Earning an online forensic accounting degree allows you to a career focused on investigating and uncovering fraud on behalf of individuals, businesses, and organizations. This involves delving into numbers in a variety of situations and solving complex financial puzzles.
The demand for forensic accountants continues to rise, and the average median salary in the U.S. hovers just over $64,000 per year, according to PayScale.com. Experienced professionals often pull in larger salaries, with some making $100,000 or more per year as they advance in their careers.
This ever-evolving nature of the field requires students to learn about new tools and technology that help forensic accounts perform their jobs. These professionals move at the same pace as those looking to commit fraud, so students need be prepared to enter the field running.
What are the Best Online Master's in Forensic Accounting Programs?
|1||Liberty University Lynchburg, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Enrolled Online: 96%||
Based in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty University offers a wide range of flexible, web-based degree programs, including an online master of science in accounting degree. Expanding on fundamental financial concepts, the 30-credit program presents an in-depth look at finance and accounting for Individuals seeking to fulfill CPA exam requirements or pursue careers as business owners, finance managers, or accountants. Students may personalize their academic plan by selecting one of seven cognates, or areas of specialization. The forensic accounting cognate addresses topics in fraud investigation, ethics, and corporate governance. All courses are eight weeks long and presented in an asynchronous format.
Prospective students must hold an undergraduate degree from a regionally or nationally accredited institution, and must have completed or complete upon admission prerequisite coursework in cost accounting, financial accounting, taxation, managerial accounting, auditing, and intermediate accounting I and II. Learners may transfer up to half of their required course credits, and Liberty offers credit for relevant professional and military experience.
|2||Florida Atlantic University Boca Raton, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Enrolled Online: 47%||
Florida Atlantic University’s executive master of accounting with forensic accounting concentration imparts the specialized knowledge and skills needed to excel at financial criminal investigation. The two-year program introduces procedures and methodologies used in dispute resolution, fraud investigation and prevention, money-laundering investigation, and litigation support, utilizing insight and expertise from industry practitioners and experts in the field. Emphasizing graduate-level writing and critical thinking skills, coursework explores forensic accounting while developing students’ investigative reading abilities.
Individuals applying to the forensic accounting master’s degree online program must hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution or an international equivalent, and should have graduated with a competitive GPA; particularly over the final 60 hours. Applicants who speak English as a second language should provide acceptable TOEFL scores.
|3||Bay Path University Longmeadow, MA||Cost: $$$$$||Enrolled Online: 52%||
Founded in 1897, Bay Path University is a private institution located 90 miles from New York City in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. Bay Path’s 30-credit master’s of science in accounting features a forensic accounting concentration, and fulfills the educational requirement needed to pursue Certified Public Accounting licensure. Consisting of seven core courses and three electives, the online master’s in forensic accounting curriculum explores topics such as government and nonprofit accounting, controllership, advanced auditing, fraud examination, and advanced financial reporting.
Classes begin in April and May. Students who select an April start date may complete the program in only eight months. Along with a completed application, prospective students must submit undergraduate and, if necessary, graduate transcripts, with a preferred minimum GPA of 3.0. Applicants should also provide a current resume and two recommendation forms, and must complete an in-person or phone interview with the accounting program director.
|4||Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH||Cost: $$$$$||Enrolled Online: 95%||
Distance learners enrolled in Southern New Hampshire University’s MS in accounting with a concentration in forensic accounting program learn to apply forensic accounting principles to complex financial scenarios, such as bankruptcies, contract disputes, mergers, and acquisitions. Coursework offers an introduction to forensic accounting and fraud examination, interview techniques, advanced auditing, and the detection and prevention of fraudulent financial statements. The program culminates in a capstone experience, in which students synthesize their acquired knowledge in a final project. Students may complete their master’s in forensic accounting online degree in as little as 15 months.
