5 Great Accounting Specializations

By pursuing an accounting specialization, you can pair your finance or accounting background with a calling, special interest or passion. The applications of accounting reach beyond traditional financial statements and business use. Here are five such accounting specialties.

1. Forensic Accounting

Forensic accountants are detectives in the accounting and financial world. They follow paper trails, trace money, and comb through financial statements, checks, invoices and other documents for evidence of embezzlement, securities fraud, money-laundering, credit card fraud and other financial misdeeds. The forensic accounting specialty also involves locating assets that a creditor can reach to satisfy judgments. Forensic accountants prepare reports and often testify in hearings and trials. This means the forensic accountant needs course work and experience in criminal law, court procedures and rules of evidence. Law enforcement agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, insurance companies, banks and other financial institutions, and accounting firms employ forensic accountants.

2. Environmental Accounting

With a heightened awareness of environmental footprints, businesses (especially in natural resources industries) and governments are turning to environmental accountants. This specialty focuses on the costs of business decisions from an environmental perspective. Therefore, the environmental accountant evaluates, for example, the costs of cleaning spills and waste disposal, lost revenues from boycotts driven by actual or perceived environmental irresponsibility; and the cost and benefits of “green” devices and processes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, in May 2015, oil and gas firms employed 9,930 accountants. Environmental accountants can also work for auto makers, chemical firms and agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the United Nations.

3. Personal Financial Planning

Certified public accountants can harness their knowledge to help clients save for college educations and retirements, make charitable and family gifts, and plan their estates. The personal financial planner recommends the right mix of stocks, bonds, and other financial assets. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in this field should rise 30 percent from 2014 to 2024. Personal financial services will double traditional accounting services. During the next ten years, an estimated 10,000 people per day will reach age 65. Certified public accountants already incorporate personal financial planning into their practices with, for example, 62 percent providing estate planning.

4. Auditing Information Technology

The financial statements and conclusions are only as good as the information on which they’re based. As businesses rely on computers and digital technology, they face risks of inaccurate data entry and threats to the security of their systems; between 2009 and 2011, cyber attacks increased an estimated 17 times, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The information technology auditor works on the reliability of computer-collected and generated data. Accountants specializing in this field, for example, detect the risks and presence of unauthorized data entry, that might allow inaccurate information to skew reports and filings with entities such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. These positions require an acumen for technology and computer science.

5. Sports Accounting

Sports accountants dive into the financial arena of spectator sports. The analysis and other work of these specialists drive the decisions of teams and event organizers, such as the setting of ticket prices, sponsorship deals and broadcast rights and salaries of athletes and coaches. Depending on the league, the sports accountant must consider salary caps, minimum salary requirements or other terms of collective bargaining agreements. The availability of and pay from sports accounting jobs often depend upon geography. Larger franchises tend to congregate in major metropolitan areas, while minor league teams furnish opportunities in especially smaller or medium-size communities.

These and other accounting specialties can allow you to pursue an interest and afford you unique skills and knowledge to meet particular demands of businesses, governments and individuals.

Related Resource: 5 Careers for Graduates with an MBA in Accounting