Courses to Take to Become a Forensic Accountant

Part of the Forensic Accounting For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Fraud can be a huge problem for a business or a government entity, and that problem is growing. Most frauds involve financial matters, so the most logical people to investigate them are accountants. Forensic accountants are specially trained to investigate and report fraud in relation to legal cases. If you want to tap into this growing career field, here are some courses to take and certifications to consider so you can be at the top of the forensic accounting pack.

You want to first study accounting, of course. Taking a variety of courses in financial and advanced accounting, as well as one or two courses in auditing, is essential. Then, you want to supplement your accounting knowledge with other courses:

  • Forensic accounting: If your school has a forensic accounting course, take it! You'll learn about forensic techniques, internal controls, and legal issues.

  • Computers: You must be proficient in such common programs as Word, Excel, Access, and PowerPoint. When you investigate fraud, you use these programs to perform your analysis, write reports, and present your findings. Also, your targets (individuals and companies that you investigate) use these programs, and you must know how to navigate through complex files and find the frauds.

    You also need to know about accounting software (such as QuickBooks, Peachtree, SAP, and Oracle) because your targets will keep their accounting records using such software.

  • Law: Knowing business law is invaluable for a forensic accountant so you can know if certain transactions are legal and be familiar with the Uniform Commercial Code (a federal act that governs sales and other commercial transactions throughout the United States). Knowing the basics of civil and criminal law is useful as well.

  • Statistics: Knowing statistics and the principles of chance or odds will help you determine the true rate of errors and defalcations (the amount of money that has been misappropriated) in the transactions you examine.

  • Economics: Understanding incentives that lead people to commit fraud requires knowing something about economics. Behavioral economics is a growing field today. Additionally, knowing economics helps in quantifying damages in civil litigation.

  • Psychology: Accounting is as much about people as it is about numbers. Clients tell accountants about their problems with employees, customers, spouses . . . You need to learn how to handle being a confidant and advisor.

  • Ethics: When you encounter situations where someone's actions are within the limits of the law but are still wrong, what do you do? A study of ethics can help.

  • Languages: Never underestimate the value of speaking a second (or third or fourth) language. If a criminal speaks a language other than English, the investigator should as well.

  • Criminology: Studying crime, criminals, and corrections will help you understand how the fraudsters you are up against work, why they do what they do, and how they interact with the people around them.

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Forensic Accounting For Dummies Cheat Sheet

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