SNHU is a private, nonprofit university that offers a range of need- and merit-based scholarships, including special financial aid opportunities for military personnel and veterans. Admissions are conducted on a rolling basis throughout the academic year, and the university responds to all applicants within days of submitting the required materials. Admissions counselors are available to assist prospective distance learners with the application process.
|5||Stevenson University Stevenson, MD||Cost: $$$$$||Enrolled Online: 95%||
Stevenson University’s online master’s in forensic accounting curriculum was developed with to provide both recent graduates and seasoned financial professionals with an in-depth look at financial reporting and asset protection. Distance learners pursuing a forensic accounting master’s degree online learn to evaluate financial evidence, assess fraud risk, and effectively communicate their findings during legal proceedings. Coursework in forensic information technology, investigation and analysis, and accounting fraud builds foundational accounting knowledge and introduces integral concepts in financial forensics. The 36-credit program culminates in a mock trial capstone, in which students collect evidence, investigate a scenario, and present forensic evidence in a courtroom setting.
Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution with a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0. Along with an online application, prospective students should provide official college transcripts and a personal statement of intent.
What Else Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Forensic Accounting Program?
While no two online forensic accounting degrees offer the same coursework or expertise, some courses appear in most programs. The outline below includes some examples of common classes that you can expect to encounter in any master's degree in forensic accounting program.
Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Forensic Accounting
- Fraud Protection and Investigation: Students receive a thorough understanding of the modern fraud risk environment and how individuals and organizations prevent and detect fraud. The class examines these issues through different contexts, including the common ways fraud occurs and regularly goes undetected.
- Auditing Technology: This course examines how technology changes the way accountants and auditors perform their jobs. It compares current and past best practices with emerging models in auditing and risk management. The course emphasizes how business strategies change by using certain technologies, and how forensic accountants investigate a financial issue using modern tools.
- Corporate Finance: Students learn about the various financial issues impacting businesses, including capital structures, investments, financial markets, portfolio management, budgeting, and project management. They also examine risk management, and how certain financial opportunities and challenges affect the value of a company's stock.
- Financial Reporting: This class covers the development, analysis, and interpretation of many different types of financial statements. These include balance sheets, profit and loss statements, income statements, and cash flow documents among others. Students also learn how accounting rules and practices apply to the creation of these documents.
- Advanced Auditing: Students explore in-depth topics and issues related to auditing, including best practices, dealing with poor audits, and other essential legal and ethical considerations such as examining case studies, learning about various theories, and conducting research to help students gain a comprehensive understanding of the auditing process.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master's in Forensic Accounting?
Most students earn their online forensic accounting degree in two years or fewer. The length of time you invest depends on various factors, such as whether you attend full-time or part-time and when your school makes certain classes available. A required internship or practicum can also affect the amount of time it takes to earn your master's degree, as it may require you to spend a certain amount of time in a practicum before graduating.
Additionally, some programs allow you to enroll in classes at your own pace, which can enable you to complete your degree at a faster rate. Students who determine their own schedule often enroll in more courses each semester and sometimes graduate early.
Most graduate-level online forensic accounting degrees require between 32 and 46 credits, depending on the structure of the program and its requirements.
Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Forensic Accounting Prepares For
Certified Fraud Examiner: By passing the CFE exam, professionals gain expertise in four major areas: fraud prevention and deterrence, financial transactions and fraud schemes, investigations, and the law. All forensic accountants must pass this exam before they begin practicing.
Certified Public Accountant: To practice in the field, all professionals must earn status as a certified public accountant. This requires passing the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Exam and meeting certain state or jurisdictional requirements. Each state establishes its own regulatory and licensing board that evaluates candidates on their education, experience, and exam scores.
Accreditation for Online Master's in Forensic Accounting Degrees
When looking for online forensic accounting degree options, you should narrow your search to accredited schools and programs. There are two main types of accreditation: national and regional. Most colleges and universities receive regional accreditation, which is considered the more prestigious of the two. However, nationally accredited schools are also respected academic institutions that sometimes offer lower tuition rates than their regionally-accredited counterparts.
