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?
Florida Atlantic University
|Boca Raton, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 51%||
Busy professionals can earn a master's in forensic accounting online from FAU in as little as two years. Students can complete the degree entirely online in an asynchronous format, and those who live near campus can supplement their online experience with optional on-campus lectures in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday mornings. The university delivers the executive master of accounting program through its nationally recognized college of business, which is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
The 30-credit online master's in forensic accounting program helps students gain skills and knowledge in career areas including fraud investigation and prevention, dispute resolution, litigation support, expert testimony, and valuation. Courses cover topics such as auditing theory and practice, forensic accounting and the legal environment, and procedures of accounting fraud examinations. Students learn from published faculty members, industry experts, and practitioners with firsthand experience in active investigative work.
The forensic accounting program at FAU maintains an acceptance rate of approximately 35%. Applicants should hold a bachelor's degree and a competitive GPA from a regionally accredited school and must provide recent GRE, GMAT, or LSAT scores. FAU may request additional application materials on a case-by-case basis, including letters of recommendation, resumes, writing samples, or evidence of certification or experience. While the program does not explicitly require work experience, 75% of qualifying applicants possess at least three years of professional employment in accounting or a closely related field.
|Lynchburg, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 47%||
Liberty is a large Christian university, with more than 15,000 students attending classes at the 7,000-acre campus in Lynchburg, Virginia, and more than 94,000 students enrolled in online courses. Liberty's online master's in accounting program holds approval from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs and offers specializations in six professional areas, including forensic accounting. Graduates can apply program coursework toward the 150 formal education credits most states require to sit for the CPA examination.
The online forensic accounting master's degree requires 30 credits of coursework on topics including business law, tax research, jurisprudence, and accounting ethics. Students gain practical and theoretical knowledge through ten courses, including accounting information systems, fraud examination, and advanced financial accounting theory. Liberty's fully online, asynchronous format allows students to access material anywhere, anytime. Full-time students can complete their degree in one year.
Liberty offers a generous transfer policy, allowing learners to fulfill up to 50% of degree requirements through previous coursework. The university accepts applications on a rolling basis and offers multiple start dates throughout the year. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree, have a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA, and have completed seven prerequisite undergraduate accounting courses. Liberty does not require applicants to submit GRE or GMAT scores. Active military members, veterans, and their spouses receive a discounted per-credit tuition rate.
Bay Path University
|Longmeadow, MA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 57%||
Bay Path University is a private, nonprofit college based in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, that offers more than 19 career-oriented graduate degrees and certificates to online learners. For graduates who hold a qualifying bachelor's degree, Bay Path's forensic accounting master's degree satisfies the 150-credit education requirement needed to pursue CPA licensure in more than 40 states. Students can complete Bay Path's accelerated, asynchronous degree in 8-12 months, and learners who prefer to study at a slower pace can choose the two-year track.
The 30-credit curriculum comprises seven core courses and three electives. Classes include government and nonprofit accounting and IT for accountants. A course in legal issues in accounting surveys topics including contracts, secured transactions, bankruptcy, and CPA legal liability. Students gain a thorough knowledge of accounting and auditing standards, understand the ethical framework and expectations of the profession, and prepare to analyze and resolve complex business problems.
Students choose from five start dates, in April, May, July, September, and November. Bay Path strives to meet the needs of working accountants by holding no classes during the U.S. tax season, from January-April. The university accepts applications on a rolling basis. Required admission materials include a resume, two letters of recommendation, and official transcripts. The university prefers applicants with at least a 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Applicants must also complete an in-person or phone interview with the accounting program director.
|Stevenson, MD||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 54%||
Founded as Villa Julie College in 1947, this private, nonprofit institution gained university status in 2008. Today, Stevenson educates learners at two campuses in Baltimore County, Maryland, and offers online certificates, bachelor's, and master's degrees designed for working professionals.
Students earning their master of science in forensic accounting online from Stevenson complete 36 credits and prepare to assess fraud risk, evaluate financial evidence, and act as expert witnesses during legal proceedings. Courses covers topics including investigative techniques and interviewing, litigation theory and practice, and white collar crimes.
The program culminates in a mock trial during the final summer semester; learners either work to elicit testimonies or act as expert witnesses. All students participate in the simulated proceedings during a required one-week residency on campus. Stevenson delivers all other degree components in an asynchronous online format.
Applicants to the forensic accounting graduate program should have a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA and must provide official college transcripts and a personal statement. Prospective students with a bachelor's degree in a field other than accounting can qualify for admission through advanced accounting coursework or professional experience. Accepted students with previous graduate coursework can transfer up to six eligible credits. Stevenson offers competitive per-credit tuition rates and discounts through local employer partnerships. Online students pay no fees.
Southern New Hampshire University
|Manchester, NH||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 49%||
Southern New Hampshire University is one of the fastest-growing universities in the United States. Nearly 4,000 students attend classes at the school's Manchester campus, and SNHU enrolls more than 90,000 online learners from around the world. This nonprofit, private university offers more than 200 affordable, career-focused degrees in 12 areas of study, including accounting and finance.
SNHU's online forensic accounting master's degree holds accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs and aligns with the content and skills outcomes set by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. The 36-credit program requires no set login times or campus visits. Courses cover topics including interview techniques, detection and prevention of fraudulent financial statements, and situational ethics in accounting. Learners apply knowledge gained throughout the program to complete a culminating capstone project.
Prospective graduate students should possess a bachelor's degree and a 2.75 GPA for full acceptance. Students with a 2.0 GPA may receive provisional acceptance. SNHU does not require applicants to submit standardized test scores. The university offers five application deadlines per year, coinciding with five start dates.
Transfer students can apply up to 12 qualifying graduate credits toward the degree. Full-time students can graduate as quickly as 15 months. Part-time and full-time online students pay the same tuition rates, and SNHU offers a tuition discount to military members and spouses of those on active duty.
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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