Best Online Master's in Forensic Accounting 2022

Updated September 29, 2022 · 6 Min Read

Explore our 2022 rankings of the best online forensic accounting degrees and see how this degree could affect your accounting career prospects.

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Graduates of online master's in forensic accounting programs can become certified professional accountants (CPAs) or auditors specializing in forensic accounting. These professionals employ a unique combination of accounting and investigatory skills to assist lawyers and law enforcement in identifying fraud.

Schools commonly offer standalone forensic accounting degrees and forensic accounting concentrations.

Individuals with bachelor's degrees may qualify for entry-level jobs, but most pursue master's in forensic accounting degrees and CPA certification to increase their job prospects and salary potential.

The best forensic accounting degrees include CPA exam preparation.

Earning a master's in forensic accounting online offers benefits beyond a traditional degree, including set tuition rates and accelerated schedules. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 7% job growth from 2020-2030 for accountants and reports that these professionals earned a median income of $73,560 as of 2020.

The following list highlights the nation's best online master's in forensic accounting programs.

What Is Forensic Accounting?

Forensic accounting is the practice of reviewing financial documents and transactions for financial crimes and fraud. Accountants in the field follow money trails to help investigators solve crimes. They may also assist legal teams and provide testimony in court cases.

Like general accountants, forensic accountants must possess CPA licensure to practice professionally and file reports through the Securities and Exchange Commission. Beyond accounting, they require strong computer science, criminal justice, and analytics skills. Forensic accounting experts can also pursue careers as financial examiners, auditors, or financial analysts.

While entry-level jobs may only require a bachelor's degree, most employers prefer or require candidates with master's in forensic accounting degrees, especially for senior positions. Employers also value field experience, attention to detail, and discretion among candidates.

The overall health of the economy corresponds to the demand for general and forensic accountants. The BLS projects that expansion in globalization and corporate financial regulations could increase the need for qualified forensic accountants from 2020-2030. Additionally, the fluctuation of white-collar crime in the U.S. tends to influence forensic accounting employment.

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Why Get an Online Forensic Accounting Degree?

Earning a master's in forensic accounting requires a significant investment of time and money but leads to advanced career opportunities. Benefits include higher earning potential, eligibility for senior positions, and broader skill development.

Additionally, some online master's in forensic accounting programs offer set tuition rates and accelerated completion times. Graduates remain in high demand for their specialized skills and expertise in this sector of accounting, qualifying them for more competitive jobs and higher wages. Benefits of earning an online master's in forensic accounting include:

  • High Earning Potential: For CPAs or general accountants, earning an online master's in forensic accounting can lead to specialized job opportunities and higher salaries. Master's degree candidates often possess the education and experience that employers seek for senior accounting positions, which offer considerably higher wages than entry-level jobs.
  • Advanced Career Opportunities: Most entry-level accounting jobs require only a bachelor's degree, though senior-level and managerial positions often require a master's degree. Additionally, master's in forensic accounting degree-holders qualify for specialized jobs in this area of expertise. Accounting firms, law enforcement agencies, and financial institutions employ professionals with master's-level qualifications.
  • Diverse Skill Set: Forensic accountants possess unique skills in accounting and criminal justice. Their expertise leads to opportunities beyond general accounting in fields like law, data technology, and computer science. The best forensic accounting degrees emphasize skills in ethics, financial governance and compliance, and information technology.

What To Expect From Master's in Forensic Accounting Programs

Schools may offer forensic accounting as a major or a concentration of general accounting. Completion times vary, though many accredited online master's in accounting programs offer accelerated paths to graduation in less than two years. A full-time enrollee can often complete an online forensic accounting degree in as little as 12 months.

A master's in forensic accounting covers investigative techniques, financial analysis, and computer forensics.

Common coursework explores fraud examination, IT fraud, and fraudulent financial reporting. Students also develop critical skills, including understanding litigation and applying advanced auditing techniques.

Most online master's in forensic accounting degrees require 30-36 credits and culminate in a capstone project. Schools may offer part-time and full-time enrollment, along with synchronous and asynchronous course delivery.

Admission Requirements

Though requirements vary, schools generally require much of the same criteria from forensic accounting degree applicants. Most programs require each candidate to hold a bachelor's degree in accounting, including prerequisites specific to forensic accounting. These schools typically require undergraduate credentials from regionally accredited schools.

Most forensic accounting master's degrees require applicants to possess GPAs of at least 3.0. Some schools holistically consider a student's academic qualifications, rather than setting a minimum GPA threshold. Many forensic accounting degrees require GMAT or GRE scores, though learners may qualify to waive this requirement.

Application deadlines also vary among schools. An online master's in forensic accounting may offer a choice of fall or spring admission and accept applications on a rolling basis. Some programs recommend additional admission materials, such as recommendation letters, a resume, and a personal statement.

