified Fraud Examiners
716 West Avenue
Austin, TX 78701
(800) 245-3321

Forensic Accountants Society
2201 6th Avenue, Suite 1400
Seattle, WA 98121
(206) 441-1447

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesLaw and Public Service