Think outside the spreadsheet: Accounting majors investigate career options.

Many accounting students have their sights set on positions with big accounting firms. That’s certainly an optimal career path. But here’s another: becoming an accountant with a badge, solving financial crimes as a federal agent.

To learn what that would be like, 21 accounting students were “sworn in” in November to participate in “The Special Agent Experience.” For the second consecutive year, the College of Business Administration’s School of Accounting collaborated with the Miami-based Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigation (CI) unit to bring this unique simulation activity to campus.

Bertha Ross (BACC ’09), who participated in the event last year when she was an FIU student and is now training as an IRS Special Agent, played the role of a criminal undergoing arrest as part of this year’s activity.

According to Tessie Brunken, the school’s student services assistant director, the students participated in real-world scenarios to get a hands-on feel for forensic accounting.

Have degree, will pursue tax fraud.

Students divided into four groups, with each investigating a different financially based criminal case.

“My team was in pursuit of someone who had allegedly falsified tax returns,” said Gustavo Gross (BACC ’09, BBA ’04,). “We were given the lead and followed the case through to conclusion—from research and undercover work to securing a warrant and making an arrest. The IRS CI team provided us with detailed background information. They brought in sophisticated surveillance equipment, handcuffs and bulletproof vests—everything you would expect to be part of a ‘real’ investigation. It was a fantastic, eye-opening experience.”

One of the four groups participating in the “Special Agent Experience” from left to right Jorge Pena, Gustavo Gross, Jeslin Hernandez, Christopher Houseman, Mina Hosseini (BACC ’09) and IRS Special Agent Geoff Burnham

Why it pays to investigate alternative career paths.

Brunken notes that in the current economy, the federal government is one of the few employers to increase hiring.

“This experience gives the students a chance to not only learn about the job but also meet with agents and make valuable contacts,” she said. “One of our recent graduates has now joined the CI unit full time and is currently in training.”

Gross encourages fellow accounting students to explore new avenues in the accounting field. “Give it a try. You might find something you love.”

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