5 Jobs in Financial Forensics

Cool Careers in the Financial Forensic Field

  • Criminal Investigation Special Agent
  • Forensic Accountant
  • Certified Fraud Examiner
  • Certified Public Accountant
  • Forensic Economist

While most probably think of a bookkeeper when envisioning careers in accounting, the field offers numerous opportunities. For example, financial forensics, an area within accounting, combines investigative skill with accounting and auditing to uncover fiscal crimes like fraud, according to Investopedia.com. Like forensic investigators seen on television crime shows, the forensic professionals in this field obtain and document evidence, uncover motives and, in some cases, work with law enforcement. The insurance industry and some corporations also employ individuals conversant in forensic accounting.

1. Criminal Investigation Special Agent

Law enforcement does employ a significant number of individuals with forensic experience in accounting. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), an agency within the US Department of Treasury, employs criminal investigation special agents. Of the 4,200 employees in the IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) division, about 2,800 work as special agents, according to the agency’s website.

CI Special Agents receive special training from the agency beyond their incoming degree and certifications.This includes information technology training to enable recovering computer evidence, including encrypted, password protected data.

The jurisdiction of these agents includes tax law, money laundering, and Bank Secrecy Act laws. It works with other agencies which share jurisdiction over money laundering and portions of the Bank Secrecy Act violations, but it has sole jurisdiction over Internal Revenue Code criminal violations. CI focuses on three categories of violations:

  • those from a legal source involving tax crime,
  • those from an illegal source involving financial crime,
  • narcotics-related financial crimes/counterterrorism financing.

IRS CI boasts one of the highest conviction rates in federal law enforcement.

2. Forensic Accountant

Forensic accountants work in law enforcement and the private sector. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) employs forensic accountants who combine their accounting and criminology training and experience to uncover crimes like embezzlement, corruption, and fraud.

The FBI requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in accounting or business and an accounting certificate as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), or Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF). It prefers its forensic accountants hold a master’s degree in criminology. If employed by the FBI, the position requires an additional five-week training course at the FBI Academy.

A career as a forensic accountant came in 24th on CNN Money’s “Best Jobs in America” list, according to Regis University. The position pays a median salary of $103,000.

3. Certified Fraud Examiner

Yes, accountants can become so specialized as to only work investigating fraud. Private organizations and law enforcement agencies employ certified fraud examiners (CFEs), states Wisegeek. A CFE investigates potential illegal corporate, retail or financial institution activity. Fraud examiners use document review and interviews to investigate potential violations. Although the work of a CFE does involve financial documents like audit records and bank statements, their work also includes evidentiary items like e-mail correspondence and surveillance footage.

Examiners also design and implement fraud deterrence programs and prevention measures. This may include installation of surveillance equipment or computer software to prevent crime.

Individuals may enter the career with an accounting bachelor’s or master’s degree. Employers prefer candidates with additional coursework in law enforcement or criminal justice. CFEs must also pass a national exam administered within each state by the state’s board of accountancy. Each state board also sets and administers its own requirements.

4. Certified Public Accountant

The back office of any company staffs many certified public accountants in multiple departments. The chief financial officer of a corporation may first come to mind, but CPAs work in the departments of accounting, payroll, finance, distribution and more.

Accountants prepare and examine financial documents and records, and ensure their accuracy. They prepare tax forms and ensure their timely submission and payment. CPAs also ensure an individual or organization complies with financial laws and regulations. They may represent an individual or organization in an audit or conduct the audit.

While an individual can enter the field with an associate’s degree in accounting, many employers prefer a bachelor’s degree. Many accountants hold a Master of Business Administration.

CPAs must also pass a national exam administered within each state by the state’s board of accountancy. Each state board also sets and administers its own requirements. Most states require continuing education credits for a CPA to maintain the license.

5. Forensic Economist

The fertile financial forensic field extends far beyond balancing the books or uncover proof that someone cooks the books. It also includes the field of economy. A forensic economist determines appropriate fiscal awards or payments using economic and mathematical models, according to Chron.com. For example, a forensic economist would apply mathematical models to determine the damages in a personal injury negligence case.

An entry-level position as a forensic economist requires a master’s degree in economics. Its career association, The National Association of Forensic Economics, does not require a separate certification. The median annual salary for a forensic economist is $100,000.

The field of financial forensics offers a multitude of challenging, engaging positions spanning forensic accounting and economics. Individuals with interests in law enforcement, mathematical models or information technology will find potential careers in forensics.