“Fraud is a growth industry, unfortunately.” – Andrew Bernstein, director of forensic and valuation services, Berkowitz Dick Pollack & Brant
Fraud does not limit itself to a specific industry—it’s happening everywhere. Forensic accountants can work in (or work for clients in) industries from real estate to entertainment to accounting itself.
Here are 4 career areas to consider as you learn more about the role of a forensic accountant.
1. Corporate Fraud
In the case of corporate fraud, forensic accountants conduct general fraud investigations by carefully analyzing company books and records. These professionals handle everything from damage analysis to testifying in court. Corporate forensic accountants try to piece together a puzzle to figure out how a fraudulent transaction occurred. Some accounting firms are adding forensic accounting departments and employ CPAs that are Certified Fraud Examiners (CFEs).
Forensic accountants who work in areas of corporate fraud may find themselves interviewing outside vendors and employees, investigating computer files, and digging through years of a corporation’s financial records. Tax defense work is another area of corporate fraud that is handled by forensic accountants.
2. Employee Fraud
Forensic accountants who work in areas of employee fraud conduct investigations specific to employees’ actions on the job. Breaches of contract, employee theft, and worker’s compensation fraud are a few examples of employee fraud that a forensic accountant may investigate.
Forensic accounting professionals can also work in areas of fraud prevention—helping to develop processes and training for workplaces to reduce fraudulent behaviors.
Forensic accountants that provide litigation support can do so in a variety of ways. For instance, a forensic CPA may be called to testify in court about, for, or against a particular corporation or individual. These professionals may also be used as consultants on a case or brought in as a subject matter expert during a trial. In their role as subject matter experts, forensic accountants are typically called to report on the economic damages suffered either by an individual or by a business.
The areas of forensic accounting that may require litigation services are broad, and many attorneys are retaining forensic accountants even before litigation begins. Attorneys may look to these accounting professionals to translate complex financial information, to test or interpret financial documents, or to identify missing data.
4. Divorce Teams
Dividing assets in divorce proceedings can prove difficult, especially when complex financial portfolios are involved. Enter the forensic accountant, who can help in several areas, including:
- Stock options and restricted stocks.
- Deferred compensation.
- Partnerships and business practices.
- Assets held in trusts.
- Properties owned in different states.
- Retirement and insurance plans.
- Art, antiques, and collectables.
Forensic accountants provide analysis of true income, classification of assets (are they owned jointly or separately), or personal financial records. Forensic accountants may also be called on to testify in cases of divorce litigation, on behalf of their client about a particular financial issue or asset.
Job Outlook and Career Growth
The forensic accounting field continues to see high demand and is predicted to grow in the coming years. Accounting in general also demonstrates a positive job outlook with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting a 13% growth rate during the next 7 years.
Keep in mind that technology is a great enabler of fraud. Additional skills that are beneficial for forensic accountants include sharp analytical skills, a keen eye for patterns or anomalies, and the ability to communicate breaches to leadership, law enforcement, or legal teams.
Learn how an online accounting degree from Capella University can support your interest in forensic accounting.