The need for accelerated online Master’s in Forensic Accounting programs has grown in the past few years; this may be due to the high number of financial crimes being reported in the country or because it is now easier than ever to try to hack into personal and business financial accounts. Now companies and employers are looking for dedicated and properly trained forensic accountants to help them sort out their financial issues. Whether a professional wants to be an accountant, working for the United States Secret Service, or help the Federal Bureau of Investigation, there are several options available in this industry.
To reach the highest levels of forensic accounting, however, professionals will need to earn a master’s degree in the field. This can be a difficult situation as most do not have the ability to study on campus, especially as full-time students. They need degrees that work for them, providing them with a flexible and affordable education that can see them graduate in two years or less.
Methodology: Ranking the Most Affordable Master’s in Forensic Accounting Accelerated Programs
To rank the most affordable master’s degree in forensic accounting online, the editors of Fast Online Master’s researched accredited, reputable programs offered in fully online and hybrid formats. Programs are presented in order of tuition cost, according to current IPEDS data.
1. West Virginia University
West Virginia University offers an online MS in Forensic and Fraud Examination program that can be completed in as little as 12 months. The program consists of 10 courses with 6 of them devoted to building key skills and knowledge in forensic and fraud examination. Students are taught with real-life and simulated case materials to prepare them for careers in forensic accounting, litigation support and fraud examination. The program also includes a CFE exam prep course to make students eligible to sit for the CFE exam.
West Virginia University (WVU) is the flagship university of the West Virginia public university system and has a space-grant affiliation. The main campus is located in Morgantown with three satellite campuses. The school enrolls about 27,000 students each academic years who are in pursuit of one of 350 bachelors, masters, doctoral and professional degrees offered across 14 colleges and schools. The school’s sports team compete in the NCAA Division I (Big 12) and ACHA Division I (CHMA).
Degree: MS in Forensic and Fraud Examination
2. Florida Atlantic University
The Executive MAcc – Forensic Accounting master’s degree program at Florida Atlantic University is a two-year program offered online, on-campus or hybrid. The online aspect of the program is designed to accommodate students from around the world with internet access as well as stateside students. Classes are taught by teachers with real life experience and have published books and articles on the topic of forensic accounting. Students who successfully complete the program will have learned skills and foundational knowledge in areas that include fraud investigation, litigation support, expert testimony, money-laundering investigation, and other skills related to the field of forensic accounting.
Florida Atlantic University (FAU) is a public university that’s ranked among the top public universities by U.S. News and World Report. The school enrolls over 30,000 students each academic year, but maintains a 21:1 student to faculty ratio in the classroom. FAU offers over 180 bachelors, masters, and doctoral degree programs. Its 19 athletic teams participate in the NCAA Division I.
Degree: Executive MAcc – Forensic Accounting
3. University of Colorado Denver
University of Colorado Denver offers an MS in Accounting – Auditing concentration program that prepares students to sit for the CPA exam as well as learn skills to work as a forensic accountant. Students who are looking to change careers are provided additional coursework that helps them comprehend the fundamentals of business and accounting prior to starting classes. Some of the core classes include auditing theory, accounting ethics, accounting information systems, taxation of business entities, and more. The degree program features an association with an advisory council made up of top accounting professionals in Denver which offers students the opportunity to find employment upon graduation.
University of Colorado Denver is a public research university and is part of the University of Colorado system. It has two campuses in Denver and Aurora, Colorado, and enrolls around 25,000 students each academic year. The school is noted for its Anschutz Medical Campus, a medical research facility that is highly regarded. UC offers 140 degree programs across 13 schools and colleges.
Degree: MS in Accounting – Auditing concentration
4. SUNY Polytechnic Institute
The MS in Accounting – Forensic Accounting degree program at SUNY Polytechnic Institute is a 33 credit hour program that is designed to satisfy the 150 hour CPA licensure requirement for New York State and features a forensic accounting concentration. The classes required for the forensic accounting concentration include introduction to forensic accounting and fraud examination, financial statement investigation, accounting information systems and data analytics and forensic accounting valuation. Graduates of the program who take the forensic accounting concentration will be able to enter into roles that seek people with forensic auditing skills.
SUNY Polytechnic Institute, or State University of New York Polytechnic Institute aka SUNY Poly, is a public university and is part of the State University of New York school system. Around 3,000 students enroll each year in order to earn one of 25 bachelors degrees, 18 masters degrees, and five doctoral degrees. The school has five different colleges and features research in semiconductors and microchips. The school’s athletic teams participate in the NCAA Division III, NEAC.
Degree: MS in Accounting – Forensic Accounting
5. Montclair State University
Montclair State University offers a MS in Accounting – Certificate in Forensic Accounting program for students who want to add to their existing knowledge of accountancy. The certificate program teaches students how to audit financial reporting documents in search of fraudulent activity, analyze information to determine if fraud is being committed, and track down how and where money was sent out of the organization. Students who complete the program are positioned to enter into a career in forensic accounting.
