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Accountants are in demand, with 136,400 projected job openings available each year. That’s a 6% growth rate, which is expected to continue through 2031. While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t list salary data for forensic accountants specifically, it reports a median salary for accountants at approximately $77,250 in 2021. At the high end of the pay scale, financial managers earn $131,710 annually, and financial analysts earn $95,570.With an average course load of 30 to 36 credit hours, an online master’s in forensic accounting typically takes one to two years of full-time study. In 2020-2021, tuition for master’s degree programs in public schools cost an average of $12,294, while private schools cost approximately $26,621.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Forensic Accounting Program

Choose your area of study

Forensic accounting is a branch of general accounting, so if you are a meticulous record keeper and enjoy blending auditing and investigative skills in the context of legal investigations, this might be the career for you. A master’s degree in forensic accounting allows you to specialize in investigating fraud and financial crimes using advanced accounting techniques.

Choosing an area of emphasis, such as cybersecurity compliance and business data analytics, can help narrow your focus even more. In addition, consider if you wish to work for private or public organizations and streamline your coursework and concentration to reflect your preferences.

Research schools and programs

To qualify for the Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF) exam, you must first have a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license. The school you apply to must be appropriately accredited for these certifications. Accrediting agencies such as the Association for Advancing Collegiate Studies of Business (AACSB), the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE), and the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) ensure specific standards of quality in accounting programs.

Aside from accreditation, ensure you also consider your educational preferences to maximize your learning. For instance, do you need the flexibility of a part-time schedule, or do you want to study full-time? Do you prefer to work out problems independently, or do you enjoy study groups and student meetups? These considerations will significantly affect your academic success in the long run.

Prepare for tests and applications

The best way to prepare for tests and applications is to contact your school’s admissions team. An admissions counselor can advise you on the school’s academic prerequisites, which may include a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a minimum grade point average.

Your counselor can also walk you through each admissions process step, which may include standardized testing. Typical exam scores requested for accounting and business students are the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT).

Select your program

While the program requirements, instructors, and curriculum are generally the same for online and on-campus students, delivery formats can vary. As you select your program, consider your preferences and how you learn best. Synchronous programs are great for students who perform better in a classroom environment or need structure to keep them on task. Asynchronous programs benefit students who need more flexible schedules and enjoy self-paced learning.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Your school’s financial aid office is the best place to begin researching the tuition and fees for your program. The people there can inform you of your per-credit cost and any additional student, library, or technology fees you’ll be expected to pay.

A financial aid counselor can also help you locate any available grants, scholarships, or other tuition assistance programs to help you pay for your program. Along these lines, most graduate students fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine their eligibility for affordable loans and tuition assistance.

Best 50 Accredited Online Master’s in Forensic Accounting Programs

Best Online Master's in Forensic Accounting Programs Badge
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Stevenson University
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Bay Path University
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Carlow University
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Liberty University
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FAU School of Accounting Executive Programs
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West Virginia University
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Rider University
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Southern New Hampshire University
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Western New England University
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New England College
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The University of Scranton
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Utica University
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SUNY Polytechnic Institute

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How We Rank Schools

This list focuses on programs that offer online master’s degrees and graduate certificate programs in forensic accounting. While each program featured in this guide is offered online, some may require you to work synchronously with other students in your program.

Several organizations oversee curriculum and ensure the quality of education these programs provide. That includes the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs and the Higher Learning Commission. Accreditation from these organizations ensures that credits earned are transferable and that employers and other institutions recognize degrees.

What Can You Expect from an Online Master’s in Forensic Accounting Program?

The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) defines forensic accounting as “the application of specialized knowledge and investigative skills possessed by CPAs to collect, analyze and evaluate evidential matter, and to interpret and communicate findings in the courtroom, boardroom, or other legal or administrative venue.”

In your master’s program, you’ll develop the investigative and analytical skills needed to review accounting systems from a legal perspective. You’ll learn to perform anti-fraud risk assessments, litigation discoveries, and trial testimonies. You’ll also dive deeply into tax law, auditing standards, and financial reporting requirements.

In general, an online master’s in forensic accounting will require the completion of 30-36 credit hours, but some schools require up to 50. Most programs can be completed within two years for full-time students.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online master’s in forensic accounting degree program

  • Advanced Business Law for Accountants. Students review government regulation of business and gain a deeper understanding of the law in securities regulation, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the Uniform Commercial Code, and more. Students explore business law as it relates to the legal issues encountered by CPAs.
  • Fraud Examination. Students explore the field of fraud examination and learn how to detect and prevent fraudulent financial activity.
  • Advanced Auditing. Students examine case studies of actual auditing applications in court cases and policy. This course covers auditors’ ethical responsibilities, the responsibility to detect fraud, and the creation of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB).
  • Accounting Information Systems. Students explore the internal control features of accounting information systems and how they are necessary for accurate and reliable accounting data. The course illustrates how accounting information is recorded, summarized, and reported in manual and computerized systems.
  • Advanced Cost Accounting. Students experience the fast-changing, highly technical aspects of cost accounting. The course covers process costing, cost allocation, planning and decision-making, activity-based management, and managing performance.

What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in Forensic Accounting?

