Online Master's Programs in Forensic Accounting

With the escalating threat of cybercrime, employers need diligent forensic accountants to implement anti-fraud technologies. Forensic accountants conduct money-laundering investigations and serve as experts during litigation.

Those holding a master's degree in forensic accounting online make a median annual salary of $70,500, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Many professionals earn a CPA credential to further increase their take-home pay. Per BLS, employment in accounting and auditing should increase 6% between 2018 and 2028.

A master's degree in forensic accounting greatly increases job prospects and earning potential. Continue reading this guide to learn more about careers open to forensic accountants.

What Can I Learn in an Online Master's in Forensic Accounting Program?

Online curricula in forensic accounting master's programs typically have little to no differentiation from their on-campus counterparts. Both give students a broad foundation in accounting ethics, law, tax policy, fraud examination, and financial theory. Classes cover contemporary issues in accounting through case studies. Students also study information technology through practical activities, interactive experiences, and mock trials.

By program's end, students know how to evaluate evidence, conduct investigations with computers, and serve as experts providing testimony in court. With specializations in digital forensics and elective classes in cybercrime and data mining, students can take classes that appeal to their career interests. Some master's in forensic accounting programs fulfill CPA exam requirements or offer certification in subjects like investigating or responding to cybercrime.

What Courses Are Offered in a Master's in Forensic Accounting Program?

The courses students take during a master's in forensic accounting online degree depend on the school, program, and instructor. Classes differ within programs, but many overlap across schools. Keep reading for an idea of what to expect.

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    Auditing Theory: Auditing theory covers all aspects of the auditing process, using case studies and computer software to give students practical experience. Students learn how to conduct an audit by planning and implementing procedures and analyzing findings.
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    Accounting Ethics: By the end of an accounting ethics course, students understand the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct, which covers the industry principles and rules that guide accountants. Students analyze case studies related to moral and ethical violations, and also study the social and economic implications of ethical violations in accounting.
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    Digital Forensics: Students enrolled in a digital forensics class learn digital forensic techniques to detect computer crimes. Through simulated investigations, students learn data mining processes, including how to handle evidence and testify in court as an expert.
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    Fraud Examination: This class gives students an overview of the principles and practices of fraud examination. Classwork covers the functions of internal controls that prevent fraud in businesses. Students gain a broad knowledge in fraud prevention, psychology, criminology, court proceedings, and legislative oversight.
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    Information Technology and Fraud: The curriculum in information technology and fraud courses teaches students to find financial inconsistencies using database and spreadsheet programs. Students learn to detect fraudulent financial reports by looking at historical cases in which businesses used information technology to commit crimes.

What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?

Toward the end of a master's in forensic accounting program, students should expect to complete a capstone project in a subject of their choice. Not every program requires a final project, and specific requirements for final projects differ depending on the school.

Generally, students must integrate everything they learned during the program for a final project, though they may have the option of completing an internship instead of a research project. While forensic accounting master's programs typically do not require an exam, they usually prepare students to take the CPA exam after graduation.

How Much Can I Make With a Career in Forensic Accounting

The pay for professionals in accounting differs based on specialized training, experience, credentials, and location. To get an idea of your salary potential after earning a master's in forensic accounting online, take a look at the chart below with careers and job outlook data.

Fraud Examiners, Investigators, and Analysts

Fraud examiners and investigators interview witnesses, write reports, and collect evidence. Their work requires excellent communication and analytical skills. Fraud examiners also use critical thinking and sound judgment to evaluate possible cases of fraud.

Median Annual Salary: $70,280

Job Growth 2018-2028: 4%-6%

Auditors

Auditors work for private accounting firms, finance companies, and the government to prepare reports. They analyze financial records to ensure that companies adhere to the law. Based on their findings, they recommend financial changes to the board. Employers require a minimum of a bachelor's degree, and some prefer candidates with a master's degree.

Median Annual Salary: $70,500

Job Growth 2018-2028: 4%-6%

Financial Examiners

Financial examiners conduct investigations to verify that financial institutions comply with laws and regulations. Their duties include investigating financial records and compiling operational reports. They also investigate real estate deals to ensure compliance with the law. A regular day may include meeting with bank directors and independent accountants to provide consultation and help companies implement financial decisions.

