Forensic accountants have been called the bloodhounds of the accounting world. They have to have both advanced accounting skills and investigative skills. Here’s some information on the field of forensic accounting, the job duties of professionals in the field, and the MBA route to becoming a forensic accountant.
Forensic Accounting — The Basics
Forensic accounting, in a nutshell, is an examination of the financial statements of a business. In many instances, it is used to investigate potential corporate fraud.
Banks, police departments, government agencies and insurance companies are just a few of the types of businesses that use forensic accounting. Professionals in the field will typically accumulate evidence based on in-depth research, organize that evidence, and then present their findings.
Forensic accounting comes into play when damages need to be quantified for legal purposes. The parties involved will use those quantifications when deciding whether to settle or go to court.
The area most closely associated with forensic accounting is the investigatory field. Forensic accountants will typically help determine whether or not crimes like employee theft, money laundering, tax fraud or securities fraud took place.
What Do Forensic Accountants Do?
Forensic accountants provide expertise in accounting and investigation. They analyze financial data, prepare data for litigation, and testify in court when necessary. They must pay close attention to details and possess a great deal of integrity and objectivity.
Professionals in this field will often be called upon to perform business valuations, assess a company’s accounting systems, and determine whether or not assets or proceeds belonging to a business are the result of criminal activity.
In the traditional view, fraud detection is not a primary objective of internal audit. However, organizations that take a proactive approach to fraud — over a reactive one — employ forensic accounting to institute internal controls such as multiple signatures on large checks and separation of duties (authorizing payroll and preparing payroll falls to two different staff members, for instance).
Two of the most important attributes of forensic accountants are excellent written and verbal communications skills. The reason is that they will often have to translate complex data in a way that is understandable to non-accountants.
There can be a great deal of pressure associated with this job, because it will often involve the reputations of individuals as well as companies — and, in some instances, government agencies.
Can an MBA in Accounting Lead to a Forensic Accounting Career?
Yes, without a doubt. While students who earn an MBA typically have advantages over those who don’t, those advantages are even more pronounced with an MBA in accounting. It provides professionals with a great deal of flexibility. They can, for instance, pursue a career in traditional accounting or go a less conventional route.
Many regard accounting as the “language of business,” and an MBA will make you fluent in that language. Completing an online MBA in accounting may be the next step on your way to a career in forensic accounting.
Learn more about Fitchburg State University’s online MBA in Accounting program.
Forensic CPA Society: What Is a Forensic Accountant?
Association of Certified Fraud Examiners: Forensic Accountant