The Best Online Master’s in Forensic Accounting 2021
May 24, 2021 | Accounting.com Staff
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.
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 4% job growth from 2019-2029 for accountants and reports that these professionals earned a median income of $71,550 as of 2019.
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 2019-2029. 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.
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.
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
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
Forensic accountant, auditor, CPA with forensic accounting specialty
General, corporate, or tax accountant; CPA; auditor
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.
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 4% job growth increase for accountants and auditors, who earned a median annual salary salary of $71,550 as of 2019. Among the following careers, financial managers enjoy the highest median salary at nearly $130,000, with a 15% projected job growth rate from 2019-2029.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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:
Many online master’s in forensic accounting programs offer set or in-state tuition rates.
Distance programs often include set tuition rates for online learners, regardless of their location.
Some learners thrive in environments with peers who push them to reach their full potential.
Students may prefer the small school experience, while others prefer large institutions that provide more learning opportunities in different fields.
Many online forensic accounting degrees offer paths to graduation in under two years.
While some students seek personalized attention from instructors, others thrive on anonymity.
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.
2021’s Top Accredited Online Master’s in Accounting Programs
The following top-ranked online master’s in forensic accounting programs for 2021 carry industry-specific accreditation and/or regional, school-specific accreditation. Accreditation verifies that a school or program provides high-quality degrees to students. Third-party entities, such as other institutions, employers, and professional boards, respect degrees from accredited programs and institutions.
Our ranked programs hold accreditation from at least one of the following agencies:
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commissions on Colleges (SACSCOC)
New England Commission on Higher Education (NECHE)
Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE)
UNCP's completely online master of business administration with a concentration in forensic accounting degree requires 36 credits for completion at a cost of $210 per credit for in-state students. Degree coursework consists of foundation courses, core courses, and concentration courses, and full-time students can typically complete the program in a year. Concentration courses include fraud examination, forensic accounting, legal issues for managers, and forensic analytics.
Degree coursework emphasizes occupational fraud, techniques for prevention and investigation, litigation support services provided by forensic accountants, and using technology to find fraud within organizations. Multiple start dates throughout the year provide flexibility for the working professional.
Applying to UNCP
Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution, minimum 2.5 cumulative GPA and minimum 3.0 GPA in all major courses, and GRE/GMAT (waived for students with 3.0 undergraduate GPA or higher).
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: SACSCOC, AACSB Tuition: $210/credit (in state); $800/credit (out of state) Required Credits: 36 credits Program Length: 12 months minimum Delivery Format: 100% online
Established in 1897, the Wildcats of Bay Path currently serve about 1,800 undergraduate and 1,500 graduate students annually across four physical locations and online. The school's official motto, carpe diem, hangs over graduating students at commencement.
Bay Path's online master of science in accounting with a concentration in forensic accounting degree, offered through the graduate college, requires 30 credits for completion across seven core courses and three electives. The accelerated, year-round class schedule allows students to complete the degree in as little as eight months.
Prospective students can apply without GMAT or GRE standardized test scores. Core coursework meets state-specific certified public accountant requirements and individualized advisement and career counseling.
Applying to Bay Path
Admission requirements include official undergraduate and graduate transcripts, a current resume, two recommendations, and a phone or in-person interview. Although not required, a 3.0 GPA in all prior studies is preferred.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Private Accreditation: NECHE Tuition: $855/credit Required Credits: 30 credits Program Length: 8-24 months Delivery Format: 100% online
FAU's School of Accounting Executive Programs offers a completely online executive master of accounting degree with a concentration in forensic accounting. Students can complete the AACSB-accredited program in about two years. Although not required, participants can attend live lectures on Saturday mornings in the state-of-the-art Davie West Building on the FAU Davie campus.
The program curriculum prepares students for forensic accounting by focusing on fraud investigation and prevention, dispute resolution, litigation support, valuation, expert testimony, money-laundering investigation, and other types of criminal investigation. Through the duration of the program, students receive around-the-clock technical support and personalized academic assistance.
Applying to FAU
Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution and a competitive GPA. The admissions committee may recommend some students provide additional materials on a case-by-case basis.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: SACSCOC, AACSB Program Length: 2 years Delivery Format: 100% online, on campus, or hybrid
Founded in 1971, this private, Christian institution currently serves more than 100,000 students annually across 15 colleges and schools. Students can complete over 450 of the 700 total program offerings online.
Liberty online's School of Business provides a master of science in forensic accounting program that requires 30 credits for completion at a cost of $565 per credit. Core coursework includes 21 credits across seven courses with an emphasis on advanced accounting principles. Specialty coursework includes nine credits across three courses, which consists of corporate governance and fraudulent financial reporting, fraud examination, and information technology and fraud.
The program prepares students to become certified fraud examiners through the association of certified fraud examiners. With eight-week courses and eight different start dates throughout the year, the program offers maximum flexibility for working professionals.
Applying to Liberty
Liberty's admissions process includes an online application, official transcripts submittal, financial aid and FAFSA submittal, online enrollment, and a financial check-in. Students can request acceptance with unofficial transcripts but must provide official versions prior to starting coursework.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Private Accreditation: SACSCOC, ACBSP Tuition: $565/credit Required Credits: 30 credits Program Length: 1 year Delivery Format: 100% online
Founded in 1867, WVU currently serves almost 30,000 students annually across multiple campuses and online learning centers. WVU is a Research I institution, as classified by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.
WVU's online master of science in forensic and fraud examination degree provided through the John Chambers College of Business and Economics combines online learning with two campus visits, designed to incorporate face-to-face interaction with online flexibility. Students can complete required coursework in as little as three semesters and must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA with a minimum passing grade of "C" in all courses applied toward the degree.
The curriculum teaches students to detect, uncover, and prove fraud and other financial crimes committed by businesses and employees. Key coursework includes fraud investigation, fraud data analysis, forensic and fraud examination advanced analytical techniques, and legal environment and ethics.
Applying to WVU
Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and prerequisite coursework, including principles of accounting, intermediate accounting, accounting systems, and auditing theory. Students without the required prerequisites can complete the WVU FFE Ivy Software courses instead.
Program at a Glance
School Type: Public Accreditation: HLC, AACSB Tuition: $820/credit Required Credits: 30 credits Program Length: 3 semesters minimum Delivery Format: Hybrid
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
Forensic accounting blends auditing, accounting, and investigatory skills to assess financial documents. Forensic accountants often review accounting systems and practices related to criminal and legal investigations. While the field is...