How to Become a Certified Forensic Accountant (CRFAC)
Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) with a minimum of two years of professional experience in forensic accounting can apply to become Certified Forensic Accountants (CRFACs) provided they meet several other criteria mandated by the American Board of Forensic Accounting (ABFA). Eligible CPAs must hold a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in accounting, join the ABFA, and take the ABFA’s Forensic Accounting Review course prior to sitting for an exam administered by the ABFA. Candidates who pass the CRFAC exam receive the ABFA’s Certified Forensic Accountant credential, which may provide opportunities for career advancement in the field of forensic accounting. CPAs are not required to hold CRFAC certification in order to work in forensic accounting, but employers and clients may prefer candidates who hold a CRFAC credential.
What Is Forensic Accounting?
Forensic accounting is a specialized area of accountancy that involves the investigation of financial crimes and irregularities, including tax and insurance fraud, embezzlement, and money laundering. Professionals in the field of forensic accounting typically examine bank records, financial reports, and tax returns for evidence that may be used in civil and/or criminal litigation. They may also conduct interviews with those involved in and suspected of financial crimes, prepare documents for use in court cases, testify as expert witnesses, and work with other investigators and law enforcement officials to prosecute civil and criminal cases.
Training in Forensic Accounting
There are bachelor’s and master’s degree programs that provide formal training and instruction in forensic accounting, often as part of a larger business and/or accounting degree program. However, a designated degree in forensic accounting is not a requirement for working in the field. Accountants who investigate fraud and other financial crimes may prepare to enter the field by completing their general accountancy training in a bachelor’s or master’s program, which may then be followed by specialized post-graduate training in the practice of forensic accounting. In addition to general accounting principles and practices, forensic accountants typically receive instruction in the use advanced auditing and financial report analysis techniques, laws and procedures relating to financial crimes, and rules of evidence in criminal and civil litigations.
CPA Licensure and the CRFAC Certification Process
Certified Forensic Accountant, or CRFAC, is a trademarked designation for a CPA who has completed a certification process administered by the ABFA. The ABFA is one of several recognized professional organizations that provide training and other services for forensic accountants.
The CRFAC certification process is restricted to accountants who are licensed CPAs. While CPA licensure requirements vary by jurisdiction, most states require candidates for licensure to hold a bachelor’s degree and have at least 150 hours of formal instruction in accountancy, as well as one or more years of professional accounting experience. Candidates for licensure must then pass the American Institute of Certified Public Accountant’s Uniform CPA Examination. While it is possible to meet CPA licensure requirements through a Bachelor of Science in Accounting program, it is common for CPAs to complete the coursework required for licensure in master’s in accounting programs.
CPAs with at least two years of forensic accounting may then initiate the CRFAC certification process. In order to do so, they must join the ABFA, which costs $165, and complete the ABFA’s Forensic Accounting Review course, a self-paced, online training program that covers various topics in forensic accountancy, including fraud auditing and analysis, litigation support services, financial document retrieval and analysis, rules of evidence, and cybersecurity for auditors and accountants. The cost of the course is $695 for ABFA members.
Prior to taking the CRFAC certification exam, candidates must provide the ABFA with two professional references and a current resume. Those with a passing score of 70% or higher on the exam are awarded the Certified Forensic Accountant/CRFAC certificate.
Steps to Becoming a Certified Forensic Accountant
- Earn a bachelor’s degree with at least 150 hours of instruction in accounting, or complete a bachelor’s degree and enroll in a master’s in accounting degree program.
- Complete at least one year of supervised work experience in accountancy and make sure you have met state requirements for academic training in accounting through an undergraduate and/or a graduate degree program in accounting.
- Pass the CPA exam
- Complete two years of work experience in forensic accounting
- Join the ABFA
- Take the ABFA’s Forensic Accounting Review course
- Pass the ABFA’s CRFAC certification exam
Additional Resources and Certifications for Forensic Accountants
Additional resources on forensic accounting and the CRFAC certification process are available on the ABFA website. The ABFA offers the following three certifications for non-CPAs:
- Registered Forensic Investigator (RFI)
- Government Forensic Accountant (ABGOV)
- Licensed Healthcare Auditor–Level 1 (LHA)
In addition to the ABFA’s certification programs, there are several other professional certifications available in the field of forensic accounting. These include:
- Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), offered by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).
- Certified Valuation Analyst (CVA) and Master Analyst in Financial Forensics (MAFF), offered by the National Association of Certified Valuation Analysts (NACVA).
- NAFA certification, offered by the National Association of Forensic Accountants (NAFA).
- Forensic Certified Public Accountant (FCPA), offer by the Forensic CPA Society.
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