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What Do You Learn in Forensic Accounting Programs?

Written by AnonymousMay 31, 2011

Forensic accounting isn’t a new specialty. The first documented use of forensic accounting dates all the way back to 1931, when Al Capone was indicted for income tax evasion. The investigative techniques used to uncover tax fraud helped put Capone behind bars. It wasn’t until 1946, however, that New York City accountant and author Maurice E. Peloubert, coined the phrase forensic accounting. In 1982, the first forensic accounting book was written, and the rest is history.

Forensic accountants use intelligence-gathering techniques, accounting, and business skills to uncover white-collar crimes such as bankruptcy fraud, securities and commodities fraud, hedge fund fraud, embezzlement, money laundering, tax evasion, economic espionage, and more. Forensic accountants use their expertise to assist attorneys involved in criminal litigation and they provide expert witness testimony when needed.

In order to fulfill the duties of a forensic accountant, special training is required. It starts with taking a number of courses outside the traditional accounting degree curriculum.

Forensic accounting students take courses that prepare them for litigation support and investigative accounting. Courses may include:

  • Introduction to Forensic Accounting
  • Introduction to Corporate Taxation
  • Introduction to Litigation Consulting and Forensic Accounting
  • Prevention and Detection of Fraudulent Financial Reporting
  • Advanced Financial Statement Analysis
  • Writing Skills for Accounting and Finance Professionals
  • Forensic Case Studies
  • Fraud and Forensic Accounting in a Digital Environment
  • Legal Issues and Professional Standards in Forensic Accounting
  • The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act: Emerging Issues and Rational Responses

These courses teach students how to prevent and detect fraudulent financial reporting and how to understand the legal elements of fraud and other financial crimes. Students learn how to review financial statements for indicators of financial fraud and other related problems and they also learn the skills needed to support litigation teams in finance and accounting-related cases. A well-rounded curriculum will give students the knowledge needed to understand and fulfill the role of expert witness in litigation as well.

Most forensic accounting programs require a forensic practicum such as an internship, consulting project, forensics camp, or senior thesis. An internship or forensics camp offers hands-on training that gives you the experience you need to land a job right out of college.

Forensic accounting is usually a concentration or focus area, so your major will likely be accounting with a forensics focus. Many schools also offer forensic accountant certificate programs and schools of accountancy may offer a minor in this area. However, most employers prefer a degree in accounting with a forensic focus.