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Developing a Forensic Accountant

Forensic accounting requires a different skillset than traditional accounting positions.[1] In a survey of attorneys, CPAs and academics, the attorneys identified the ability to simplify information and effective oral communication skills as the key skills for forensic accountants, while the CPAs surveyed listed the ability to identify key issues and investigative intuitiveness as key skills. Other core skills identified were critical and strategic thinking, auditing, and the ability to organize unstructured situations, to synthesize results of investigations and to think like a fraudster.

Working as a forensic accountant requires enhancement of certain accounting skills, such as analyzing and interpreting financial statements. Enhanced auditing skills in collecting and interpreting evidence, fraud detection, asset tracing, and electronic discovery are necessary for forensic accountants. Forensic accounting also requires knowledge of rules of evidence and civil procedure, interviewing skills, and the ability to effectively testify regarding investigation findings.

Most accounting programs do not develop the necessary skillsets for forensic accountants. While undergraduate accounting programs develop foundational knowledge of financial, managerial, auditing and tax accounting, most do not build skills in fraud detection, interviewing and expert testimony. One course in forensic accounting will not sufficiently prepare graduates for careers in forensic accounting; a carefully designed program of study is necessary. A solid program, taught at the graduate level, builds upon the undergraduate accounting degree by enhancing auditing skills and developing skills in fraud examination, expert testimony, professional skepticism, enterprise risk management and evidence collection.

The FAASTrack of the MPPA program at Ohio Northern helps students develop these crucial skills to be successful forensic accountants and auditors.

[1] Davis, C., Farrell, R., and Ogilby, S., (2009). Characteristics and Skills of the Forensic Accountant, AICPA White Paper.