9 Things You Can Do With a Forensic Accounting Degree

By Henry Steele - November 21, 2019
Reading Time: 5 minutes

The stereotypical portrait of an accountant is that of a nerd carrying a calculator, and while accounting certainly does require a great deal of precision (meaning probably the calculator is needed), the diversity of specialties in accounting means that the job itself need not be boring.

Among the more interesting specialties within accounting is forensic accounting, which broadly covers the use of accounting in investigations into potential fraud and malfeasance, though not all forensic accounting jobs involve the criminal justice system or civil courts.

Forensic accountants’ jobs involve uncovering financial details that other people would prefer to keep hidden, so investigative work is at the very heart of this accounting specialty, which is one that is seeing demand for qualified individuals surge.

Let’s take a look at nine of the best industries that should be considered by individuals with a degree in forensic accounting.

Law Enforcement

Roles in law enforcement are quite plentiful for people with degrees in forensic accounting, and the higher up the educational ladder one goes, the higher wages they can expect. Forensic accounting job roles in law enforcement include:

  • Forensic accountant
  • Financial analyst
  • Auditor
  • Investigative auditor
  • Anti-money laundering specialist
  • Detective
  • Special agent

Many accounting jobs require the completion of the Certified Public Accountant designation, though that may be less common in law enforcement roles, though it may be helpful, depending on the agency and the job, to earn either a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), Certified Forensic Accountant (CFA) or Certified Evaluation Analyst (CEA) designation, and many employers may require at least one.

Banking

Banking is a natural fit, even for those with a background in forensic accounting. That’s because thanks to our increasingly connected global economy, the need to ensure complex laws and rules are being followed is growing. Forensic accounting jobs in banking include:

  • Anti-money laundering investigator
  • Compliance officer
  • International specialist
  • Senior audit associate
  • Adjustor
  • Investment consultant
  • Private banker

It may be necessary for most jobs to earn the Certified Public Accountant designation, so these roles could be better fits for people with advanced degrees, as the educational requirements for the CPA are more involved than the hours needed to complete a bachelor’s degree.

National Security & Intelligence

Closely related to jobs in law enforcement are roles within the national intelligence community, and organizations like the Central Intelligence Agency are common destinations for people with degrees in forensic accounting. Here are some common job titles in the national security and intelligence community for forensic accounting experts:

  • Investigator
  • Auditor
  • Anti-money laundering investigator
  • Special agent
  • Transaction analyst
  • Fraud investigator
  • Forensic accountant

Some jobs may require specialty designations, and roles within various organizations require different types of training, which may include certain physical requirements.

General Accounting

Accounting firms will always be obvious destinations for forensic accountants, whether the firms are general accounting firms or specialize in forensic accounting. Forensic accountants with particularly high levels of education, such as a master’s degree, could rise to senior executive positions in general accounting or specialty forensic firms. Here’s a look at some potential job titles in this industry:

  • Forensic accountant
  • Chief auditor
  • Staff accountant
  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
  • Cost estimator
  • Tax specialist
  • Investment accountant

Particularly for those working for accounting firms, accreditation will be important, so at least a master’s degree may be required in the case of the CPA designation, while requirements for other designations vary and may depend on the employer.

Risk Management

An education in forensic accounting will usually include a heavy focus on data and statistical analysis, and this training is helpful for people who want to seek careers in risk management, whether that means working in a financial institution or for a major corporation’s legal department. Forensic accountants in risk management have a variety of job options:

  • Data analytics associate
  • Compliance manager
  • Risk control consultant
  • Loss control consultant
  • Senior governance consultant
  • Transaction advisory director
  • IT security analyst

Within the risk management specialty, job-seekers can boost their credentials by earning the Certified Risk Management Professional designation from The Risk Management Society (RIMS-CRMP), which helps demonstrate a candidate’s technical knowledge and performance ability.

Law Offices

Whether working internally to support the business side of a legal practice or becoming part of the legal teams that work on cases, forensic accounting is often central to the investigatory and case-building process that lawyers lead, and many different types of forensic accounting jobs may exist within legal offices or through contractor/consultant arrangements. Here are a few select titles:

  • Valuation services analyst
  • Forensic accounting consultant
  • Fraud investigator
  • Investigations consultant
  • Forensic accounting director
  • Litigation dispute manager
  • Family law forensic accountant

While a law degree isn’t a necessity for these jobs, some may require particular certifications, such as in dispute resolution or compliance certification, and law firms may be more comfortable pursuing candidates or partners who are CPAs.

Business

Every business needs accounting services, but many businesses won’t necessarily require the services of forensic accounting specialists. Still, especially at particularly large companies, there may be many different roles available for those with degrees in forensic accounting. Many of these jobs exist in smaller firms as well, though it’s more likely that in small companies, candidates would have wider responsibilities than simply their listed role. Here are a few forensic accounting jobs that are easy to find in the private sector:

  • Internal auditor
  • Compensation & benefits manager
  • Cost estimator
  • Data analytics manager
  • Valuation services consultant
  • Compliance director
  • Treasury director

Industry-specific knowledge and certifications may apply, and depending on the employer and the job, CPA certification or designations in compliance or other areas may be necessary for candidates to put their best foot forward.

Education

Any field is only as healthy as its educational landscape, and forensic accounting experts should be able to find work teaching the next generation of forensic accountants, whether that means working directly in the classroom or providing research or thought leadership. Here’s a look at a few of the broad job titles available in the forensic accounting educational space:

  • Professor
  • Researcher
  • Instructor
  • Ethicist
  • Lecturer
  • Economist
  • Course developer

Doctoral degrees may be necessary for many of these job titles, particularly professor and researcher, and candidates may be able to boost their bona fides by publishing books, articles and columns related to forensic accounting and how it can be applied throughout the modern economy.

Government

In addition to jobs supporting services like law enforcement or national security, it’s also possible to get many other types of jobs working for local, state or federal governments. These include working within specific government offices, such as serving as the budget analyst for a city council, or working in a more public-facing role for a government body. Here’s a look at some potential forensic accounting jobs within the public sector to consider:

  • Inspector general
  • Budget analyst
  • Medicaid fraud analyst
  • Internal auditor
  • Anti-corruption compliance director
  • Freedom of Information Act analyst
  • Tax director

As with all accounting roles, a CPA designation can boost a candidate’s attractiveness, but other certifications and designations may apply depending on the specific job and how the hiring is done; in some cases, candidates may need to be confirmed by a legislative body.

Conclusion

Considering that it’s one of the most exciting new fields in accounting, it’s no wonder that jobs are available in such a broad array of industries. While specific certifications or designations may be needed for some roles, chances are good that if you have a solid education in forensic accounting, you’ll be able to build a satisfying, challenging career.

References

Henry Steele
Henry Steele
Managing Editor
Henry is Managing Editor of BusinessStudent.com. He is a seasoned business professional who regularly consults with local business's throughout Southern California. Henry pursued his undergrad in Business and Economics at the University of San Diego and gained valuable life changing experience through a unique internship upon graduation.

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