Forensic accounting is a fast-growing field in law enforcement, with career opportunities available at the state and federal levels, as well as in the private sector. Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMU-CC) offers an online Master of Business Administration with a Concentration in Accounting. The MBA concentration includes the course Forensic Accounting, covering the concepts and skills involved in the field.

The study of forensic accounting focuses on the methods and technological tools used to detect occupational fraud and financial crimes, including conducting investigations, interviewing witnesses and suspects, writing investigation reports, and providing expert testimony. State and law enforcement agencies, as well as corporations and accounting firms, need accountants with advanced MBA training geared specifically for this challenging field.

Employers and Daily Work for Forensic Accountants

Forensic accountants and Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) may work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. Secret Service, large corporations and public accounting firms. Many also work for banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions.

Professionals in the field work in litigation support and investigation. In both areas, they use their skills to conduct examinations and investigations of companies’ financial statements, write reports and assist in depositions. Their analyses are “suitable to the court which will form the basis for discussion, debate and ultimately dispute resolution,” according to Forensic Accounting Demystified.

The daily duties of a forensic accountant include conducting forensic audits, recognizing irregularities and discrepancies in accounting, identifying breaches in contracts, and reviewing financial statements. They may prepare witnesses for trial or give expert witness testimony in criminal and civil cases. They sometimes work on product liability claims or trademark and patent infringement cases.

Uncovering Financial Crimes

Forensic accounting involves a complex combination of advanced processes, reflecting the weight of responsibility these professionals carry. In criminal case proceedings, forensic accountants often determine whether a crime occurred. Crimes include falsification of financial statements, securities fraud, embezzlement and employee theft.

In business investigations, cases may require asset identification and recovery, due diligence reviews, and the tracing of funds. In civil proceedings, forensic accountants may find hidden assets in a divorce case, perform business valuations, and quantify losses and economic damages in a lawsuit.

The Forensic Accountant Skill Set

The skills that make forensic accountants unique among CPAs include the following:

  • Investigative capabilities similar to those of other forensics experts
  • Training in the detection of fraudulent and illegal financial activities
  • Ability to identify financial irregularities that can trigger an investigation or help to solve criminal and civil cases
  • Responsiveness to financial crises and charges of criminal wrongdoing
  • Understanding of business concepts and applications beyond finances

This set of skills and expertise is essential for the various roles forensic accountants occupy. Such roles can be external, as in law enforcement investigating financial crime, or internal, as in an organization’s loss prevention investigations.

Career Prospects in Forensic Accounting

Demand for forensic accountants is consistent, even with the evolving AI-driven automation of many accounting tasks. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), although automation “will increase accountants’ efficiency, this change is not expected to reduce overall demand.” BLS explains, “The automation of routine tasks, such as data entry, will instead make accountants’ advisory and analytical duties more prominent.” The brunt of forensic accountant work revolves around these advisory and analytical duties, meaning emerging technologies are unlikely to outmode professionals in the field.

Given their unique and advanced responsibilities, salary prospects in forensic accounting are strong. According June 2024 data from ZipRecruiter, the pay range for forensic accountants is $57,000 to $153,000, compared to $34,000 to $108,500 for accountants with no such specialization. For professionals interested in financial matters who thrive on observation, analysis and deep-level investigation, forensic accounting could prove an exciting and rewarding option in the broader world of accounting careers.

Learn more about TAMU-CC’s online MBA with a Concentration in Accounting program.