An Overview of Forensic Accounting
Life as an accountant means more than just crunching numbers. Accountants fill key roles in many areas of a business. Some analyze data and identify opportunities to increase revenues or redundancies that can be combined to reduce expenses, while others consult with management teams, advise on product decisions, acquisitions, overhead costs, and more. As a career, accounting has a stable and lucrative history and remains relevant to all sectors of the economy.
Forensic accounting, in particular, is an exciting area of the field that works largely autonomously to ensure that the daily operations of their organization run smoothly and all laws and regulations are adhered to. They also help protect their company’s assets by mitigating risks, which can range from fraud or other legal exposure to internal mismanagement.
Forensic accountants study a company’s financial records, searching for any error or irregularity that may indicate potential fraud or embezzlement. Similarly, they also advise companies on best practices to avoid any inadvertent fraudulent records. This is a highly specialized area of the accounting field that requires evidence gathering, investigation, and a meticulous attention to detail.
Forensic accountants are also employed by the government to trace funds, identify assets, and investigate the financial data of potentially criminal organizations or individuals. According to the FBI, who estimate that about 15 percent of their agents qualify as accountants, their responsibilities include:
- Conducting thorough forensic financial analysis of business and personal records and developing financial profiles of individuals or groups identified as participating in suspicious or illegal activity;
- Participating in gathering evidence and preparing search warrants/affidavits associated with financial analysis;
- Accompanying case agents on interviews of subjects and key witnesses in secure and non-confrontational settings;
- Identifying and tracing funding sources and interrelated transactions;
- Compiling findings and conclusions into financial investigative reports; and
- Meeting with prosecuting attorneys to discuss strategies and other litigation support functions and testifying when needed as fact or expert witnesses in judicial proceedings.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the accounting field will grow by 11 percent by 2024, which is faster than the overall expected average across all careers. CNN reports an expected growth of the forensic accounting speciality of 15.7 percent over the same time period, with median salaries over $100,000.
An online accounting degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business can help prepare you to pursue an advanced degree or professional certification, such as Certified Management Accountant, Certified Internal Auditor, or Certified Fraud Examiner – all of which will further increase your stock in the job market and help prepare you for a career as a forensic accountant.