Numbers Never Lie: How to Become a Forensic Accountant

how to become a forensic accountant

When you think of accounting, you’re probably picturing a mundane desk job, number crunching and very little excitement. We rarely see accountants stealing the spotlight on shows like C.S.I., but the reality is that major criminal minds like Al Capone have been brought to justice by accountants! Though criminals may lie, the numbers never do and this paper trail can often lead to the truth.

So if you have a knack for numbers and a passion for justice, then forensic accounting is a career you should seriously consider. Rather than working with blood and DNA to reveal foul play, you’ll use your skills with numbers to solve and prevent financial crimes.

If your interest is piqued, don’t stop investigating. Keep reading to learn how to become a forensic accountant, what they do and other important aspects of this crime-fighting career.

What do forensic accountants do?

Though most forensic accountants probably won’t be on a case as high-profile as Al Capone’s, in most scenarios, they will still be working to solve crime or curb fraudulent practices. They may also help with risk reduction and management, advising on a variety of financial transactions like mergers and acquisitions.

Most forensic accountants will work in either investigation or litigation support. Their daily duties often include auditing, providing courtroom testimony and investigating and evaluating the accuracy of financial documents. The crimes they uncover include fraud, embezzlement, money laundering and more.

How do I become a forensic accountant?

There may be several ways to gear up for a career in forensic accounting, but there are a few important steps you must take. Read up on some of the essentials to making your dreams of becoming a forensic accountant come to fruition.

Earn a degree

Like any career in accounting, the first step is acquiring a formal education. We used real-time job analysis software from to do a little investigating of our own. After analyzing more than 500 forensic accountant jobs posted over the past year, we found that 99 percent of them required a bachelor’s degree or higher.* You don’t need to be a detective to understand the importance of earning a degree in this field.

Additionally, most forensic accountants also earn their certified public accountant (CPA) credential as well. Beyond that, you may even consider becoming a certified fraud examiner (CFE). Any extra education you acquire can only help you land a position in this exciting accounting career.

Keep up your good character

The fact that you’re interested in becoming a forensic accountant suggests you’re a person with fine-tuned moral character and an appreciation for justice. These attributes are essential because in this position you will be called to be honest and trustworthy in every situation. Even before you enter the field, it’s important to stay squeaky clean as a background check is sure to be part of the hiring process.

Get yourself out there

The next step is to just get yourself out there. Acquire as much accounting experience as you can while earning your education and advocate for your desire to work in auditing, risk reduction and risk management. If a forensic accounting career doesn’t open up right away, consider getting experience working in government accounting, as some of the tasks may overlap.

What else do I need to know about forensic accounting?

Because forensic accountants work to prevent and retrieve billions of dollars lost to fraud and other foul play, this sector is regarded as one of the fastest growing in the accounting industry. Continue on to learn about the job outlook, salary and work environment of forensic accountants.

Job outlook

In general, the field of accounting is growing at a steady rate that’s slightly faster than average. Accounting jobs are expected to increase by 13 percent through 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Additionally, it’s forecasted that forensic accountants will be in even higher demand than other accounting careers due to the continual rise of white collar crime over the past few decades.


The BLS reports the median annual salary for accountants at $63,550. However, forensic accountants typically earn more, with an average of $74,000 annually.** But depending on location and experience, forensic accountants have the potential to earn a six figure salary.

Where can you work?

Forensic accountants are employed both privately and publicly. They might work for a private corporation to reduce the risk of internal fraud. They could work with a firm investigating assets in order to arrange fair divorce settlements. They may even be hired by federal law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI, NCIS and Secret Service. Regardless of where you end up in forensic accounting, you can be sure to have the personal satisfaction of knowing you’re using your abilities to uncover the truth and find justice.

Where to go from here

Now you’ve got a better idea of how to become a forensic accountant. You’ve uncovered several facts about this fascinating career; it’s time to turn your investigation to the education needed to get there.

Check out Rasmussen College’s Accounting degree page and learn about how you can fulfill the first requirement to become a forensic accountant by earning a formal education.

* (analysis of 503 forensic accountant job postings, May 1, 2014 – Apr. 30, 2015)
**Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.

About the author

Megan Ruesink

Megan is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen University. She hopes to engage and intrigue current and potential students.


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