Median Annual Salary: $80,180

Job Growth 2018-2028: 7%-10%

Online Master's in Forensic Accounting Program Accreditation

Forensic accounting master's programs are accredited much like colleges and universities. Accreditation by an independent body ensures that student outcomes and teaching meet regulatory standards. This protects a student's investment and ensures that they receive a quality education.

Students often earn a master's in forensic accounting online degree through business schools, which are commonly accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business or the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.

How to Pay for a Master's in Forensic Accounting Degree

A small percentage of students enter college with the financial means to pay for their education. The rest must explore alternate avenues to pay for their degrees. Below, you can explore some of the options to pay for your tuition and other college expenses:

  • Employer Assistance

    Companies often offer financial reimbursement for employees seeking advanced education. For example, the human resources department might offer tuition assistance programs that cover all or some of an employee's tuition.

  • Federal Loans

    After applying for the FAFSA, students can receive low-interest federal loans. Graduate students can apply for unsubsidized Stafford loans or Direct PLUS loans, which accrue interest after the disbursement date. Parents of students can also apply for Direct PLUS loans on behalf of their children.

  • Grants

    Students do not need to repay grant money, making them a valuable source of funding. Federal grant programs offer need-based funding for graduate students. Students can also find grants through nonprofits, colleges, and the state. Check with your financial aid office for more information.

Scholarships for Master's in Forensic Accounting Students

AICPA John L. Carey Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Graduate students attending an accounting program accredited by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) may apply. Applicants must also plan to apply for CPA licensure. There are five winners every year.

Amount: $5,000

Apply for Scholarship

AICPA Scholarship For Minority Accounting Students

Who Can Apply: This scholarship awards education funding to minority students studying accounting, and has been doing so for more than 40 years. The award goes to undergraduate and graduate students studying accounting. Candidates must hold a 3.0 minimum GPA and be U.S. citizens.

Amount: $3,000-$5,000

Apply for Scholarship

Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship Program

Who Can Apply: The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners offers this scholarship to students pursuing careers as certified fraud examiners. Graduate students must be enrolled in an accredited college and taking at least six credits.

Amount: $1,000-$10,000

Apply for Scholarship

Herman J. Neal Scholarship

Who Can Apply: African-American graduate students pursuing a degree in accounting and CPA credential can apply for this scholarship. To apply, students need a minimum GPA and must sit for the Illinois CPA exam within three years of application.

Amount: $4,000

Apply for Scholarship

Association of Latino Professionals For America Scholarship Program

Who Can Apply: Established in 1972, ALPFA offers scholarships for its student members who are studying accounting. Students receive their awards at the national convention scholarship luncheon. Eligible applicants need a 3.0 minimum GPA.

Amount: $2,500-$10,000

Apply for Scholarship

Professional Organizations and Resources

Entering the workforce after college can overwhelm even the most prepared graduates. Professional accounting organizations help graduates and current students find a community of fellow forensic accountants to help them access job opportunities, obtain credentials, and find scholarships. Below, you can explore several professional accounting organizations.

  • Accounting & Financial Women's Alliance: AFWA began in 1938 with the goal of providing women with more opportunities in the field. Members get discounts to the national conference and access to scholarships, job boards, and a community of women in accounting.
  • The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants: Established in 1887, AICPA represents more than 429,000 members and sets the standards for audits. Accountants can earn numerous credentials through AICPA, including the CPA license.
  • American Accounting Association: AAA fosters a community where accountants can share research and collaborate. Members get access to AAA publications through the digital library and can post their resumes for free in the career center.
  • Association of Certified Fraud Examiners: With more than 85,000 members, ACFE works to eliminate fraud across the world. Becoming a member gives fraud examiners access to professional development opportunities, career services, and networking events.
  • National Society of Accountants: Established in 1945, the National Society of Accountants provides support for tax and accounting professionals. Professionals can earn certification in the field, including the accredited business advisor/accountant credential. Members also get accounting service discounts.