Montclair State University (MSU) is a public research university in New Jersey that features sea-grant and space-grant affiliations. The school has a classification of R2: Doctoral Universities — High research activities. It enrolls around 21,000 students each semester and offers over 300 majors, minors, and concentrations that result in certificates, bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees. The school’s sports teams participate in the NCAA Division III.
Degree: MS in Accounting – Certificate in Forensic Accounting
6. Golden Gate University
Golden Gate University offers a MAcc – Forensic Accounting program is designed for accountants and attorneys who are currently working in the forensic accounting field and want to add formal education to their existing knowledge and experience. Some of the classes offered in the program include fraud auditing, damages, economic damages, lost wages and unemployment litigation, complex discovery and data management, and more.
Golden Gate University (GGU or Golden Gate) is a private, non-profit university that enrolls around 5,300 students each academic year. The school offers a total of 21 bachelor degree programs, six with 11 concentrations and 15 with 24 concentrations. The school consists of four colleges that include business, taxation, law, and accounting. The main GGU campus is located in San Francisco and has satellite campuses in Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, and Seattle.
Degree: MAcc – Forensic Accounting
7. CSU Global
CSU Global offers a Master’s in Professional Accounting – Fraud Investigation and Forensic Accounting program that prepares students to sit for the CPA exam and offers a concentration in forensic accounting. The classes are offered as a concentration within the master’s degree program and cover topics such as advanced fraud investigations and forensic accounting, fraud and forensic accounting data analysis, and internal auditing. Students who complete the degree program may want to sit for the Certified Fraud Examiner certification, but should be aware that the program does not prepare them to take the test.
CSU Global, also known as Colorado State University Global, is an online-only public university that’s part of the Colorado State University System. It offers certificate, bachelors, and masters degree programs. The school was founded in 2008 to provide education to adult residents of Colorado and from around the world with high-quality online degree programs. CSU Global offers 15 bachelor degree programs with 30 specializations and accepts from previous degrees, CLEP credits, and life and work experience credits.
Degree: Master’s in Professional Accounting – Fraud Investigation and Forensic Accounting
8. Davenport University
The MAcc – Fraud Exam and Auditing program at Davenport University is designed to allow students to customize their education through specialty tracks including fraud examination and auditing, or forensic accounting. Students are required to take 18 credit hours in core courses with the remaining 12 hours consisting of classes in the student’s selected area of specialization. The program includes classes that prepare students to sit for the Certified Forensic Exam upon graduation. The program has specialized accreditation from the International Accreditation Council for Business Education.
Davenport University is a private, not for profit university located in Michigan. It has campuses located throughout the state and also offers online classes. The school offers post-graduate certificates, associates, bachelors, and masters degrees. It offers over 50 areas of major studies in areas that include the arts and sciences, health professions, technology, urban education, and business. The school’s sports teams participate in the NCAA Division II.
Degree: MAcc – Fraud Exam and Auditing
9. Bay Path University
Bay Path University offers an MS in Accounting program with a concentration in forensic accounting and prepares students to sit for the CPA exam. The curriculum requires a student to complete 21 credit hours in core courses with the remaining 9 hours in the forensic accounting concentration. Some of the classes in the concentration include advanced auditing, advanced cost accounting, forensics accountings/systems, and data analytics and IT for accountants. Upon completion of the course, students will be qualified to work in roles that require forensic accounting skills.
Bay Path University is a private university located in Massachusetts, and offers all-women bachelor’s degree programs and coed master’s degree programs along with an Occupational Therapy Doctorate and EdD in Higher Education Leadership and Organizational Studies programs. The school enrolls around 2,300 students each academic semester.
Degree: MS in Accounting
10. Gardner-Webb University
Gardner-Webb University offers a MAcc with an emphasis in Auditing degree program that requires 30 credit hours for completion. Students are required to take 15 hours in the core curriculum, nine hours in accounting electives, and six hours of graduate business electives. The forensic emphasis includes classes such as fraud examination, forensic accounting and the legal environment, ethics of accounting, judgment and decision-making, and more. The program prepares students to sit for the CPA exam upon graduation.
Gardner-Webb University (GWU, GW or Gardner-Webb) is a private Christian university located in North Carolina. It enrolls around 4,000 students each academic semester and offers programs on-campus and online. The school offers almost 80 major areas of studies that result in a bachelors or masters degree and features two doctorate degree programs. The school’s athletic teams participate in the NCAA Division – Big South Conference.
Degree: MAcc – Auditing emphasis
11. Liberty University
The MS in Accounting – Forensic program at Liberty University prepares students to sit for the Certified Public Accountant exam as well as prepare for the Certified Fraud Examiner credentials from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. Students learn how to uncover accounting discrepancies, abuses, find losses that indicate ongoing fraud, and create budgeting programs that keep a tighter control on finances. Classes include fraud examination, information technology and fraud, corporate governance and fraudulent financial reporting, and more.
Liberty University is a private evangelical Christian university in Virginia that enrolls around 15,000 students on campus and over 94,000 students in online classes each academic year. The school offers bachelors and masters degree programs, and four doctoral programs. The Carnegie Classification system considers the school to be a doctoral research university with moderate research activity. The National Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security recognize the school for excellence in cyber defense education.