Degree Options

Students can earn their master's in forensic accounting online through several avenues. Schools commonly offer standalone degrees that feature forensic accounting as a major. Others may offer forensic accounting as a concentration of a master of science in accounting, a master of accountancy, or a master of professional accounting or accountancy.

Master's in forensic accounting degrees build on the undergraduate curriculum of a general accounting degree to explore advanced auditing, fraud examination, and fraudulent financial reporting techniques. Some forensic accounting degrees prepare CPAs to pursue popular certified in financial forensics (CFF) credentials.

Graduates can pursue advanced careers that may require senior-level experience or CFF certification, including forensic accounting, auditing, or financial examination.

Comparing Forensic Accounting and General Accounting Degrees

While general accounting and forensic accounting master's degrees share similarities, they differ in some significant ways. The following information compares a master's in forensic accounting and a general accounting degree in terms of length, cost, curriculum, careers, and admission requirements.

Master's in Forensic Accounting Master's in Accounting
Length of Program Two years; accelerated programs may take just 12 months Two years; accelerated programs take as little as one year
Curriculum 30-36 credits in forensic accounting courses, culminating in a capstone 30-36 credits in general accounting and concentration courses, culminating in an accounting capstone
Sample Careers Forensic accountant, auditor, CPA with forensic accounting specialty General, corporate, or tax accountant; CPA; auditor
Admission Requirements An undergraduate major in accounting, forensic accounting prerequisites A bachelor's degree, a minimum 3.0 GPA, and GMAT/GRE scores

Popular Forensic Accounting Courses

A master's in forensic accounting includes holistic career development skills and prepares students for CPA certification. An online master's in forensic accounting comprises core and concentration courses. Whether part of a standalone forensic accounting degree or a forensic accounting concentration, master's coursework typically includes:

This course trains students in the most common and successful fraud prevention techniques. Enrollees learn to spot "red flags" and incorporate them into future fraud examination practices. Coursework also explores the fluid relationship between forensic accounting, fraud examination, and risk management.
Learners in this course study the impact of fraudulent financial dealings on corporate businesses. Coursework covers traditional methods of reporting financial fraud, auditing, and internal control systems. Students also explore commonly used methods of fraud detection and prevention.
This course develops each student's abilities to use ethical decision-making and sound judgment when providing accounting services. Coursework explores the principles of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants' Code of Professional Conduct for general and forensic accountants.
Students explore the potential of information technology to detect and prevent financial fraud. Topics include historical and existing IT systems used to perpetrate fraud and the most common types of IT-related offenses. Learners also study common database software for identifying and analyzing fraudulent activity.
This culminating course typically requires an enrollee to develop a project addressing each phase of a forensic accounting case. Steps may include establishing engagement, conducting research, drafting a written report, and preparing and presenting a mock trial testimony.

How Much Will a Forensic Accounting Master's Degree Cost?

The cost of a master's in forensic accounting depends on multiple factors, including a school's reputation and public or private designation, and whether the school offers online or traditional programs. Many traditional schools assign different tuition rates for in- and out-of-state students. The average graduate tuition and fees totaled $12,171 at public institutions and $25,929 at private institutions for the 2018-19 academic year.

Most students require financial aid to complete a master's in forensic accounting. While undergraduate applications generally include a FAFSA requirement to determine eligibility, graduate programs rely on other forms of aid, such as scholarships, grants, and loans.

Learners may also qualify for online benefits, including set or in-state rates for distance students. Many students also continue working while earning their master's degrees in forensic accounting. Candidates should exhaust all available scholarships and grants before considering loans, which require repayment.

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Jobs for Master's in Forensic Accounting Graduates

An online master's in forensic accounting can lead to senior positions in the field. Most forensic accountants hold CPA certification, and many also become CFFs. Graduates of forensic accounting master's degrees commonly pursue careers as forensic auditors or financial analysts.

BLS projections indicate a 7% job growth increase for accountants and auditors, who earned a median annual salary salary of $73,560 as of 2020. Among the following careers, financial managers enjoy the highest median salary at $134,180, with a 17% projected job growth rate from 2020-30.

Financial Manager

Financial managers oversee financial operations for organizations, ensuring their optimal financial health. Responsibilities include developing financial planning strategies, drafting financial reports, and directing investment activities. Controllers, risk managers, and insurance managers are among the types of financial managers best-suited to graduates of master's in forensic accounting programs.

