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What is a forensic accountant and what do they do?

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What is a forensic accountant?

Forensic accounting is a specialised area of accounting. A forensic accountant is someone who is highly skilled in accounting, auditing and undertaking investigations. Their role is to conduct investigations in the finances of a business or individual.

Often forensic accountants are hired to determine whether businesses or individuals are engaging in fraud or financial manipulation. They analyse data to work out where money has gone missing and how to regain possession of it.

Forensic accountants are often used in Court matters to give an expert opinion on financial matters. They are also often hired by people when going through divorce.

How do I become a forensic accountant?

To become a forensic accountant, you must first be a qualified accountant to apply for any entry-level jobs. As this is a specialised area of accounting and depending on your personal career goals, it can take anywhere between 4 to 6 years to become a forensic accountant.

The first thing you’ll need to do is enrol in an accounting program. Just be aware, the application process can take a few weeks to months. Look for an education institution that will best suit you and your needs.

During your studies you should take as many specialised forensic accounting classes as you can. Plus finding an internship in forensic accounting whilst you’re studying will help you stand out when looking for a graduate role.

Earning your certification will show you can demonstrate advanced skills. You can earn your certification through courses and work experience.

Skills required to become a forensic accountant

Forensic accountants will need to have a combination of skills of both an accountant and an investigator. You would need to have strong accounting skills and legal knowledge. Key skills you will need are:

  • Interviewing skills
  • Creative thinking
  • Analytical skills
  • Strong attention to detail
  • Effective communication
  • Exceptional curiosity
  • Persistence
  • Problem solving skills

Who hires forensic accountants?

There are several career paths forensic accountants can take. To give you an idea of the career possibilities we have listed who hires forensic accountants.

Accounting firms

Forensic accountants are hired by large accounting firms to work on cases where they’re tracking corporate fraud or theft.

Government agencies and law enforcement

Law enforcement and government agencies employ forensic accountants to help with criminal investigative work.

Financial consulting companies

Often companies who need a forensic accountant, don’t require them on a full-time basis. If a forensic accountant was looking for an ongoing, full-time roll, working for a financial consulting company could be an option.

 Security providers and risk management firms

Risk management and security providers naturally offer forensic as it’s an extension of their services. These types of businesses hire forensic accountants to help their clients with fraud prevention strategies.

Forensic accounting firms

And of course, the most obvious people who hire forensic accountants are forensic accounting firms. These firms offer their services to the public as well as businesses.

What does a forensic accountant do in divorce?

Forensic accountants are often hired during a divorce settlement when either one or both parties feel as though the other is hiding information about their income and or assets. The forensic accountant’s role is to investigate the case to find out who is hiding money and where.  

When working on divorce cases, forensic accountants can calculate how much money can be spent on child support and alimony payments. They know how to trace assets and liabilities and will bring to light any secret income streams or assets.

To uncover financial information about a spouse, a forensic accountant will be interested in both personal and business-related documentation. This can be anything from bank statements, tax returns and accounting records to business contracts, mortgage applications and appointment books.

Is forensic accounting dangerous?

Forensic accounting can sometimes be seen as a high-risk job when it comes to danger. If you were working for the Court on criminal activity that’s where the risk tends to lie. Mostly because large companies with high reputations don’t want their fraud and theft activities leaked to the public. So, it is possible you could become a victim of black mail.

You should also be aware that many forensic accountants will appear as an expert witness during Court trials. Because of this, their role can put them at risk of danger. The reason being you never know how far a defendant will go to prevent their illegal activities being exposed.

Benefits of becoming a forensic accountant

One of the key benefits of being a forensic accountant is you will always be learning new skills and kept up to date with the latest computer software. Your employer will make sure of this because software and computer applications are used to find and present financial evidence.

In this role you would also be introduced to the latest modern equipment and technology. Which takes away the stigma around accounting being a boring career.

Forensic accountants are well paid and have an average base salary of around $83K per year in Australia. Their role is extremely specialised and requires highly skilled professionals, which also means they’re often sought after.

Accounting courses available to you at Monarch Institute

Looking for the right place to get your qualification? Here at Monarch we offer a range of accounting courses, both full and part courses too. Get in touch on 1300 738 955 or check them out now.

Any questions? Ask away!