Career Development

How To Become an AML Investigator: Step-by-Step Guide

Learn about the steps important to pursuing a career as an AML investigator, including education, skills, salary and more.

Anti-money laundering (AML) investigators work to prevent the illegal use of the financial system for money laundering activities. They may work for banks, government agencies or other financial institutions. To become an AML investigator, you will need to have a strong background in finance and investigation. In this article, we discuss what an AML investigator does, the average salary for this position and the steps you need to take to become one.

What Does an AML Investigator Do?

An AML investigator is responsible for conducting investigations into potential money laundering activities. They work with financial institutions to identify and report any suspicious activity that may be taking place. Some of their duties include:

  • Reviewing customer transactions for any red flags or signs of money laundering
  • Identifying patterns of behavior that may indicate money laundering
  • Investigating customers who are flagged for suspicious activity
  • Gathering evidence to support money laundering allegations
  • Writing reports detailing the findings of investigations
  • Testifying in court as needed
  • Keeping up-to-date on changes in money laundering regulations
  • Providing training to other staff members on money laundering prevention

AML Investigator Salary and Job Outlook

The average salary for an AML investigator is $90,125 per year. However, salaries can vary depending on the employer, geographic location, and level of experience.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that job growth for AML investigators will be faster than average over the next decade. This is due to the increasing compliance requirements for financial institutions in order to prevent money laundering. Financial institutions will need to hire more AML investigators to ensure compliance with these regulations.

How to Become an AML Investigator

Here are several steps you should take to become an AML investigator.

1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, finance or a related field

A bachelor’s degree is the minimum educational requirement for most AML investigator positions. Common degrees held by professionals in this field include criminal justice, finance and business administration. Coursework in these programs typically includes classes on financial crimes, money laundering, economics, statistics and law enforcement.

Some employers may prefer candidates who hold a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a Master of Science in Criminal Justice (MSCJ). These advanced degrees provide more coursework in areas such as risk assessment, security management and leadership skills.

2. Gain experience working in the financial industry or with law enforcement

While a degree is required to become an AML investigator, experience in the financial industry or with law enforcement can help you stand out when applying for jobs. Consider interning at a bank or credit union during your undergraduate studies to gain hands-on experience and build connections that could lead to job opportunities after graduation.

Law enforcement experience can also be beneficial because it teaches you how to conduct investigations and gather evidence. Working as a police officer, detective or security agent can help you develop these skills and make you more attractive to employers.

3. Become certified as an Anti-Money Laundering Specialist (ACAMS)

The Anti-Money Laundering Institute (AMLI) offers the Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist (ACAMS) credential to individuals who have a minimum of two years of experience in financial crime investigations or compliance. To earn this certification, candidates must pass an exam covering topics such as international money laundering techniques and regulations, federal laws and banking practices.

The ACAMS credential is valid for three years and requires renewal by earning continuing education credits.

4. Develop strong research and analytical skills

AML investigators need to be able to find and analyze information about transactions that may indicate illegal activity. You will likely use a variety of online and in-person resources to gather data, including public records, bank statements and financial databases.

You should also develop strong analytical skills so you can evaluate the information you find and determine whether it indicates suspicious activity. Strong research and analytical abilities are important for all aspects of this career, as you will need to continually monitor transactions for signs of money laundering or other illegal activities.

5. Understand banking regulations and compliance issues

Banks and other financial institutions are required to follow strict regulations when it comes to money laundering and compliance issues. These include knowing what types of transactions require additional screening, how to identify suspicious activity and how to report it to the authorities.

Understanding these regulations can help AML investigators know what type of information they should be looking for during their investigations and how to interpret that data in a way that follows all banking guidelines.

6. Stay up to date on changes in the financial industry

The financial industry is constantly changing, and AML investigators must stay up to date on these changes. For example, the European Union’s Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive went into effect in July 2018, requiring banks to identify beneficial owners of companies that open accounts. Banks are also required to collect more information about customers’ transactions.

AML investigators should be aware of new regulations and how they affect their work. They may need to update their knowledge of money laundering techniques or terrorist financing methods.

7. Join professional organizations such as the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS)

The Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS) is a professional organization that offers training and certification for AML investigators. Membership in ACAMS can help you find jobs, stay up to date on industry standards and learn about new developments in the field. To become certified as an anti-money laundering specialist (CAMLS), you must pass an exam covering topics such as financial crimes investigations, money laundering techniques, international banking regulations and compliance issues.


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