What is Forensic Accounting?

Forensic AccountingAccountants play an integral role in government and corporate financial operations and financial records, but what is forensic accounting? Forensic accountants work in positions ranging from large corporations to positions in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and work with much more than just numbers.

What Forensic Accountants Do

For those looking for deeper information on exactly what is forensic accounting, you’ll find that this career is a specialized field within general accounting that focuses on identifying and resolving accounting legal issues. For example, forensic accountants may review financial statements looking for irregularities or potential signs of fraud. The accountants then reconstruct exactly what happened and create reports or presentations to support legal cases against the person or organization accused of the fraud. Sample cases of fraud include embezzling, money laundering and securities fraud. The accountant may also play a role in bankruptcy proceedings. To build a case, the forensic accountant will perform tasks such as tracing assets and interviewing individuals involved with the inconsistencies to help support a case.

Required Skills

Forensic accounting is a specialized field that requires a specific skill set. Attention to detail and the ability to analyze information is essential, especially in regards to being able to locate inconsistencies. Communication skills are also important as you will need to work both with your clients as well as interview those involved with investigations. An understanding of math concepts is also important as you’ll work with numbers and calculations on a daily basis. Other desired skills include curiosity, persistence and above average research skills.

Required Education

Much of the knowledge used by forensic accountants is the same knowledge acquired by general accountants. As such, many forensic accountants start with a Bachelor’s degree in general accounting and go on from there to more specialized training in forensics. For example, many accountants choose to go on to a Master’s degree in forensic accounting. Several colleges also offer a Bachelor’s degree specifically in forensic accounting. After graduation, those pursuing a career in forensic work typically apply for various certifications including Certified Public Accountant, Certified Financial Forensics, Certified Fraud Examiner or Certified Internal Auditor.


Forensic accounting is generally lumped in with general accounting salary surveys, largely since many accountants choose to add a forensic accounting specialty on top of their work as a certified public accountant, or CPA. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the median pay for accountants and auditors is $63,550 per year. Forensic accountants may make more depending on their education, experience and the location of their job.

Related Resource: Accounting MBA Degrees

Job Outlook

Jobs for accountants and auditors are projected to grow by 13 percent, or an average pace in relation to other career fields. With recent high profile legal battles related to corporate financial dealings, state and federal governments continue to pass increasingly strict regulations and laws to prevent future financial scandals. As companies work to stay within these new financial regulations, a greater number of forensic and general accounting positions will be added to assist.

Pursuing the field of forensic accounting is not only exciting, but it increases your appeal to employers with your additional skill set. So look beyond just asking yourself what is forensic accounting and take the first steps into this rewarding field.