Regional accrediting agencies include the Higher Learning Commission, Middle States Commission on Higher Education, New England Association of Schools and Colleges, North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement, Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The most popular national accrediting bodies include the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools and the Distance Education Accrediting Commission.
Both the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the U.S. Department of Education monitor the activities and practices of accrediting agencies. CHEA maintains stringent standards for these agencies, ensuring that they properly evaluate colleges and universities across the country. The U.S. Department of Education maintains its own list of approved accrediting bodies.
As you conduct your search, ensure that the accrediting agency that has evaluated your school is itself approved by the U.S. Department of Education and CHEA. For a full list of reputable higher education accreditors, visit CHEA's website.
Employment Outlook for Master's in Forensic Accounting Graduates
Master's in Forensic Accounting Salary
Once you've earned an online forensic accounting degree, you can earn a competitive salary and enjoy considerable growth opportunity as you gain more experience. The table below includes average salary information for several accounting-related positions, along with the salaries professionals bring in as they advance in their roles. Note that these numbers vary depending on your workplace, work experience, regional standard of living, and career focus area.
Median Salary for Forensic Accounting Careers by Experience
|Job Title||Overall Median Salary||Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years)||Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years)||Median Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ years)|
Master's in Forensic Accounting Careers
While many students who earn a master's degree in forensic accounting work for accounting firms and legal practices, graduates are prepared to enter a number of different career paths. Regardless of the path you choose, companies prefer candidates who are highly organized, detail oriented, and capable of budgeting and financial management. Graduates often go on to become forensic accounting specialists, analysts, managers, and actuaries.
- Forensic Accountant
These accountants know how to thoroughly examine financial statements, documents, and data -- often as part of civil litigation or a criminal case. They conduct forensic analysis of financial data, prepare reports, and assist attorneys and law enforcement agents in their investigations. They also testify in court.
Median Annual Salary: $68,150
Projected Growth Rate: 10%
- Financial Analyst
These professionals possess considerable knowledge of accounting and finance, and they often recommend financial and investment strategies to individuals, businesses, and organizations. This role involves closely examining financial statements and data, preparing detailed written reports, and finding the best ways to maximize financial resources in the short- and long-term.
Median Annual Salary: $81,760
Projected Growth Rate: 11%
- Financial Manager
Often serving as senior-level managers within businesses and organizations, these professionals oversee finances, prepare statements, create detailed reports, and conduct forecasts. They also look at ways to increase revenue and reduce expenses by advising business leaders on how to make the best financial decisions.
Median Annual Salary: $121,750
Projected Growth Rate: 19%
- Budget Analyst
This position involves analyzing the details of an organization's budget to make the most of the resources available. Budget analysts often work closely with project managers and executives, taking complex information and communicating it in ways the average person will understand. They also prepare reports and create financial forecasts.
Median Annual Salary: $73,840
Projected Growth Rate: 7%
Actuaries compile and analyze financial and statistical data to help individuals, businesses, and organizations make sound financial decisions. Specifically, they determine the likely financial impact of a variety of events, such as a death, natural disaster, or serious accident. They communicate their findings through reports and presentations while supporting their claims with clear evidence.
Median Annual Salary: $100,610
Projected Growth Rate: 22%
Prospective students should also join one of the many professional organizations associated with the industry. These groups offer networking opportunities, career services, professional development, and updates on emerging technologies and trends in the forensic accounting field. The list below includes five of the most prevalent professional associations and the benefits each one provides its members:
Financing Your Online Master's in Forensic Accounting Program
Students pay for their online forensic accounting degrees in a variety of ways. To start, you should fill out a FAFSA form to determine whether you qualify for federal financial aid, including low-interest loans, grants, and work-study benefits. Many schools and programs offer additional assistance, such as scholarships and grants. Some employers also provide tuition reimbursement to their employees as a way to invest in the continuing education of their workforce. You should explore all of your options to help reduce the cost of your degree.
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