  • Required Education: Master's degree preferred
  • Job Outlook (2020-30): +17%
  • Median Annual Salary: $134,180

Forensic Accountant

Forensic accountants investigate financial crimes, including embezzlement, securities fraud, and contract disputes. These professionals typically work with lawyers and law enforcement, often providing expert testimony in court trials. Most professionals possess master's degrees and CPA certification.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree; master's preferred
  • Average Annual Salary: $71,970

Financial Examiner

Financial examiners ensure that institutions like banks and credit unions comply with federal laws. They also help to protect consumers from threats like predatory loans. Most financial examiners specialize in consumer compliance or risk assessment. Financial examiners with advanced degrees, CPA licensure, and years of work experience may qualify for senior-level positions.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree; master's degree for senior positions
  • Job Outlook (2020-30): +18%
  • Median Annual Salary: $81,430

Auditor

These professionals may specialize in internal, external, or IT auditing. Businesses employ internal auditors to identify and eliminate financial fraud and risks to streamline operations. Outside organizations hire them to approve companies' financial reporting and accounting practices as lawful and ethical.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree; master's preferred
  • Job Outlook (2020-30): +7%
  • Median Annual Salary: $73,560

Financial Analyst

Financial analysts assess and recommend investment opportunities for individual clients and businesses. Students trained in forensic accounting may pursue a career as a risk analyst, a type of financial analyst that advises clients on mitigating potential losses in unpredictable markets. Master's degree-holders with experience may qualify for senior roles as portfolio or fund managers.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree; master's preferred
  • Job Outlook (2020-30): +6%
  • Median Annual Salary: $83,660

Choosing the Right Forensic Accounting Graduate Program

Aspiring forensic accountants should only consider accredited online programs, especially those seeking the CFF designation. Schools may hold national or regional accreditation, though the latter holds more prestige. Significant factors for aspiring forensic accountants to consider include:

  • Cost/Financial Aid: Many online master's in forensic accounting programs offer set or in-state tuition rates.
  • Location: Distance programs often include set tuition rates for online learners, regardless of their location.
  • Competitiveness/Difficulty: Some learners thrive in environments with peers who push them to reach their full potential.
  • School Size: Students may prefer the small school experience, while others prefer large institutions that provide more learning opportunities in different fields.
  • Program Length: Many online forensic accounting degrees offer paths to graduation in under two years.
  • Student-to-Teacher Ratio: While some students seek personalized attention from instructors, others thrive on anonymity.
  • Earning Potential: Aspiring forensic accountants can become CFFs and pursue lucrative roles upon completing master's in forensic accounting degrees.
  • University Resources/Career Services: School faculty and staff can help students prepare for certification and senior forensic accounting roles.

Why You Should Get Your Master's in Forensic Accounting Online

A master's in forensic accounting online suits mid- to late-career CPAs looking to build specialized skills, along with bachelor's degree-holders looking to advance their education. An online master's in forensic accounting can offer flexible enrollment, accelerated schedules, and technology training.

Accredited online master's in accounting programs can also save students money compared to traditional degrees. Online programs often feature set or in-state tuition rates for distance learners, regardless of their resident state. Learners enrolled in master's in forensic accounting online programs can avoid unnecessary costs for housing, commuting, and campus amenities.

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Top Accredited Online Master's in Forensic Accounting

Interested in a career in the growing field of forensic accounting? This guide ranks 2022's top four accredited online master's in forensic accounting based on quality, affordability, reputation, program availability, and flexibility. Learn more about our ranking methodology here.

#1

University of Scranton

School Information
Location Scranton, Pennsylvania
Admission Rate 76%
Graduation Rate 83%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 17% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The University of Scranton, founded by the Jesuit religious order in 1888, enrolls over 4,900 undergraduate and graduate students. Scranton boasts highly-ranked accredited programs in business and accounting, nursing, computer science, physical and occupational therapy, chemistry, and counseling.

Master of Accountancy: Forensic Accounting Specialization

Scranton's Kania School of Management offers a fully online master of accountancy with a specialization in forensic accounting. Designed for working professionals or students seeking a career change, this part-time program features start dates throughout the year with no residencies or on-campus requirements. The Macc Bridge option provides a pathway to a master's in accountancy for non-accounting bachelor's degree-holders.

Students can choose electives in topics, such as advanced auditing, occupational abuse, and financial statement analysis. The program prepares graduates for CPA licensure and the Certified Fraud Examiner credential. 

As online learners progress toward their degree, they receive support and mentorship from the department's CPA-certified faculty, professional alumni council, and partners at Big 4 Accounting Firms. 

Applying to Scranton

Applicants must hold a bachelor's in accounting or a non-accounting business field with a 3.0 overall GPA. The application requires official transcripts from previously attended colleges or universities, a resume, a personal statement, and three letters of recommendation. 

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditations: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE); Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
  • Tuition: $895 per credit
  • Required Credits: 30 credits
  • Program Length: 12-18 months
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
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#2

Southern New Hampshire University

School Information
Location Manchester, New Hampshire
Admission Rate 88%
Graduation Rate 44%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 94% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

SNHU, founded as an accounting school in 1932, has become one of the nation's fastest growing universities. Students can choose from over 300 on-campus, online, and blended programs in a variety of fields, including health, hospitality, education, and business.

