Education

How To Become A Forensics Investigator

By David Krug David Krug is the CEO & President of Bankovia. He's a lifelong expat who has lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Colombia. When he's not reading about cryptocurrencies, he's researching the latest personal finance software. 3 minute read

Overview

Accounting and criminal investigation are brought together in financial forensics in order to track out financial crimes occurring within or outside of a business.

For example, it may be used to investigate terrorism and other criminal behavior; give supervision to private-sector and government groups; and analyze an organization’s risk of fraudulent operations.

A financial forensics expert uses the same investigative, accounting, and auditing abilities as a forensic accountant to look for signs of fraud in a company’s financial records as part of a planned or ongoing legal action. 

Financial Forensics If money has been laundered unlawfully, forensic accountants can assist law enforcement and other government agencies in recovering it.

Forensic accountants may also assist organizations to build accounting and auditing processes that are more efficient and effective at reducing risk.

Accounting experts who work in criminal cases are regularly called upon to provide expert testimony in court.

In addition to the major accounting companies, many smaller and more boutique businesses also have forensic accounting divisions that specialize in the investigation of financial crime. 

Forensic accountants can specialize in a variety of areas, including insurance claims, personal injury claims, fraud, construction, and royalty audits, to name just a few examples.

Education

If you want to become a forensic accountant, you must be a CPA (CPA). If you want to become a Certified Fraud Examiner from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), you’ll need to take extra courses. 

To begin their careers, most forensic accountants work in an auditing company as regular accountants.

With the extra qualification, they may take on more responsibility and gain more experience in their current work. An investigator tasked with uncovering this form of fraud must be diligent, detail-oriented, and exceptionally precise.

An undergraduate degree is generally required for most forensic accounting professions. Forensics training at the bachelor’s level will teach students how to spot, investigate, and resolve financial wrongdoing. 

In addition, students will learn how to generate and evaluate financial accounts by taking extra courses in finance, management, mathematics, criminal justice, and law.

Certified Financial Forensic Accountant (CFFA) tests can be taken by graduates of a financial forensics bachelor’s degree program with two years of relevant experience.

A typical bachelor’s degree program includes courses in:

  • General accounting standards are used in financial reporting
  • Due diligence in order to remedy control gaps and to assure compliance with regulations.
  • Maintaining the integrity of financial data is critical to maintaining ethical standards and regulatory compliance.
  • Examine suspect interviews and interrogations in the course of the fraud investigation.
  • Search for data recovery methods and electronic discovery procedures that are both successful and evidence-preserving.
  • Suspicion-related investigations and litigation are the focus of this unit.
  • Forensic Psychology focuses on the relationship between psychology and the legal system.
  • Combining law enforcement with computer technology, cybercrime

Students interested in policy or leadership roles in fraud investigation may want to pursue a master’s degree with a concentration in business administration, ethics, or fraud management. 

Master’s degree and graduate certificate programs may be combined in some programs, for instance, a Master of Business Administration degree might be earned along with a certificate in forensic accounting.

Employment

A median salary for the field of financial forensics is hard to come by. In 2012, the BLS estimated the median annual wage for accountants and auditors in the United States to be $63,550. 

With high school graduation, the BLS estimates the median wage of $45,740 for private detectives and investigations.

In the United States, the national average salary for forensic accountants is $67,000, according to PayScale.com.

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