Forensic accounting is a specialized area of accounting – and a challenge. A forensic accountant investigates incidents of fraud, corruption, money laundering and embezzlement by analyzing financial records and transactions, tracing assets, etc. Securities fraud, identity theft, compensation litigation, and trademark and patent infringement are just a few areas of interest for forensic accountants.
Law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), often turn to these highly trained professionals for assistance in uncovering and analyzing the evidence used. to solve and prosecute financial crimes. Legal teams also ask forensic accountants to serve as expert witnesses for their cases. Additionally, many companies are increasingly looking for forensic accountants in their internal audit, finance, compliance, and global investigations departments.
You can find forensic accounting jobs in many types of organizations, including accounting firms, large business compliance departments, consulting firms, financial institutions, government agencies, and corporations. insurance.
Meet a Financial Crimes Expert
To get more information on forensic accountant jobs, we spoke with Peter F. Grupe, a white-collar crime veteran for the FBI, and now a director at Protiviti in their forensic solution. (Protiviti is a global consulting firm and a subsidiary of Robert Half.) Here’s what he had to say about this accounting career path:
What is forensic accounting? How would you define it?
“Forensic accounting is an investigative methodology for tracking money or proceeds, conducted on the assumption that the results of the investigation can be used in court. Whatever your purpose – civil or criminal – forensic accounting is generally about following the money. »
What should people know about a career as a financial accountant?
“This job will keep you on your toes. There really is no typical day in forensic accounting. Some days you might be crunching numbers, some days you’re conducting interviews, and some days you’re looking at documents.
You also need to stay on top of the financial industry and markets to know how changes, such as new or updated regulatory compliance mandates, may affect a company or individual’s finances. »
What attracts people to the role of financial accountant?
“A particularly fascinating aspect of the job is how finance and accounting work hand in hand with the actual decisions people make. Personally, I enjoy the variety that comes with working across multiple industries, as well as the challenge of solving financial « mysteries. »
The work of forensic accountant can sometimes become exciting. While working for the FBI, for example, I handled cases involving drug traffickers, organized crime, terrorists, and Wall Street professionals.
What do you need to succeed in financial accounting jobs?
“First, you must have the desire to investigate. Naturally, you will also need a degree and/or background in accounting and finance. Although you don’t need to be a CPA for the role of forensic accountant, this expertise could set you apart from the competition when applying for a job – especially if you also have experience in internal investigations and financial crime. .
Many employers also seek candidates with forensic accounting credentials, such as the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) designation. It is also important for the success of a forensic accountant to keep abreast of trends in the financial industry.
Additionally, you’ll want to take advantage of professional development opportunities in your field to maintain a strong command of banking, investing, or accounting transactions. »
Salary benchmarks for forensic accountants
If you think the forensic accountant path is right for you, what kind of salary could you expect to earn? Robert Half’s latest salary guide for the accounting and finance profession lists $95,500 as the projected median salary for this position in 2021.
At the median salary, applicants have average experience with the skills needed to meet the job requirements. The role may also be in an industry where competition for talent is moderate.