Master of Science in Accounting: Forensic Accounting Concentration

SNHU's master of science in accounting offers a concentration in forensic accounting that trains students in forensic accounting policies and practices with applications to fraud prevention, detection and recovery, and criminal investigations. Depending on a student's undergraduate background, the program requires between 12 and 21 graduate courses in areas, such as detection and prevention of fraudulent financial statements, interview techniques/legal aspects of fraud, and investigating with computers.

Ideal for working professionals, this entirely online master's degree uses an asynchronous delivery format that allows distance learners to access materials and complete assignments at their own pace. SNHU admits students on a rolling schedule throughout the year. Applicants may apply up to 12 credits earned from previously-attended graduate programs.

Applying to SNHU

SNHU does not require GRE or GMAT scores. Prospective students submit a transcript release from previously attended schools and a graduate attestation form. Applicants need a minimum 2.75 GPA for full acceptance or a 2.0 for provisional acceptance.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditations: New England Commission on Higher Education (NECHE); Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
  • Tuition: $627 per credit 
  • Required Credits: 36 credits
  • Program Length: 15 months
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
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#3

West Virginia University

School Information
Location Morgantown, West Virginia
Admission Rate 84%
Graduation Rate 61%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 34% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

WVU administers over 340 programs across 14 colleges and schools. The only university in the U.S. to offer bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in forensic and investigative sciences, the campus also hosts the country's largest crime scene training complex.

Master of Science in Forensic and Fraud Examination

The master of science in forensic and fraud examination, developed by the John Chambers College of Business and Economics, comprises four MBA-courses and six courses that focus on building forensic and fraud examination skills. The curriculum incorporates actual and simulated case materials that prepare students for experiences. The fully online program requires two on-campus residencies where students present written and oral reports based on their case studies. 

Tuition includes enrollment in the ACFE Prep course preparing students to sit for the CFE exam. Distance learners receive a full array of support services, ranging from academic coaches and online tutoring to virtual library access and technological assistance. 

Applying to WVU

The program admits qualified students who hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with a 2.9 GPA. Applicants must submit official transcripts of all previous academic work, a statement of purpose, and a current resume.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditations: Higher Learning Commission (HLC); Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
  • Tuition: $820 per credit hour 
  • Required Credits: 30 credits
  • Program Length: 12 months
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
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#4

Stevenson University

School Information
Location Stevenson, Maryland
Admission Rate 81%
Graduation Rate 60%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 55% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Since its beginnings in 1947, Stevenson University has received national recognition for its career-focused programs. Stevenson serves over 2,700 students, including more than 800 online learners enrolled in bachelor's and master's programs.

Master of Science in Forensic Accounting

Stevenson's master of science in forensic accounting is one of the university's five forensic-based bachelor's and master's degrees. This fully online degree features year-round course schedules delivered in convenient eight-week sessions.

The curriculum, taught by practicing forensic accountants, trains students to assess fraud risk and adequacy of internal control structures, analyze financial evidence, and effectively communicate findings for legal proceedings. Distant learners take 12 courses in areas, such as accounting fraud, auditing and tax investigation and analysis, and white collar crimes. The program also emphasizes investigative techniques and interviewing and litigation theory and practice. 

Applying to Stevenson

Admission requires a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school, a minimum 3.0 GPA, and a major in accounting, advanced coursework in accounting, or professional experience in accounting. Applicants must submit transcripts of all previous college work and a personal statement.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Tuition: $695 per credit 
  • Required Credits: 36 credits
  • Program Length: 16 months 
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
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Master's in Forensic Accounting FAQ

Can I get a forensic accounting degree online?

Yes. Many schools offer forensic accounting degrees online, often featuring accelerated schedules and set or in-state tuition rates. Students can earn online master's degrees in forensic accounting while maintaining work and family obligations.

How long does it take to get a degree in forensic accounting?

Most master's in forensic accounting take two years to complete, though schools commonly offer accelerated online programs. Students can complete some online master's in forensic accounting in just 12 months.

What can I do with a master's in forensic accounting?

Master's in forensic accounting degree-holders can become forensic accountants or general CPAs in this specialty. Learners can also pursue careers as financial managers, analysts, or examiners.

How do I start a career in forensic accounting?

Many students pursue bachelor's degrees in accounting and CPA certification to pursue entry-level jobs. A master's in forensic accounting provides the experience and expertise needed for senior accounting positions.

Do forensic accountants make good money?

According to Payscale, forensic accountants earned an average annual salary of around $71,000 as of February 2022, higher than the national average wage of $58,260.

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