In the previous post, I discussed environmental accountants. In this segment, I'll be exploring the law and order-centric world of the forensic accountant.
In addition to being one of the fastest-growing law enforcement professions, forensic accountancy is one of the more inherently interesting and satisfying branches of accounting. If you enjoy solving puzzles and a good mystery novel (and if you're also proficient with numbers), financial forensics might be the career for you.
Some of the most famous criminal cases in the United States have hinged upon the work of forensic accountancy. The Lindbergh baby kidnapping was solved by Treasury Department agent Frank Wilson; he recorded serial numbers from the ransom money and distributed those numbers in a booklet, ultimately leading to the discovery of the cash and the kidnapper. This same numbers-cruncher also helped to get Al Capone prosecuted and convicted for tax evasion.
Forensic accountants scrutinize financial, tax, and business records of individuals and organizations in order to uncover fraud or illegalities that may be pertinent to civil or criminal cases. Money laundering, tax evasion, and embezzlement all fall under the purview of the forensic accountant; occasionally, financially-motivated homicide prosecutions depend upon the work of the forensic accountant.
The level of education necessary for the forensic accountant will depend upon the agency (local, state, or federal). At minimum, the candidate will require a Bachelor's degree in accounting as well as the appropriate public accounting certification. The ideal prospect will also have had extensive coursework in criminal investigation.
Because giving expert court testimony is an essential part of a forensic accountant's duties, all forensic accountants must receive specialized training that will prepare them for court appearances, as well as techniques in financial investigation, and knowledge of state and federal laws. The ability to issue clear and effective written communications is also critical.
Salaries for forensic accountants average $65,940 per year.
In the next installment, I'll be discussing auditing.
Lewis Daidone is a Certified Public Accountant and a consultant to financial services and technology companies.