Career outlook

The field of forensic accounting is a dynamic and rapidly growing area within the broader accounting profession. Pursuing an online master’s degree in forensic accounting can open doors to a range of exciting career opportunities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, accountants make a median salary of $77,250 a year. The job outlook for this field is good, with a six percent increase over the coming decade expected, which will lead to positions being available for an additional 81,800 individuals.

Career paths

An online master’s in forensic accounting equips you with specialized skills and knowledge that are highly sought after in the business, legal, and financial sectors. Forensic accountants investigate financial irregularities, fraud, and financial crimes, so they may be found working in law enforcement as well as the business and nonprofit worlds. Here are some common career paths that an individual with an online master’s in forensic accounting may want to consider:

  • Financial analyst — assesses the financial health of companies or organizations
  • Risk manager — identifies and evaluates potential risks that could impact an organization’s financial stability and reputation
  • Compliance officer — ensures that organizations adhere to laws, regulations, and industry standards
  • Forensic data analyst — extracts, analyses, and interprets data to support forensic investigations
  • Forensic accounting consultant — provides specialized expertise to clients dealing with financial disputes, litigation, or fraud investigations

Forensic Accountant

Earning Potential: $60,000-$120,000

Education Required: Master’s degree in forensic accounting or a related field, with certification as a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) or Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

Forensic accountants investigate financial irregularities and fraud. They examine financial records, transactions, and evidence to uncover financial misconduct. Using data analysis and forensic techniques, they trace funds, detect hidden assets, and identify patterns indicative of fraud. Forensic accountants also provide expert testimony in legal proceedings, aiding in the understanding of complex financial matters. Their expertise extends to financial due diligence, compliance assessments, risk management, and asset tracing. Ethical conduct is paramount in their work, ensuring the accuracy and integrity of their findings and reports. Their contributions play a role in resolving financial disputes and upholding financial transparency and legality.

Certified Fraud Examiner

Earning Potential: $60,000-$120,000

Education Required: Master’s degree in forensic accounting or related field, certification as a CFE

A Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) is trained to prevent, detect, and investigate fraud and financial crimes. CFEs employ their expertise in accounting, auditing, and investigative techniques to uncover fraudulent activities in various settings, including businesses, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations. They analyze financial records, interview witnesses, and gather evidence to build cases against perpetrators of fraud. CFEs also play a crucial role in implementing anti-fraud measures and educating organizations on fraud prevention. Their work often involves collaborating with law enforcement, attorneys, and regulatory authorities to bring perpetrators to justice and minimize financial losses.

Internal Auditor

Earning Potential: $50,000-$100,000

Education Required: Master’s degree in forensic accounting or related field, certification as a Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)

Internal auditors are responsible for evaluating an organization’s internal controls, risk management practices, and financial processes. They conduct comprehensive audits to ensure compliance with regulations, detect financial irregularities, and improve operational efficiency. Internal auditors review financial records, assess the effectiveness of internal controls, and provide recommendations to mitigate risks and enhance financial transparency. Their work helps organizations identify weaknesses, prevent fraud, and improve decision-making. They play a vital role in maintaining financial integrity and ensuring that an organization’s operations align with industry standards and legal requirements. Internal auditors may work in various industries, including finance, healthcare, and government.

Online Master’s in Forensic Accounting Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online master’s in forensic accounting degree program?

Your first step in the application process is contacting the admissions counselors at the various universities where you hope to apply. They can inform you of the necessary materials you’ll need to submit, along with application deadlines. You can also research the schools’ websites or student handbooks for specific program requirements and prerequisites.

Most schools request the following application materials:

  • Undergraduate transcripts
  • 2-3 letters of recommendation
  • GRE or GMAT scores
  • Personal statement or application essay

How much does an online master’s in forensic accounting degree cost?

The per-credit cost of an online master’s in forensic accounting ranges from $627-$850. However, this will vary depending on your school’s policies and other factors, such as your state residency or additional program fees. Public institutions that offer in-state discounts are often the most affordable.

Remember, you’ll likely need to invest in a reliable computer and possibly a mobile device, printer, or scanner, so include this in your financial plan. In addition, some programs have specific software and accessibility requirements, so your best bet is to speak with a college representative to ensure you have the most accurate estimate of costs.

How long does it take to earn an online master’s in forensic accounting degree?

In most cases, an online master’s in forensic accounting degree will take one to two years for a full-time student to complete. Part-time students may take three to five years, but some schools offer accelerated programs that allow students to take more credit hours simultaneously. Nonetheless, part-time and full-time students must complete the same 30-36 credit hours.

Is an online master’s degree in forensic accounting worth it?

An online master’s degree in forensic accounting offers diverse and lucrative career opportunities in the fields of accounting, finance, and investigation. Whether you aspire to be a forensic accountant or pursue other roles in risk management or compliance, this advanced degree equips you with the expertise needed to uncover financial irregularities and contribute to the prevention and resolution of financial crimes. Your career path will depend on your interests, goals, and the specific sector of the financial industry you choose to explore.

Based on data from Salary.com, the average salary for a forensic accountant is $76,400 a year, although an experienced accountant may earn considerably more.

Earning your degree online can be an advantageous choice for many students. Online programs offer flexibility for students who need to balance study time with work or family commitments. An online program may also provide financial savings, as students don’t need to pay for housing or transportation.


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