A career in forensic accountancy will suit you if you're looking for a specialist role which requires meticulous attention to detail and excellent numeracy skills, combined with an investigative mindset

As a forensic accountant, you'll use your accountancy skills to investigate financial discrepancies and inaccuracies such as fraudulent activity, financial misrepresentation, or misconduct and disputes.

The role involves a combination of accounting, auditing and investigative skills. You will carry out detailed investigations to uncover information, identify irregularities in financial documents and reports, calculate the exact losses, and trace and recover illegitimate funds. You'll provide reports of your findings, offering reconstructions and insights into how activities were carried out, and will also provide evidence at court as an expert witness.

A common misunderstanding is that forensic accountants spend the majority of their time carrying out research in order to uncover criminal activity. In reality, there is a range of work that forensic accountants can carry out, such as:

  • commercial litigation
  • dispute resolution
  • resolving and settling insurance claims
  • financial risk management
  • loss of profits calculations
  • matrimonial work
  • personal injury
  • professional negligence
  • valuations.

Forensic accountants are also employed by companies to focus on preventative activities, which aim to minimise the risk of financial problems and enhance their reputation for good practice.


As a forensic accountant, you'll need to:

  • perform forensic research to trace funds and identify assets for recovery
  • extract data from financial records
  • create and manipulate spreadsheets
  • conduct forensic analysis of financial data
  • assess the potential impact on profitability, value or income
  • undertake interviews to uncover and verify information
  • prepare forensic accounting reports from financial findings
  • prepare analytical data for court
  • attend court where required to give expert testimony
  • understand the wider economic and legal implications of a case
  • travel abroad, when necessary, to conduct investigations.


  • Starting salaries for accountants vary depending on the location, sector, size and type of firm. As a graduate entering the career, you can expect to earn upwards of £23,000.
  • With experience, salaries can range from £30,000 to £55,000. The higher end is likely to be for senior and managerial forensic accountant positions.
  • Salaries for forensic accountants in senior positions such as director can rise to in excess of £80,000.

Salaries vary depending on a range of factors, including your location and the type of company/organisation you work for.

Salaries can be enhanced through company benefits such as bonuses, profit-sharing schemes, medical insurance, pensions and car allowances.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Working hours vary depending on the organisation, but are typically 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. However, working extra hours in the evening and at weekends may be necessary in order to meet deadlines.

By setting up as a sole practitioner, you'll have the opportunity to work independently.

What to expect

  • The demand for forensic accounting services has grown in recent years as companies want to demonstrate their commitment to financial reform and avoiding scandal.
  • Jobs are available in most areas throughout the UK, but are more commonly found in cities and larger towns.
  • Work is sometimes carried out at clients premises and overnight stays can be expected.
  • Investigations can start in the UK but enquiries may lead to international sources, meaning global travel is a possibility.
  • Conducting in-depth investigations can be laborious and a high level of commitment and attention to detail is required. However, uncovering information vital to the outcome of the case can be incredibly rewarding.


You can get into forensic accountancy with a degree in any subject. Although a degree in accountancy, or a related subject such as finance or economics, isn't necessary, it can give you a good foundation to work from.

You will need to train as an accountant before specialising in forensics. This typically involves undertaking a training contract with a relevant employer and completing an accountancy qualification, such as ACA or ACCA, from a recognised professional accountancy body. There are also some finance graduate schemes that include study for an accountancy qualification as part of the training.

It's also possible to take an accountancy apprenticeship, which combines practical on-the-job experience with study for a recognised accountancy qualification.

Find out more about how to become an accountant.

Once qualified, you will usually gain some accountancy experience before specialising in forensics. You could do this by moving into a financial analysis, tax or auditing role and/or by undertaking further study in forensic accountancy. It's possible, for example, to study online for a certificate or diploma in forensic accountancy. Several UK universities also offer tailored undergraduate and Masters programmes.

Search for postgraduate courses in forensic accountancy.

The Institute of Certified Forensic Accountants (ICFA), a global professional body committed to the development of forensic accounting, also offers a range of online qualifications, including the Certificate in Forensic Accounting (Level 3) and the Advanced Diploma in Forensic Accounting (Level 5). Successful completion of the Advanced Diploma is necessary to qualify for ICFA Certified Professional Forensic Accountant (CPFAcct) status.


You'll need to show:

  • meticulous attention to detail
  • an ability to analyse data thoroughly
  • investigative skills and the ability to look beyond face-value
  • creative thinking
  • commercial awareness
  • a methodical and logical approach to work
  • sound judgement
  • organisation and time management skills
  • excellent verbal communication skills in order to convey technical and complex financial information in easy to understand language
  • the ability to produce quality written reports
  • IT proficiency
  • integrity and impartiality
  • confidence in your abilities
  • self-control and the ability to keep your composure when giving evidence in court.

Work experience

It may be difficult to get work experience specifically in forensic accountancy, but any experience in accountancy is useful. Experience in internal audit, risk assessment and tax can also be useful.

If you're successful in obtaining a summer internship with a large accountancy firm, you may have the opportunity to spend time in their forensic department as part of the rotational internship programme.

You could look at making speculative applications to forensic accountancy firms by sending a tailored CV and cover letter. You can find firms to contact through the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) - Find A Chartered Accountant.

If you're unable to get work experience due to the sensitive nature of the work, you could ask for an information interview to find out more about the role and how current forensic accountants started out.

Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.


Most of the larger accounting firms, along with some smaller firms, have specialist forensic accounting departments.

You can also work for a variety of other employers in the public and private sector, including:

  • banks and other financial institutions
  • government departments and agencies
  • insurance companies
  • law firms
  • police forces
  • risk management firms.

Alternatively, you could consider working for yourself and setting up your own forensic accountancy business.

Look for job vacancies at:

You could also register with a specialist recruitment agency, such as Michael Page.

Professional development

Once qualified, you must undertake continuing professional development (CPD) throughout your career to keep your skills and knowledge up to date. You'll also need to keep track of technical developments and changes in legislation. This can include attending courses and conferences, undertaking research and reading the trade press.

As well as membership of one of the accounting professional bodies, such as the ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) or the ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales), it's also useful to have membership of a professional body related to forensic accountancy. These can include:

Since forensic accountants are often asked to present their findings in court, membership of organisations such as the Expert Witness Institute can be useful. It acts as a voice for the expert witness community, supporting experts from all professional disciplines and lawyers who use the services of experts.

Becoming a member of a professional body that specialises in forensic accountancy isn't mandatory, but can help with your credibility and keeping your skills and knowledge up to date.

Career prospects

Career prospects are generally good as there is an increased demand for forensic accountants due to the rising awareness of, and antipathy towards, fraud and financial misconduct.

As a forensic accountant, you will have already decided to specialise in a particular area of accountancy. There are opportunities to specialise further, however, by working in a particular area of forensic accountancy such as insurance or risk management.

With experience, you can progress to a more senior role within a team or department. You may also be able to take on line management or team leadership responsibilities. At the highest levels in major companies and firms, there will be occasional openings for roles at forensic director level.

Some people may opt to branch out into self-employment by setting up their own independent firm.

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