Our guide to making the move from Internal Audit to Forensic AccountingIf you're considering a career move from internal audit to forensic accounting, here's our advice for getting started.
As an internal auditor, you’ve likely developed valuable skills in analysing financial statements, identifying fraud, and ensuring compliance with regulations. But have you found yourself wanting an additional challenge? And have you considered forensic accounting? It’s highly engaging work that allows you to combine your analytical skills with investigative expertise.
Famous Forensics Accountant, Fiona Hotston Moore, shares “I enjoy the challenge as a forensic accountant of applying my technical knowledge and commercial experience in a financial investigation…no two assignments are the same and I relish the opportunity to work alongside other professionals in facilitating a solution to a financial dispute.”
As well as being a fascinating and exciting area to work in, forensic accounting salaries are often higher than those of auditors. There’s a whole host of areas you can specialise in (disputes, matrimonial, fraud, investigations etc.), so you can enjoy a wide variety of work. Many candidates from an audit background are already CPA qualified, and there are lots of transferable skills that make the move from auditing to forensic accounting achievable as well.
So, what are you waiting for? If you're considering a career move from internal audit to forensic accounting, here's our advice for getting started.
(1) Gain additional education and training
The first step towards moving over to forensic accounting may be gaining additional education or certifications. Forensic accounting is a specialised field that requires a solid foundation in accounting, as well as knowledge of legal matters, investigative techniques, and fraud detection. Obtaining a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) licence can provide assurance to potential employers that you have the knowledge and skills required for forensic accounting.
Formerly an auditor at one of the Big 4, Forensic Accounting Manager J. says: “I made the transition a number of years ago. For me, it came down to work-life balance, subject matter interest, and ultimately just the timing of a new job offer. The transition was easy for me because I landed in a place that taught me what I needed to know about forensics, and I had a strong accounting background from audit. Additionally, being detail orientated also helped with the transition.”
(2) Network with forensic accounting professionals
Networking is a great way to learn more about the forensic accounting field and make connections with potential employers. Attend industry conferences and participate in professional associations such as the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) and National Association of Forensic Accountants (NAFA). Joining a local chapter may help you connect with forensic accounting professionals in your area and potentially discover job opportunities.
(3) Seek out experience in investigations
Look for opportunities within your current role to get involved with investigations. This may involve investigating potential fraud or other financial irregularities within your organisation. Even if you don't have any active investigations, take a closer look at your company’s financial records to improve your investigative skills. Improved analysis and inquisitive research will help prepare you for future work within forensic accounting.
Take Tom Golden, for instance. Now well-known for working with the Chicago Forensic Accounting Investigation Practice for PwC, Tom was first exposed to fraud when working as an auditor. After suspecting anomalies in the company’s books, he undertook his own clandestine investigation at night and on weekends. Shortly after, he was presenting his findings to the company’s board of directors and his forensics career took off.
(4) Improve your technical skills
Forensic accountants use a variety of technical tools and software in their work, such as data analysis software and computer forensics software. Gaining exposure and skills in these areas will be beneficial as part of your skill set. You’ll also find that many employers and clients expect a level of technical skill to be able to review and extract relevant data that may be required in investigations.
(5) Volunteer for projects & transactions
Volunteering for special projects or transactions outside your standard work scope can be a good way to gain relevant skills as well. Seek out opportunities to participate in investigations and make it known that you’re interested in the forensic accounting side of things. This highlights your willingness to take on more challenging roles and your drive to learn the inner workings of forensic accounting through experience.
(6) Develop strong soft skills
Soft skills are essential in forensic accounting because of the team aspect involved in a project. Developing things like excellent communication, interpersonal, influencing, and decision-making skills are key components when transitioning to forensic accounting. Great communication skills allow you to effectively convey findings to stakeholders, develop strong relationships amongst colleagues, and influence client decision-making with effective recommendations that advance the investigation.
Moving from internal audit to forensic accounting may require additional education, training, and experience, but the potential for a rewarding career in this fascinating field is certainly worth the time and effort. Networking with forensic accounting professionals, gaining relevant experience, and demonstrating a strong work ethic will ultimately help your career move transition. And developing technical and soft skills will be important in helping you stand out during the hiring process.
Want more advice on transitioning to forensics? We’re working with audit and forensic accounting specialists, and the organisations that hire them every day. We can provide you with the guidance and contacts to reach your career goals. Let’s chat!