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Beyond the Balance Sheet Exploring Unique Careers in Accounting

Beyond the Balance Sheet: Exploring Unique Careers in Accounting

When you think of accountancy as a career, you probably imagine a world filled with payroll, spreadsheets, and tax returns. However, accountancy’s reach stretches far beyond the conventional roles many associate with it.

Accountancy offers a variety of paths that diverge from the traditional track. It opens doors to innovative and unusual positions that push the boundaries of how and where accounting skills can be applied.

From forensic accounting to sustainability reporting, the list of potential accountancy course and career options continues to evolve. If you’re looking for exciting opportunities as an accountant aiming to make a mark in the world of finance, consider the following less common accounting roles.

1.    Forensic Accountant

Forensic accounting combines accounting, auditing and investigative skills to scrutinize the financial records of individuals or businesses. The purpose is to uncover financial crimes.

Forensic accountants delve into financial records to trace and identify assets, conduct asset recovery, and perform due diligence. Their expertise is crucial in legal cases, where they may testify as expert witnesses to explain the intricacies of financial wrongdoing.

Forensic accountants can find employment across various industries, including but not limited to:

●       Banks and other financial institutions

●       Insurance companies

●       Law enforcement agencies

●       Law firms

●       Government agencies

●       Regulatory bodies

●       Specialized accountancy firms

A forensic accountant’s work is crucial in detecting and understanding fraud, embezzlement, and other financial discrepancies. Forensic accountants are the vital link between finance and law enforcement. Their work supports litigation, helps resolve insurance claims, and assists in regulatory compliance, making their expertise valuable in both the public and private sectors.

Forensic accountants are often professional accountants and auditors. They may be an Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) charterholder, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), or a Certified International Auditor (CIA).

Therefore, a career in forensic accounting typically begins with earning a professional accounting designation like ACCA. Next, specialize in forensic accounting work in your accounting firm or wherever you may be affiliated. Finally, obtain one or more forensic accounting credentials, such as Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF) and Certified Forensic Accountant (CFA).

2. Insolvency Practitioner

Insolvency practitioners are licensed professionals who assist individuals and organizations in financial distress. They evaluate the individual or organization’s finances and guide them through the insolvency processes.

They aim to rescue failing entities when possible. When this cannot be done, they use their financial expertise and legal knowledge to determine the priority of creditors and ensure a peaceful and systematic liquidation of the insolvent entity’s assets and the distribution of the liquidation proceeds.

Insolvency practitioners recommend insolvency solutions and handle various complex processes related to insolvency procedures, such as:

●       Bankruptcy: Individuals who cannot repay their debts may file for bankruptcy. Consequently, their properties are sold off, and the proceeds are distributed among their creditors. In bankruptcy procedures, insolvency practitioners may serve as trustees, managing the liquidation of the debtor’s property and distributing the proceeds among creditors.

●       Liquidation: Liquidation involves selling off assets – i.e., turning equipment, real estate, vehicles, etc., into cash to pay off creditors. Insolvency practitioners can act as liquidators, overseeing the process to ensure assets are sold off for maximum value and the creditors paid off according to a set order.

●       Administration: An insolvent company can be placed under administration. In their role as administrators, insolvency practitioners can try to operate the company and rescue it from insolvency. They can also proceed with the liquidation of the company assets.

●       Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA): A financially troubled individual or company can enter into a repayment agreement with its creditors. Insolvency practitioners can facilitate these arrangements. They can also supervise the CVA to ensure compliance.

●       Receivership: Receivership is a process where an insolvency practitioner is appointed by a secured creditor (e.g., a bank) to recover an outstanding debt from a debtor by selling the designated collateral.

Insolvency practitioners are typically professional accountants (e.g., ACCA). However, becoming an accountant will not automatically qualify you to serve as an insolvency practitioner.

You need to have a license to practice the insolvency profession. First, you must sit for and pass the Joint Insolvency Examination Board (JIEB) exams. These exams will test your knowledge of personal and corporate insolvency law and your ability to apply theoretical knowledge in insolvency scenarios.

After passing the exams, you must gain practical experience in insolvency work. Only those who complete the exams and the experience requirements can become licensed insolvency practitioners.

3.    Sustainability Accountant

Sustainability accounting involves evaluating, reporting on, and recommending measures to improve an organization’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance. Its aim is to foster economic growth and minimize environmental harm.

Ultimately, sustainability accounting ensures transparency in sustainability practices. It also positions a company for long-term growth. An organization’s ESG ratings can affect how much investment it can later obtain.

A sustainability accountant integrates the non-financial ESG factors into the company’s accounting processes and financial analysis. The goal is to support sustainable business practices and decision-making and ensure business decisions are aligned with sustainable development goals.

A sustainability accountant’s tasks include:

●       Reporting: Sustainability accountants craft reports highlighting the company’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) efforts. This helps executives and stakeholders understand the company’s ESG initiatives.

●       Assessment: Accountants tasked with sustainability assessment gauge the benefits, costs, and potential environmental and societal impact of company activities. For instance, what are the ESG implications of outsourcing the manufacture of a part to a factory in China? Is installing intelligent interior landscape solutions worth it? Sustainability accountants can provide the answer to these and other similar questions.

●       Assurance: By providing reliable data and methodologies, sustainability accountants help organizations differentiate between sustainable and unsustainable investments and ensure the company’s ESG strategies are sound.

●       Advisory: Leveraging their expertise, sustainability accountants can identify strategies for cost reduction, value creation, and portfolio enhancement that will benefit all stakeholders, including the environment, investors, and the community.


If you want to become a sustainability accountant, you can start with a degree in environmental science and environmental engineering. After that, you can earn the ACCA designation. Likewise, you can begin with an ACCA and take further studies in environmental science and environmental engineering. After that, work in the sustainability department or occupy a sustainability position in a corporation, regulatory body, government agency, or some other organization.

Exciting Accounting Roles

There’s more to accounting than preparing payroll and filing tax returns. As the above discussion shows, you can become a forensic accountant, an insolvency practitioner, or a sustainability accountant, among other roles. Each specialization demands a unique skill set while leveraging accounting core principles to address distinct challenges, and they highlight the continuously evolving landscape of the accounting profession.