While the Federal Bureau of Investigation will obviously have it’s own agency administration branch complete with a personnel and accounting office to track agency activities for management, that’s not the area of employment prospects are wondering about when looking for an accounting career in the FBI. It’s most likely an agent role versus a basic accounting function. Fortunately, the agency has both.
From the agent perspective, the forensic accounting agent is clearly the one that gets quite a bit of attention. And there is a huge amount of forensic financial work in just about every case the FBI puts its attention on these days. It’s not a new area despite the name; forensic accounting has been a staple of federal investigations for decades, dating as far back as Al Capone and his tax evasion days. Tax fraud, white collar crime, organized crime and similar have all required the demands of forensic accounting. No surprise, both accounting and the law have been two of the core educational requirements of most FBI agents.
The combination of accounting and computer technology, particularly understanding how financial programming of software and Internet connections work has become a major highlight of modern FBI investigations. As a result, the agency is actively seeking recruits with proven talent combining financial technology and Internet expertise. The ability of such skill sets proved invaluable in catching Ross Ulbricht, aka the Dread Pirate Roberts and the webmaster and owner of the illegal drug-trading site, The Silk Road, according to ARS Technica.
Traditional Law Enforcement
Organized crime has a long history of utilizing traditional business and financial systems to launder illegal earnings. As a result, regular special agents are frequently called upon in criminal research work to review private side accounting records for irregularities. As a result, a traditional accountant turn criminal law enforcement agent can easily find a comfortable home in the FBI’s work.
A good amount of the FBI’s work is now starting to bleed out into international arenas versus just domestic work. Those who have international accounting training and experience, particularly non-U.S. accounting stand at a good advantage of getting noticed by the FBI for global work. Add in the ability to speak another language fluently beyond just American English, and a qualified candidate likely going to skyrocket to the front of the candidate pool in hiring.
Finally, the FBI is regularly called upon to police government work and government offices, including the offices of those elected into their positions versus hired, according to FBI Jobs. That requires a good understanding of government accounting and election campaign financing law, which are very different financial beasts than private accounting. From criminal investigations to civil administrative audits, FBI accounting can easily get into all types of activities that can lead to arrests and convictions of criminals. A good example was the recent conviction of former California Senator Leland Yee. The original focus of the FBI was illegal money laundering. However, it eventually connected to illegal gun-running activities and gangland activity as well. Despite the crime noir topics, the case against Yee really got its start with accounting records first.
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So, in short, there’s no shortage of accounting roles in the FBI. However, candidates still have to meet the FBI’s other minimum criteria for hiring, and it doesn’t hurt to have more than one expertise as well (i.e. law, technology, law enforcement experience, psychology, etc.).