How to Become a Forensic Accountant

To become a forensic accountant requires extensive training and expertise. Forensic accountants are investigators, mainly concerned with fraud. This is hard work, requiring very high levels of skills and intensive research.

Education and training

The educational, experience and training requirements for forensic accountancy involve considerable preparatory work. Forensic accountant training starts with basic qualifications. The minimum level of qualification is a Bachelor's degree.

The academic training then moves in to specialist training. There are two basic qualifications: Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) or Certified Forensic Accountant (CrFA). These are industrial level certifications, awarded by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and are used as primary qualifications in this highly specialized field.

Skills and professionalism

Forensic accountant work in an extremely sensitive are of professional accountancy. Fraud is one of the most common of white collar crimes, and it costs US businesses billions every year. A forensic accountant must have excellent "people skills" to work in this very difficult environment.

Dealing with fraud also requires expert level accounting skills. The forensic accountant's responsibility is to make positive identification of transactions and accounts, which relate to fraud. This usually includes a requirement to provide court standard evidence for the purpose of laying criminal charges. That creates a natural demand for a very high standard of information quality and verification of facts.

As a result of these basic elements in the forensic accountant's role, investigations are conducted on a strong system of references and methodical checking of information. Nothing is taken for granted. The forensic accountant, despite being a specialist in fraud investigations, can't assume that fraud is actually being committed without proof.

In fact, some accounting problems are based on bad practices. The loss of money in these cases may resemble the effects of fraud, but it's not actual fraud. One of the common effects of employing forensic accountant is to drastically improve accounting practices in these areas. A forensic accountant can find and identify procedural mistakes and bad practices.

The end product of a forensic accountancy examination which has successfully identified malpractice is proof of fraud. This proof requires expert skills to ensure that the affected client has materials suitable for legal procedures. The legal element is present in all aspects of the forensic accountant's work, and it's one of the reasons for the requirement of high levels of accounting skills to enter the field. Every part of the fraud must be assessed, detailed, documented, and provided to legal counsel in a format admissible as evidence in a court of law.