Do you want career involved with conducting in-depth financial analysis? Are you intrigued by the legal system and interested in investigating fraud? If you said yes to all three, the field of Forensic Accounting might be right for you. Forensic accountants apply their expertise in the legal system through accounting, auditing, and investigating to examine business fraud.
Specialized accountants, or certified public accountants, acquire additional education in Forensic Accounting to identify evidence of embezzlement, corruption, and general fraud. According to Dr. Niraj B. Patel published in Research Review International Journal of Multidisciplinary, Forensic Accounting is “…the use of accounting principles and investigating techniques to ferret out fraud and theft.”
Why Choose a Master’s in Forensic Accounting?
Those with a degree in Forensic Accounting can work in a variety of industries including Law, Businesses, Insurance, Finance, and of course, Accounting. Forensic Accountants also within the justice system and law enforcement, whether it be litigation support or criminal investigation. Qualified Forensic Accountants can analyze data, pay attention to details, understand business fundamentals, and demonstrate excellent computer and communication skills.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for accountants and auditors was $69,350 per year in 2017. The BLS estimates that accounting jobs will increase up to ten percent by 2026.
To become a Forensic Accountant, students must earn their credentials as a Certified Public Accountant. The State Board of Accountancy manages licensure in each state. There are other specific certifications for Forensic Accountants, including:
- Certified in Financial Forensics Credential: The CFF Credential, offered through the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, shows that a CPA has completed the CFF Exam through AICPA and has at least the minimum continuing professional development coursework in forensic accounting.
- Fundamentals of Forensic Accounting Certificate: Also offered by AICPA, this provides certification and 21.5 CPE credits. It is also a beginning certification before earning the CFF Credential.
- Core Forensic Accounting Certificate: Another AICPA certification, the core certification provides skills in evidence, interview techniques, deposition, testimony, and reporting.
- Specialized Forensic Accounting Certificate: This AICPA certificate covers specialized areas of Forensic Accounting, such as bankruptcy, intellectual property damages, mergers, family law, and divorce.
- Certified Global Forensic Accountant Credential: Designation earned through the International Institute of Certified Forensic Accountants.
- Forensic Certified Public Accountant: Certification offered through the Forensic CPA Society through a series of five tests consisting of 20 hours toward one’s CPE credit.
- NAFA Certification: A specialized certification of the National Association of Forensic Accountants.
- Certified Professional Forensic Accountant: The CPFAcct is one of four designations by the Institute of Certified Forensic Accountants.
- Forensic Accounting Certification: Prerequisite for receiving the ICFA Associate designation.
- Certified Professional Internal Auditor: This designation by ICFA is only available to internal auditors with extra training.
- Certified Fraud Specialist: The CFS designation from the ICFA is for those with specific skills for understanding methods, law, and the ability to resolve fraud allegations.
- Certified Fraud Examiner: The CFE credential is offered by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners to certify excellence in the anti-fraud profession.
How to Choose an Online Master’s in Forensic Accounting Degree
While compiling our annual 10 Best Online Master’s in Forensic Accounting 2019, we considered factors such as student satisfaction, tuition and student costs of living, and institutional accreditation.
Institutions typically offer a Master’s in Forensic Accounting through its business school, where most of those schools are AACSB-International accredited by The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Others hold the ACBSP Global Business Accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.
Florida Atlantic University, founded in 1961, sits on the Atlantic Ocean in Boca Raton. Since its founding, FAU emphasizes technology in education with more than 170 programs available through ten colleges. The School of Accounting Executive Programs paired with FAU’s accredited College of Business to offer online students an Executive Master of Accounting with a concentration in Forensic Accounting.
The Forensic Accounting degree is a 2-year online program offering students knowledge of fraud investigation and prevention, dispute resolution, litigation support, valuation, expert testimony, and investigation techniques for money laundering. Faculty members at FAU are Forensic Accounting practitioners with first-hand experience involving expert witness testimony and criminal investigations. FAU often hosts guest speakers, and while enrolled at FAU, students have the option of streaming live lectures or recording them to watch later on.
West Virginia University’s John Chambers College of Commerce offers an MS in Forensic and Fraud Examination. Dr. Richard Riley, with WVU’s Department of Accounting, helped develop FAFE curriculum guidelines on behalf of the National Institute of Justice, or Department of Justice. The online program includes the ACFE Exam Prep Course.
FFE students at WVU learn using a hands-on approach to Forensic Accounting. Courses include real and simulated cases to prepare students for forensic accounting and litigation support. Students complete ten courses for the FFE, which includes classes such as Fraud Investigation, Fraud Data Analysis, and Fraud Criminology/Legal Issues. Business coursework includes Financial Statements Analysis, Business Research, and Decision Analysis.
The FFE program at WVU is an online program but requires two 2 two campus visitations. During the first visit, students take part in a Financial Crime Scene Investigation located at a Crime Scene Complex. During this process, students also take part in the pitch-to-prosecutor session and study advanced data mining. The second visit includes a full day of interviewing and interrogation training before participating in the Moot Court exercise.
SUNY Polytechnic Institute, located in Albany and Utica, NY, is a high-tech educational leader. Established back in 2014 when two SUNY colleges merged, SUNY Poly now has six colleges and offers a Master of Science in Accountancy with an Advanced Certificate in Forensic Accounting and Valuation.
The MS in Accountancy program meets requirements for licensing in New York and AICPA. The 33-credit program is only offered online and consists of 11 courses such as Financial Management Problems, Multinational Economics of Technology, and Quantitative Business Analysis. The elective concentration in Forensic Accounting allows students to specialize in fraud detection, examine investigative auditing, financial statements, and understand forensic asset valuation.
