Forensic accounting is a growing field, especially in the wake of recent financial scandals. Simply put, forensic accountants go over a business or individual's financial records and analyze them for the client's use. Forensic accounting evidence may be called for in situations as diverse as bankruptcy, inventory falsification, divorce, statutory audits or even major fraud. After analyzing the data of the situation, the forensic accountant will then compile reports or exhibits to be used in court or in other legal proceedings, and may be called upon to testify about their findings. This aspect of the job necessitates the forensic accountant being familiar with legal procedures and knowing what parts of their findings are relevant to the case.
Forensic accountants usually begin as general accountants, since the job requires a strong background in auditing and accounting. Other qualities that employers look for in a forensic accountant are exceptional organization, the ability to be creative in working methods, curiosity about things that seem "off", and the persistence to sift through extraneous material and the professional judgement to find what matters.
A lot of forensic accounting training is experiential and on the job. However, many countries have forensic accounting organizations that can provide certification, and some universities also offer graduate courses in forensic accounting. Most universities require at least a bachelor's degree in accounting and sometimes a CPA certification before they will accept a student for their forensic accounting courses. Some people do study forensic accounting on their own since there are many books on the subject, but most agencies recommend taking courses to learn forensic accounting since so much of it is experience-based. Many CPA firms, universities and even police stations offer internships in forensic accounting, which is highly recommended for gaining real world experience.
After gaining basic forensic accounting training, many forensic accountants will also go back to train to be a Certified Fraud Investigator or a Certified Forensic Accountant. Although these qualifications are not required to become a forensic accountant, they provide a definite leg up in the job market, and also provide a great deal of information about law enforcement, which is invaluable in a forensic accounting career.
Once a forensic accountant has their certification, their services can be called upon by many different people, including private investigators, who may need help analyzing the financial records of their clients in a divorce case, insurance companies that use a forensic accountant when valuing probates, or by businesses that are in shareholder disputes. Most forensic accounting assignments begin with a meeting with the prospective client to gain information about the case and check for any conflict of interests, then move on to an in-depth analysis and investigation, culminating in a report of the forensic accountant's findings.
Because of its variable nature, forensic accounting is an excellent career for a talented accountant who thinks out of the box. Those interested in beginning a career as a forensic accountant can find more information about jobs and local regulations from their country's forensic accounting organizations. (Nasreen Haque)