I routinely get emails from students, job seekers, or the gainfully employed who want to make a career change… all asking me for advice on getting into the field of forensic accounting and fraud investigation.
Here are my top three tips for getting into this field:
- Get a solid background in general business and finance/accounting. It’s important to have a thorough working knowledge of financial statements and the accounting process. The real world is much different than textbooks, so there’s no substitute for actual experience. (I worked as an auditor at Arthur Andersen, which gave me this background.)
- Look for any opportunities to work on matters related to fraud and make sure you’re involved. If you’re working for a corporation, find out who handles investigations or projects related to suspected fraud. Do whatever you can to get involved. If you work at an accounting or auditing firm, make sure management knows you’re dying to get fraud-related experience. Even on the smallest or most routine cases, there is something to be learned. And you can put that experience on your resume and talk about it during interviews.
- Seek a job that will give you opportunities to advance toward your ideal fraud investigation position. For example, if you’re an accounting professional… Don’t take a dead-end accounting job and pray that you’ll someday end up investigating fraud. Look instead for an accounting or auditing firm that has a forensic accounting practice, and make your intentions of working in that practice clear from the start. Even if you need to start in a traditional accounting role, if there is a reasonable chance of moving into a fraud-related position, taking that job makes sense.
And here are a few links that can provide a ton of information:
- Association of Certified Fraud Examiners – The world’s largest organization for fraud-fighters. They have tons of information and resources available.
- Young Pros Investigate Fraud As a Career Option – An article I wrote about how young professionals can work toward a career in fraud investigation.
- Accounting + Criminology = Forensic Accounting – How I established my career in the field of forensic accounting.
- Providing Forensic Accounting Services as a Small Firm – How smaller firms can develop and market a forensic accounting practice.
In February 2009, my new book Expert Fraud Investigation: A Step-by-Step Guide will be out. It goes into detail about how a fraud investigation is started, the administration of the project, and investigative techniques. Newer forensic accountants and fraud investigators will find it very helpful in learning the skills needed to perform successful investigations.