Love numbers? Have an eye for detail? Want to use your talents to expose criminal behavior? A career as a forensic accountant may be right for you. Whether you pursue one on campus or online, a master’s in accounting can help get you there.
Follow the money
“Follow the money” was the mysterious advice offered to Watergate reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, launching them on an 18-month journey that led back to President Richard Nixon’s White House. In the 40 years since the Watergate scandal and Nixon’s resignation, an appreciation for forensic accounting as an investigative tool has grown as financial crimes develop in complexity.
Forensic accounting—largely credited for sending Chicago mobster Al Capone behind bars for tax evasion—has quietly existed for some time, but recent Wall Street scandals have renewed interest in the burgeoning field. Government agencies even call upon forensic accountants to evaluate the banking records of suspected terrorists.
If you like the idea of tracking down criminals as an accounting sleuth, an accounting master’s (typically a Master of Science in Accounting) can equip you with the advanced skills you need to help stop criminals from cheating clients, employees, the public, and the government out of money.
What skills and abilities do you need to become a forensic accountant?
A Master of Science in Accounting will give you the know-how to become an investigative accountant, but some traits can’t be taught in an accounting master’s program.
Are you meticulous? Patience and great attention to detail are required of forensic accountants as they extract intricate financial data for litigation and/or criminal prosecution. Are you a good communicator? Investigative accountants must excel at interpersonal, written, and verbal communication. Can you stay unbiased, even when in the midst of an investigation? Do you have the ability to bring objective, analytical, and independent decision-making skills as you conduct research?
If you answered yes to these questions, and are interested in earning a Master of Science in Accounting, you may be a perfect candidate for a career in forensic accounting.
Where can you work as a forensic accountant?
With the demand for forensic accountants on the rise, there’s no shortage of employment options for those who have recently completed their accounting master’s and are ready to put it to work. Forensic accountants are also known as fraud investigators, investigative accountants, forensic auditors or fraud auditors.
Here are just some of the places you can pursue work as a forensic accountant:
- Public accounting firms
- Insurance companies
- Financial institutions
- Consulting firms
- State and local governments
- Federal agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the National Security Agency (NSA)
What does the job entail?
Forensic accountants have the complex task of unraveling financial documents, searching for financial misconduct along the way. They trace funds, review financial statements, look for hidden assets, and much more. Successful forensic accountants can expect to be called as expert court witnesses, so they must produce written reports for court proceedings as well. The work performed and reports issued by forensic auditors will often provide answers to the how, where, what, why, and who of financial crimes.
Interested in becoming a forensic accountant? An online master’s in accounting from Walden University can help get you there.