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.
What are the best forensic accounting programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:
|1||West Virginia University||Morgantown, WV|
|2||Florida Atlantic University||Boca Raton, FL|
|3||Bay Path University||Longmeadow, MA|
|4||Carlow University||Pittsburgh, PA|
|5||Liberty University||Lynchburg, VA|
|6||Utica College||Utica, NY|
|7||Stevenson University||Stevenson, MD|
|8||Pfeiffer University||Misenheimer, NC|
|9||Southern New Hampshire University||Manchester, NH|
|10||New England College||Henniker, NH|
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?
West Virginia University
|Morgantown, WV||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 60%||
WVU in Morgantown offers an online master of science in forensic and fraud examination accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. The program uses a convenient asynchronous format, however WVU requires all students to complete two campus visits.
The 30-credit online master's degree in forensic accounting consists of 10 courses. The curriculum provides an interdisciplinary education covering topics like mergers and acquisitions, federal tax research and writing, fraud investigation, and advanced federal corporate tax.
Qualifying candidates must possess a bachelor's degree with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.2 or a score of 500 on the GMAT. If applicants do not meet these requirements they may still qualify if they possess a certified public accountant certificate or other related certification, a juris doctor degree, or two years of work experience.
Florida Atlantic University
|Boca Raton, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 52%||
FAU offers a variety of online programs, including an executive master of accounting with a concentration in forensic accounting. Online learning at FAU gives students the flexibility to complete course requirements remotely. Most online courses offer the option to stream live video sessions or watch them at any time.
FAU's online master's in forensic accounting is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business and takes two years to complete. The curriculum includes financial accounting concepts, cost accounting theory and practice, and forensic accounting and the legal environment.
To qualify, prospective students must possess a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution. FAU's admission rate is approximately 35%. The admissions office processes applications year-round, but this program offers three start dates in the spring, summer, and fall.
Bay Path University
|Longmeadow, MA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 59%||
Bay Path is located in Longmeadow, Massachusetts and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education. It offers over 30 online graduate degree programs, including a master of science in accounting with a concentration in forensic accounting. The fully online program delivers coursework in an asynchronous format.
The 30-credit master's in forensic accounting may take eight, 12, or 24 months to complete depending on a student's course load. The curriculum includes coursework in controllership, IT for accountants, fraud examination, and advanced auditing. Graduates are prepared to sit for the certified public accountant exam.
Prospective students must possess a bachelor's degree. Applicants must submit official school transcripts, a resume, two letters of recommendation, and complete a phone or in-person interview with the director of the accounting program.
|Pittsburgh, PA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 53%||
Based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carlow University offers several online programs, including a master of science in fraud and accounting. The fully online program typically takes one year to complete.
The 30-credit program fulfills the 150 hours students need to qualify for the certified public accountant exam. The curriculum examines white collar crime, fraud prevention and ethics, financial statement examination, and the legal elements of fraud. Students must complete a virtual residency to graduate. About 99% of graduates find degree-related employment.
To qualify, prospective students must possess a bachelor's degree with a cumulative 3.0 GPA and one year of experience. Applicants must submit a resume, a 300-word personal essay, and two professional letters of recommendation. All applicants must also schedule an interview with an admissions officer.
Carlow is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
|Lynchburg, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 50%||
A nonprofit university based in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty offers a variety of degree options, including an online master of science in accounting - forensic accounting. The program is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business and consistently ranks among the top 1% of online programs.
The 30-credit program takes one year to complete and caters to working professionals. The curriculum includes key courses, such as corporate governance and fraudulent financial reporting, accounting ethics, and information technology and fraud. Graduates are prepared to sit for the certified public accountant exam.
Qualifying candidates must possess a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA. If a student's undergraduate degree did not include certain accounting courses, they may need to complete Liberty's undergraduate certificate in accounting prior to acceptance.
|Utica, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 54%||
Utica College offers a variety of online graduate programs, including a master of science in financial crime and compliance management. Online students can access their digital classrooms 24/7 to complete coursework.
This part-time online master's in forensic accounting typically takes two years to complete. The curriculum includes coursework in financial investigations, networks and internet security, and organizational theory, structure, and design. Students must complete a capstone to graduate which entails a professional project or thesis.
Prospective students must possess a bachelor's degree with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. Applicants must submit official transcripts, a personal statement, resume, and a letter of recommendation.
UC is regionally accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
|Stevenson, MD||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 56%||
Stevenson University offers over 22 convenient online degree options, including a master of science in forensic accounting. Online learning caters to working professionals and allows students to complete coursework at any time of day.
Students in Stevenson's online master's degree in forensic accounting learn from practicing forensic accountants. The curriculum focuses on career-based topics and includes coursework in accounting fraud; investigation and analysis: auditing; investigation and analysis: tax; business valuation; and litigation theory and practice.
Qualifying applicants must possess a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Admissions may prefer candidates with an undergraduate degree in accounting, but students may substitute this requirement with qualifying professional experience.
Stevenson in Owings Mills, Maryland, is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education, Middle States Association of Colleges and Universities.
|Misenheimer, NC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 43%||
Pfeiffer is located in Misenheimer, North Carolina and is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Pfeiffer offers several graduate programs, including North Carolina's first master of science in financial fraud investigations. Online learning allows students to complete all coursework remotely at any time of day.
The 30-credit program offers three specialization options in cyber forensics, anti-money laundering and law enforcement, or an MBA/MSL. The core curriculum includes coursework in fraud and the law, organizational communications, and fraud analytics. Students must complete a capstone to graduate.
To qualify, prospective students must possess a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. Applicants must submit official school transcripts and three letters of recommendation along with GRE, GMAT, or Miller Analogies test scores.
Southern New Hampshire University
|Manchester, NH||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 54%||
SNHU is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education. It is located in Manchester, but also serves 135,000 online students. SNHU offers a variety of online degree programs, including a master of science in accounting with a concentration in forensic accounting.
SNHU's 36-credit program holds accreditation with the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs. The curriculum includes core accounting courses along with concentration-specific courses like detection and prevention of fraudulent financial statements, interview techniques, and investigating with computers.
Nearly 96% of students say they would recommend SNHU. It offers affordable online tuition rates and boasts an easy application process. Applicants must submit an application, a personal statement, and official undergraduate transcripts.
New England College
|Henniker, NH||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 25%||
Based in Henniker, New Hampshire, New England College offers several online programs, including a master of science in accounting with a specialization in forensic accounting. Online learning is delivered asynchronously to allow busy professionals to complete all coursework remotely any time of day.
The 40-credit program provides a comprehensive overview of forensic accounting principles and investigative techniques. The curriculum includes core courses in cost accounting, taxation, and auditing. The program fulfills the 150-hour requirement for the certified public accountant exam. Graduates may also qualify for the certified management accountant or certified internal auditor exams.
About 75% of professors at NEC hold a terminal degree to provide students with a quality education. NEC caters to students with a variety of educational or professional backgrounds and offers a simple application process.
New England College is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
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||Median Salary for Mid-Career||Median Salary for Late-Career|
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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