Forensic Accounting: Is it in Your DNA?
July 25, 2022

Forensic accountants apply specialized knowledge and investigative skills to collect, analyze and evaluate evidential matter and to interpret and communicate findings in the courtroom, boardroom and other legal venues. These specialized accountants play a key role in valuations in dispute, economic damages, fraud prevention, litigation cases, matrimonial services, and financial statement misrepresentation.  A big myth in this niche is that forensic accountants just do fraud related work, we do that type of work but our portfolio of services is very diversified.

Sound attractive?
If you are considering an accounting career, this specialized field may match with your DNA if you are a self-starter who is analytical, detail oriented, inquisitive, adaptive and strategic.

While Studying: Prepare Early
ParenteBeard’s forensic accounting leadership team suggests you lay the groundwork for a forensic accounting career early on, while you are in college. Interested candidates should pursue a degree or major in accounting and seek an internship within the field. In addition, holding student memberships in the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ (AICPA) and Beta Alpha Psi, the international honor organization for financial information students and professionals,  are great ways to  gain expertise about the industry and build your professional network early.

Utilize your opportunity to pick your own elective classes. Courses in communication, business writing, public speaking, economics, finance and marketing will prove their value later on. It’s important to gain general marketing knowledge and understand the processes behind strategic decision making as forensic accountants are continuously marketing their practice. Different than audit or tax accountants, forensic accountants need to always be looking out for the next potential client or case.

After You Graduate, Choose Your Path
When you graduate, decide where you would like to practice. If you choose a large metropolitan city such as New York City or Dallas, you can join an accounting firm that has a forensic accounting consulting group. If you prefer a smaller city such as Omaha, Nebraska or Tulsa, Oklahoma, you will most likely need to join the tax or audit group before stepping into the specialized field of forensic accounting.

Starting Out: What Should You Expect?
Since there is no designated busy season for forensic accountants, this group is often referred to as the “emergency room” of the accounting hospital. At the intern level, you can expect to work 20 hours per week, staff level works 40 to 50 hours per week and senior managers and higher work 40 to 60 hours per week. As you build your expertise and develop your career, you will spend more time networking with potential new clients and strategizing for business leads.

Licenses and Certifications
Although a certified public accountant license is not required, it is highly recommended to be valued and successful in this field. As you advance in your career, achieving these AICPA credentials: Accredited in Business Valuation (“ABV”), Certified in Financial Forensics (“CFF”), and Chartered Global Management Accountant (“CGMA”), will prove desirable. In addition, there are certifications outside of the AICPA that can improve your opportunities. These include Certified Fraud Examiner (“CFE”), American Society of Appraisers (“ASA”), and Chartered Financial Analyst (“CFA”).

Outlook for Forensic Accounting
Of the AICPA’s more than 370,000 members, approximately five to ten thousand specialize in forensic accounting. Out of this group, many are in the latter half of their professional career. This creates the demand for younger forensic accountants to step into their roles apparent.

It is a demanding field but if you are dedicated and entrepreneurial early on, a career in this field is promising. CPAs who specialize are reported as having higher total compensation and a highly regarded expertise.

Learn More
For a comprehensive list of services that a forensic accounting practice provides, check out ParenteBeard’s forensic, litigation and valuation services offerings.

If you are interested in learning more about this career path, contact ParenteBeard Partner Bob Gray at Bob.Gray@ParenteBeard.com.

List of universities offering specializations or graduate certifications in forensic accounting.