Think of a forensic accountant as a financial detective who spends his or her day sifting through various account records to try to locate illegal activity, primarily related to fraud. Anyone engaged in this kind of work would likely work in conjunction with law enforcement primarily, though could be hired by a company to detect criminal activity among employees, according to the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. What makes a good forensic accountant? Read on and learn.
1. Analytical Mind
Essentially, being analytical means you’re good at breaking down problems into smaller parts in order to find a solution. It should be no surprise to find this characteristic strongly associated with this career. To get an idea of what we’re talking about, Sherlock Holmes and Albert Einstein were both highly analytical people. To be analytical requires focus and brainpower. Though you can improve your analytical skills with practice, you probably need some natural ability in order to thrive. Problems posed to you while working in this field are likely to be large and complicated because people try to hide their crimes amidst the sheer volume of information.
A good forensic accountant probably needs to have some inherent bent towards detail. As opposed to analytical thinking, it’s harder to learn how to be detail-oriented, At its essence, this means you need to be able to see beneath the obvious effects to uncover the causes. A detail-oriented person is efficient, hyper-organized, and not willing to accept anything less than a perfect result. As you might imagine, due to the volume of information that is often presented, this career would not be suitable for someone who is unorganized or makes no use of systems to insure important pieces of information don’t slip through the cracks.
If this is not an obvious characteristic of working in the field, it should be. As much as society demands an ethical compass from its law enforcement, the same could be said for anyone who works in conjunction with a law enforcement agency. When your main task is rooting out those who have committed crimes, obviously, you need a strict code of morals and ethics. This is one area where you’re probably not going to be able to fake it for very long. And if you develop a reputation as an investigator that can’t be trusted to do the right thing, you won’t be investigating anything.
It’s a reality of human nature. Some people have the ability to meander through life and never spend a moment’s time in reflective curiosity about something they encounter during the day. Such a person would likely not be happy or well-suited to the field of forensic accounting. On the other hand, if you can’t stand to leave a good puzzle unsolved and find yourself frequently pondering why this is or how that came to be, well, you might have just landed on your dream job.
It would be nice if all you needed to be a success in this field were the previous four characteristics but, alas, that’s not the whole picture. We can’t forget about a little thing called intuition, which separates the men from the boys and the women from the girls. Intuition is the ability to make logical leaps without conscious reasoning, taking in disparate pieces of information and automatically making connections. In this area in particular, you’ve probably got it or you don’t. This isn’t to say an unintuitive person can’t work as a financial investigator, but he or she might find the going tougher.
Related Resource: What Careers are in Forensic Accounting?
The Bottom Line
The decision to enter a career field like this should not be undertaken without a good deal of self-introspection. It’s not easy but could be ultimately rewarding. With a median pay in the six-figure range and a prediction of steady job growth over the next decade, a career as a forensic accountant might be exactly what you need.