Working for the Federal Bureau of Investigations comes with a certain amount of respect. However, when one envisions a job with the FBI, the image that typically comes to mind is one of a sharp and strong agent, flashing a badge and carrying a firearm.
Not all opportunities in the FBI are law enforcement agent-focused, however. Even someone with an interest in accounting can look toward a potential career path with this highly respected federal agency, so long as they back this pursuit with the right educational experience.
One such career path to consider is forensic accounting, which is among the analyst and administrative staff positions available at the FBI. Today, we’re taking a more in-depth look at this profession, and how one can become an FBI agent specializing in accounting with a master’s degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
What do forensic accountants do?
The goal of a forensic accountant working for a federal agency like the FBI is to support visibility and accountability, particularly when it comes to identifying and tracking criminal financial activity. As the FBI describes on its FBI Jobs website, individuals working in this role “follow the money trails of criminal activity and national security matters.”
In addition, these individuals carry out tasks like:
- Identifying and drawing parallels between sources of funding and suspected criminal activity
- Working with financial data, including gathering, organizing, analyzing, and adequately reporting
- Identifying, understanding, and communicating the ways in which criminal financial activity pertains to a specific case
- Pinpointing and reporting any suspicious transactions or other financial activities on the part of any individual or entity
As the FBI explained, much of what forensic accountants do revolves around their experience and intuition in financial matters, as well as a robust curiosity to trace and track these elements.
“We don’t stop at the easy answers; we dig through faulty foundations to determine who, what, when, where, why, how, and how much of the financial aspects of the case,” the FBI notes. “We package the financial facts for our law enforcement and judicial counterparts and, if necessary, provide testimony during court cases.”
Overall, there are opportunities for professionals to work as forensic accountants with the FBI at its office locations across the U.S., including at its headquarters in Washington, D.C.
FBI recruitment and hiring: A sharp eye for unexpected talent
As Fast Company contributor Jeff Beer notes, recruitment and hiring practices at the FBI have changed drastically over the years. In the bureau’s most recent campaign, best described by its tagline #UnexpectedAgent, the agency looks to shine a spotlight on recruitment and hiring for some of its less visible positions, including those in the categories of intelligence analysts and professional staff positions. These include roles like forensic accountants, business analysts, administration, human resources, medical staff, and more.
“The research shows that if we target people who think of themselves as health care professionals, educators, psychologists, financial experts, then draw the line between those career fields and being an agent, then we will have more people — and a more diverse group of people — engaging with the content than if it was just an ad for new special agents,” Peter Sursi, head of FBI hiring, told Beer.
In this way, those asking themselves, “What kind of accountant would the FBI want to hire?” are particularly targeted by the bureau’s new advertising and messaging. In answer to this question specifically, the FBI notes that some of the skills and qualifications required for a position as a forensic accountant include the ability to investigate and examine financial data, collaborate and communicate with internal and external peers, and testify in court, when needed.
The FBI also requires that applicants have at least an undergraduate degree in accounting or another similar area of study. However, bolstering the skills and experience from an undergraduate degree with master’s-level work can better prepare students for the processes and tasks they might face working in a federal agency like the FBI.
How your Master of Accounting degree can pave the way for an FBI career
An advanced education in accounting like that offered by the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s online master’s degree in accounting can provide students with the skills required to pursue a number of compelling and respected career paths. This includes roles like forensic accountant, financial analyst, certified public accountant, financial manager, and more.
And with coursework in areas like government accounting, advanced financial accounting, and advanced auditing and attestation, students can bolster the capabilities and skills that organizations like the FBI seek in their applicants. Students can also choose to take elective courses in Forensic Accounting and Information Technology Auditing, as well as Fraud Examination as part of their nine-credit-hour requirement.
To find out more about the Collat School of Business online master’s degree in accounting, check out our curriculum details and connect with one of our expert enrollment advisors today.