Criminal Investigation

Fight crime with a no. 2 pencil.

When there’s money at stake, some people are willing to lie, cheat and steal for it.

Even in the business world, such mischief is not uncommon—and it’s up to crime-fighting CPAs to sniff it out. Here are a few of the jobs you can find working for the good guys:

Forensic Accountant. Love to solve mysteries? As a forensic accountant, you’d be called in on legal investigations involving finances to help figure things out. You might study a trail of electronic transactions to prove or disprove fraud, help with witness interviews and review documents and electronic records for suspect information. You may even be asked to testify. The legal team would use your findings to help make their case.

Financial Auditor. In this gig, you’d also be a detective of sorts. You’d conduct reviews of financial statements and decide whether the information is consistent with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). Should you find something not quite right, you could catch a potential criminal in the act.

You can begin work in auditing straight out of college while you work toward your CPA license. Many accounting firms and companies hire auditors, including the Big 4 firms.

FBI Agent. According to the FBI jobs site, there are only five entry programs through which someone can become an FBI special agent, and accounting is one of them. As an FBI agent, you could investigate white-collar and financial crimes, including bank fraud, health care fraud and corporate fraud. You could also join the terrorism-financing unit, pursuing money trails that help fund terrorists and drug cartels. To solve crimes, you’d analyze complex financial statements, trace financial records or decipher complicated money-laundering transactions. You may also go undercover on some cases.

Know this: To become a successful crime-stopping CPA, you’ll need problem-solving and research skills as well as financial experience, especially a thorough knowledge of correct accounting procedures. In college, you may consider taking courses in criminal justice or law enforcement in addition to accounting. Post-college, you’ll be an even better candidate for the job once you pass the exam and get your CPA license.