When you think about forensics, you probably think about crime scene investigators on TV. However, not all crimes are homicides or home invasions. Some crimes don’t even take place in a physical location. As ones and zeroes in a computer, money moves around quickly and sometimes goes where it doesn’t belong. Forensic accountants tackle the task of investigating when money gets stolen or mishandled.
What’s Behind Forensic Accounting?
Forensic accountants investigate so-called crimes of property, crimes such as fraud and money laundering. These crimes can be difficult to solve, so a skilled accountant is best for the job. Forensic accountants tend to have a keen eye for discrepancies and an investigative nature. The job involves mostly research and reporting on financial data from people and companies suspected of fraud.
What’s the Pay for a Position?
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According to Payscale.com, forensic accountants make an average of about $65,000 a year in the United States. The potential exists to make much more with experience. The average salary rises steadily to $81,000 after five years, $99,000 after 10 years, and $120,000 after 20 years.
What Are the Thrills of Forensic Accounting?
Forensic accountants don’t simply look at spreadsheets of financial data all day. To find the fraud, these accountants may need to read company emails, search databases, and find potential other sources of hidden information. With the proper search warrants, they can visit the supposed site of fraud looking for physical evidence, such as printed statements or handwritten ledgers. Forensic accountants work with law enforcement, exchanging new findings in each case through meetings using excellent presentation and communication skills.
Not all cases handled by forensic accountants are criminal. They also work on civil cases. For example, a forensic accountant can judge whether a party has reported all of their assets during a divorce. Forensic accountants can calculate damages owed in a civil suit and give expert testimony in court.
Forensic accountants also play an important role when tracking criminals and criminal organizations. The U.S. government employs a team of forensic accountants to track various terrorist groups according to their spending.
Am I Cut Out for Forensic Accounting?
When pursuing a career as a forensic accountant, the general rule is, the more education, the better. Some jobs only require a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance, while others prefer a Master’s Degree in Accounting. In addition, the work may require certifications such as CPA or CFE.
Law enforcement, government organizations, insurance agencies, banks, financial institutions, and large corporations all hire forensic accountants. Forensic accountants may also work freelance through their own practice once they have some local clients.
You won’t have to worry about looking at harrowing crime scenes if you choose to go into forensic accounting. However, you still get to be a hero. You might stop thieves and liars from taking money that doesn’t belong to them or monitor criminals to predict their next move. It may not seem like a glamorous job at first, but if you enjoy keeping people honest and you have an eye for detail, forensic accounting might be the perfect job for you.