Forensic accountants are at a unique and critical corner of the accounting world. They combine their accounting, auditing, and investigative skills to uncover financial discrepancies, provide litigation support, and even help detect and prevent fraud. A career in forensic accounting is often lucrative and an attractive choice for many.
If you’re considering a career in forensic accounting but you’re not sure what types of industries or organizations to look into, we have a few options and can help you get there.
Skills and Tasks of a Forensic Accountant
Let’s first consider the skills needed to pursue a career in forensic accountants. It’s important to be skilled in accounting principles and auditing procedures while equally excelling at investigative intuition.
You should be able to complete complex analyses of financial documents and strongly communicate your findings to those not skilled in accounting.
A forensic accountant’s daily tasks extend beyond traditional accounting and often include:
- Investigating Fraud: Both at private and public institutions.
- Litigation Support: Including acting as an expert witness in courts.
- Financial Crime Investigation: Tracing fraudulent transactions and identifying assets for recovery.
Learn more about the day-to-day of this lucrative career with our downloadable guide. Detecting White-Collar Crime - Fraud & Forensic Accounting Certification.
Where Do Forensic Accountants Work?
Unsurprisingly, a wide range of industries seek the specialized skills of a forensic accountant. Their ability to uncover financial discrepancies can save an organization a lot of money, time, and resources, making them a valuable asset.
Places Forensic Accountants Work
1. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Forensic accountants within the FBI play a pivotal role in investigating a variety of complex financial crimes. They may be involved in money laundering, embezzlement, securities fraud, and even terrorism financing. These professionals analyze financial records, follow the flow of money, and help trace the origins and destinations of ill-gotten gains. They collaborate in a joint effort with other agents, providing crucial financial expertise and evidence to ensure successful prosecution.
2. Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
Forensic accountants are a valuable asset at the IRS, as they predominantly work to track illicit financial activities related to tax evasion, unreported income sources, and false deductions, ensuring that taxes are properly reported and paid. Their specialized skills help uncover hidden assets, trace money flow, and establish a pattern of fraud, enabling them to support the IRS in their enforcement tasks and bring offenders to justice.
3. Private Accounting Firms
In private accounting firms, forensic accountants offer a range of specialized services catering to clients dealing with financial disputes or requiring specific forensic expertise. Some of their services include:
- Dispute Resolution: Investigating and resolving financial discrepancies in contracts and agreements between parties.
- Post-acquisition Disputes: Analyzing financial data related to mergers and acquisitions, identifying potential issues that may affect the valuation and ultimate transaction.
- Bankruptcy and Insolvency: Evaluating the financial realities of a company in financial trouble and providing consulting services for business recovery or bankruptcy procedures.
4. Insurance Companies
Insurance companies frequently hire forensic accountants to evaluate and uncover instances of insurance fraud. These professionals investigate cases like arson, false claims, staged accidents, and exaggerated medical expenses. By examining financial motives and insurance claims, forensic accountants assist insurance companies in determining the validity of a claim, helping reduce financial losses due to fraud and ensuring compliance with relevant laws and regulations.
5. Financial Institutions
As an integral part of banks and other financial institutions, forensic accountants work to detect and prevent suspicious activities or fraudulent transactions in order to maintain the stability and security of these institutions. They collaborate with internal audit and compliance departments to identify and investigate employee theft, insider trading, and identity theft. By implementing anti-fraud programs and providing financial investigations, they contribute to the overall financial safety and soundness of the organization.
6. Corporate Companies
Within large businesses, forensic accountants often operate as part of their internal audits, risk management, and fraud investigation teams to ensure financial stability and protection. Their activities include:
- Internal Audit Support: Assessing the effectiveness of internal controls and detecting potential risks in financial reporting practices.
- Risk Management: Identifying possible areas of financial exposure and reducing the likelihood of financial misconduct.
- Fraud Investigation: Probing suspected fraudulent activities within the company and providing litigation support in civil or criminal cases.
Overall, forensic accountants have a diverse range of opportunities, working in various sectors that require their expertise to maintain financial integrity. You will find a forensic accountant working in nearly every industry! If any of these settings feel like a good fit for your skills and interests, pursuing a graduate degree or certification in forensic accounting is the next step. Read our blog: Two Ways to Fight White Collar Crime to determine the right path for you.
Pursuing a Certification in Forensic Accounting
Getting certified in forensic accounting offers industry-wide recognition, indicating credibility and expertise in the field. Having advanced certification certainly increases your marketability, providing potential opportunities for greater career growth and higher salaries.
Are you intrigued by numbers and problem-solving and have a knack for investigating? Look into what it will take to get your certification in forensic accounting. Get started on your new career today! Use our guide to discover how.