Liberty University is an evangelical liberal arts university founded as Liberty Baptist College in 1976. LU is now Virginia’s largest university and offers more than 250 online programs. Liberty’s online Master of Science in Accounting with Forensic Accounting ranks among the Top Online Accounting Degrees by Best Choice Schools. The 30-hour LU program helps students understand and identify discrepancies in accounting data. The program includes courses based on the real world along with Biblical studies.
The program, along with an undergraduate Accounting degree, meet the requirements to sit for the CPA exam. To receive the MS students are required to complete 21 credits of core classwork with nine credits of Forensic Accounting courses. Core courses include Advanced Business Law for Accountants, Tax Research & Jurisprudence, and Accounting Ethics. Students typically complete their degree in 18 months.
Stevenson University, established in 1947, offers a Master of Science in Forensic Accounting to prepare students for a career in investigative accounting and fraud prevention. Graduate students learn skills such as assessing fraud risk, financial evidence, and communicating financial findings within legal proceedings. Stevenson’s Forensic Accounting degree is taught by practicing forensic accountants and offered entirely online. Stevenson partners with many Maryland-based colleges, corporations, and organizations that offer reduced-rate tuition.
Students must complete 36 credits of coursework, which includes Forensic Information Technology, Fraud Accounting, Investigation and Analysis, and Evidence. All students complete a Mock Trial Capstone to gain experience in investigation, evidence collection, and communicating in court. Students can complete the capstone online or residentially through a mock trial courtroom.
Strayer University, headquartered in Herndon, Virginia, began in 1892. Today, Strayer offers many online degrees in addition to its Mid-Atlantic and Southern locations. Campuses are open to online students where they have access to libraries, office hours, and campus events. Strayer offers an online Master’s of Science in Forensic Accounting to give students the skills necessary to detect fraud and apply forensic accounting concepts. Students at Strayer learn to complete fraud reduction auditing. Once admitted, an advisor walks students through iCampus, the university’s online education tool.
The ACBSP-accredited program includes 12 courses, and because it is an online program, students can complete the degree at their own pace. Core classes are derived from the school’s Accounting major and include Financial and Managerial Accounting, Financial Management, and Commercial Law. There are three courses in the Forensic Accounting concentration: Forensic Accounting, Emerging Auditing Technologies, and Fraud Prevention and Detection. Students are expected to complete a mathematics course in quantitative methods in addition to a capstone.
New England College is a private, non-profit school providing online degrees for working adults. NEC uses state-of-the-art technology to deliver collaborative online courses, including its online Master of Science in Forensic Accounting. The MS in Forensic Accounting is a 40-credit hour program where students develop strong analytical and investigative skills. The program fulfills the 150 hours required for the CPA exam in most states.
Classes at NEC are small, which immerses students in an interactive learning environment. The Forensic Accounting concentration includes courses such as Business Crime, Litigation Services, and Fraud Risk Management. Along with the CPA exam, NEC’s Forensic Accounting major also helps prepare students for CFE certification and Internal Auditor certification.
La Salle University, founded in Philadelphia in 1863, is a Lasallian Catholic school providing a liberal arts education with professional studies. La Salle offers an entirely online MS in Economic Crime Forensics. The La Salle ECF degree is multidisciplinary, combining Computer Science and Information Technology into their MBA program. Students who earn an MS in ECF typically work as a Fraud Auditor, Data and Network Security Manager, or a Digital Forensics Specialist.
La Salle’s EFC students choose from one of two tracks: Network Security or Corporate Fraud. The degree requires the completion of nine core courses with two electives. Before beginning, students must complete two foundational courses or show existing knowledge. The two foundation courses are Business Law and Managerial and Financial Accounting. Other core courses include Fraud Examination, Internet Fraud, and Occupational Fraud. Students can select an elective such as Cybercrime, White Collar Crime, Data Mining, or Computer Digital Forensics. All students in the ECF program complete an integrative capstone course where they will complete a research project or work in an experiential learning environment.
Pfeiffer University is a liberal arts school with three campuses in the state of North Carolina. Pfeiffer students can complete an online Master of Science in Financial Fraud Investigations while preparing for the CFE exam. The 30-credit hour MSFFI includes core courses such as Fraud and the Law, Computer Forensics, and Fraud Examination. Graduating Pfeiffer students generally find careers in the fields of Corporate Security, Law Enforcement, or Fraud Investigations.
THE MSFFI includes three concentrations where students may take all electives from a single concentration, or combine them. A concentration in Computer Forensics and Cybercrime offers courses such as Information Security and Advanced Issues in Cybercrime. The Law Enforcement concentration includes courses in Criminal Investigations and Forensic Accounting Theory. Students who choose the Civil Litigation concentration take classes in Business and Asset Valuation and Civil Litigation.
Carlow University, founded in 1929 by the Sisters of Mercy, is a liberal arts school offering undergraduate and graduate degrees to nearly 2,100 students in Pittsburg, PA. Students at Carlow can complete an MS in Fraud and Forensics to help prepare them to fight white-collar crime. The program, designed by licensed experts, begins every August.
Carlow MSFF offers courses lasting four to five weeks long, and include White Collar Crime, Fraud Prevention, Legal Elements of Fraud, Financial Statement Examination, and Technology Tools for Fraud Examiners. Carlow’s MFF program established a partnership with the National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance. The joint program offers a 9-credit hour Graduate Certificate in Cyber Threat Research and Analytics. The certificate offers specific training in investigating and responding to cybercrime.