5 Great Forensic Accounting Careers

5 Careers for Forensic Accountants

  • Governmental Forensic Accountants
  • Accounting Firms
  • Corporate Security and Risk Management
  • Law Firms
  • Financial Consulting Firms

According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, global businesses lose about $3.5 trillion to fraud each year, and that means there is a growing need for forensic accountants. The stereotypical image of an accountant historically is a meek-mannered professional desk-jockey. Today’s incidence of fraud and financial abuse changes that image to a financial detective, and careers in forensic accounting have become enticing professions. Here are five attractive careers in forensic accounting.

1. Governmental Forensic Accountants

These professionals work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Internal Revenue Service. They investigate the financial history and activities of individuals and groups suspected of being terrorists, criminals or spies. They often serve as expert witnesses in court proceedings against these people. The governmental forensic accountant creates financial profiles of criminals, gathers evidence and assists officers when they execute search warrants to retrieve appropriate financial information. They may participate in interrogations, track an organization’s illegal funding and assist the prosecution in building criminal cases. Applicants for this job must have a bachelor’s degree in accounting or have a degree in a related field with at least 24 semester hours in accounting. They should have a year of specialized experience and be able to pass a rigorous security clearance. Applicants should also hold Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Certified Forensic Examiner (CFE) status. The entry-level job holds a government ranking of a GS 11 or GS 12. That means the salary is $65,000 but may increase to $115,000 with experience.

2. Accounting Firms

Forensic accountants who work for accounting firms help to uncover fraud and collect evidence to be used in litigation. They also translate “tech-speak” into understandable language for clients. They testify in court, conduct interviews and handle computer forensic investigations. They also do detailed financial analysis to create reports of financial losses due to misconduct or crime. Applicants for these positions must have a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a year of forensic experience or three years of auditing experience. They should hold CPA or CFE certification and have advanced computer skills. The median salary for this position is $55,000 to $75,000 depending upon experience.

3. Corporate Security and Risk Management

Professionals in this job protect corporations from financial hackers and from internal and external security threats. This includes things like issues arising from changing political climates to swings in the economy. They also analyze laws, exchange rates and other factors affecting profits and losses. This type of forensic accountancy is responsible to make certain the corporations are following current laws and procedures. They also perform financial risk audits. They must have at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting, have a certification in Forensic Finance, a CFE or CPA certification, and be acutely aware of the regulations and laws governing the corporations where they work. The salaries for these professionals vary according to the type and size of corporation where they work, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the median salary for accountants was $68,150 in 2016. With more experience, and in certain corporate positions, they can earn more than $100,000.

4. Law Firms

Forensic accountants employed by law firms serve as in-house consultants for financial issues. They simplify legal and financial technical wording so that clients can understand documents, assist legal teams in locating expert witnesses and perform investigative audits. Successful applicants for this position have at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting and 5-to-10 years of experience in doing investigative audits. They should also have experience working in litigation. Depending on the firm, and on experience, these professionals may earn $83,750.

5. Financial Consulting Firms

These professionals investigate fraud and conduct interviews. They analyze financial records to assess a company’s or individual’s vulnerability to fraud. They may unearth information that can help consultants advise clients about anticipated mergers or acquisitions, corporate bond or stock purchases and investments. Applicants for the job need a bachelor’s degree in accounting, CPA certification and up to two years of experience. It is also useful to have advanced skills in using Microsoft Excel. These professionals earn a beginning salary of $63,125.

Related Resource: Top 10 Online Master’s in Accounting Degree Programs

The unique thing about accounting careers is that professionals keep performing the same tasks, rising in the business with experience and years on the job. All accounting careers are experiencing an uptick, but with the increase in fraud and financial crime, the job outlook for forensic accountants is bright.