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Q&A - Forensic Accounting Salaries

What are the highest and lowest forensic accounting salaries that I could earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for all accountants and auditors is $61,690 per year, or $29.66 per hour. However, because forensic accounting is a more specialized field of accounting, you can expect forensic accounting salaries to be higher than average.

In fact, the average forensic accounting salary is closer to $73,000 as of 2012, though individual salaries range from about $45,000 to over $115,000 depending on your employer, location, industry, experience and education. Forensic accountants who have earned a masters degree will generally receive a higher salary, and your forensic accounting salary is expected to increase as you gain experience.

In general, if you work for a larger company or financial institution, your forensic accounting pay will be higher than that of a forensic accountant working for the government, a police department or a nonprofit organization. However, some of the highest salaries are earned by forensic accountants who start their own consultancies. This is because self-employed consultants or small private consultancy firms have much less overhead than larger companies. Thus, more of the earnings can go toward your pay than into the business itself.

In addition to my forensic accounting salary, will I earn benefits?

The benefits you earn in addition to your forensic accounting pay depend on where you decide to work as a forensic accountant. Most large corporations, financial institutions and private accounting companies offer competitive benefits to entice and retain the best workers, including medical insurance, dental insurance, life insurance, long-term disability insurance, a matching 401(k) plan and paid vacation.

Many financial institutions offer additional perks such as performance bonuses and stock options. Some may even provide company cars or travel reimbursement if you are required to travel often for work.

If you decide to become a forensic accountant for the government or institutions such as the FBI or a district attorney’s office, you can expect the same benefits that most public workers enjoy, including generous medical insurance plans and paid vacation.

While some of the advantages of being self-employed include higher pay and greater freedom of location, a large drawback is the lack of benefits you will have if you decide to start your own consultancy. However, if your business is doing well you should be able to provide your own insurance package and set up a retirement account on your own without the need for a 401(k).

Will I always earn a salary in my forensic accounting job?

Where you choose to work as well as your experience will determine whether or not you earn a salary, though most forensic accountants are paid forensic accounting salaries and are not hourly employees. If you are just starting out at an entry-level position or if you are employed as a regular accountant while you study to earn your forensic accounting certification, you may be paid an hourly wage if you work for an accounting company or in the accounting department of a corporation.

Most government employees with bachelors degrees or higher are salaried employees, so if you decide to work for a government department as a forensic accountant, you can expect to earn an annual salary.

However, earning a salary also means that you will often work more than 40 hours per week without extra pay, especially during high-stress times such as tax season or if you are working on a court case with a strict deadline. One exception is if you are a self-employed consultant. In this case, your earnings are largely determined by how well your consultancy is doing, and you may choose to pay yourself less and put more money into the business or vice versa.