Degree: MS in Accounting – Forensic
12. Regis University
Regis University offers a MS in Accounting – Fraud and Forensic Specialization concentration under its masters degree in accounting program. Students who don’t have a CPA can take classes to prepare for the exam as well as learn how to become a forensic accountant. The program teaches students how to work with public and private employers, audit financial records for evidence of fraud and other financial crimes, and prepare materials to demonstrate proof of criminal activity for employers and prosecutors.
Regis University is a private Jesuit university and is a member of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. Located in Denver, Colorado, the school enrolls around 8,400 students each year and offers bachelors and masters degrees. The school features colleges that include Health, Liberal Studies, Computer and Information Sciences, and Business. Its sports teams compete in the NCAA Division II – Rocky Mountain conference.
Degree: MS in Accounting – Fraud and Forensic Specialization
13. La Salle University
The MS in Economic Crime Forensics program at La Salle University is designed to educate students to work in the field of economic crime as fraud auditors, economic crime investigators, litigation support analysts, and anti-money laundering investigators. The degree program combines classes from areas that include Computer Information Science and Master of Business Administration. The online-only class is offered during traditional academic semesters of fall, spring and summer, and classes are offered live and recorded.
La Salle University is a private Catholic university located in Philadelphia, Pennysylvania, and is operated by the Christian Brothers. The school has an average enrollment of 5,200 students each academic year, and offers 83 undergraduate degrees in 56 majors and 22 broad fields of study. Athletic teams at La Salle University compete in the NCAA Division I – Atlantic 10, Philadelphia Big 5, and City 6.
Degree: MS in Economic Crime Forensics
14. New England College
New England College offers an MS in Forensic Accounting program that builds upon traditional accounting skills in order to prepare a student to work as a financial auditor and investigator. The program brings together disciplines from the accounting and legal fields and teaches students how to refine their analytical skills and identify signs of fraudulent behavior. Upon completion of the program, students will have the ability to apply deductive and judgment skills, know how to spot questionable accounting practices in complex financial transactions designed to hide fraudulent behavior, and be able to demonstrate and communicate their findings in a prepared statement and a court of law.
New England College (NEC) is a private liberal arts school located in Henniker, New Hampshire. It enrolls around 2,800 students each academic year and offers nine associates degrees, 37 bachelors degrees, 12 masters degrees, and one doctoral degree program spread across four different schools. The school’s athletic teams participate in the NCAA Division III.
Degree: MS in Accounting – Forensic
15. Stevenson University
The MS in Forensic Accounting program at Stevenson University is an online program that’s designed to accommodate working adults and recent graduates who are seeking to improve their career outlook. The degree program educates students in areas that include assessing fraud risk, adequacy of internal control structures, evaluate financial evidence, how to communicate findings clearly and effectively, and provide testimony during legal proceedings. The program recognizes the fact that there is more demand than ever for expert witnesses in the courtrooms, and focuses on preparing students for a role as an expert witness in forensic accounting.
Stevenson University is a private university that enrolls about 3,600 students each academic year. The university has certificates, bachelors and masters degree programs, and offers more than 90 majors with all degree programs having a core curriculum in the liberal arts and a career emphasis. The school’s sport teams participate in the NCAA Division III.
Degree: MS in Forensic Accounting
Why Are Forensic Accountants in Demand?
One of the fastest-growing segments of accounting is forensics. Forensic accountants are in demand due to the increase of financial regulations, but that’s not the only reason why there’s a demand for qualified forensic accountants. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) estimates that organizations around the world lose 5% of their revenue to fraud on an annual basis. ACFE estimated that a total of $3.6 billion was lost to fraud in 125 countries in 2020 alone. As a result, more organizations are putting out ads for forensic accountants jobs in order to reduce the amount of money lost to fraud.
A major part of the reason why organizations are adding forensics accounting jobs to their employee rosters is due to a turn to the use of civil courts for redressing the fraud as opposed to obtaining criminal charges. Organizations have decided that bringing civil suits against thieves is a more effective method of recovering stolen assets than relying on the criminal justice system. Adding more forensic accountants jobs to help uncover fraud is a major part of that move.
How Much Does a Forensic Accountant Make?
The average forensic accounting salary for a graduate that’s fresh out of school starts around $50,000. As a forensic accountant gains experience, more certifications, and broadens their area of specialties, the average forensic accounting salary grows. A senior level auditor earns an average forensic accountant salary of $150,000 with room to grow. Someone who decides to take on the role of forensic accountant can expect to earn a high forensic accounting salary after graduation even if they’re in an entry-level position. Employers are willing to pay good forensic accounting salaries due to the specialization of the role and the potential to save and recover money lost to fraud.
The field of forensic accounting has multiple career pathways that offer the opportunity to specialize in a specific area of forensic accounting. Some of these pathways build upon and further refine the knowledge of a forensic accountant and boost the average forensic accounting salary. On the other hand, a forensic accountant that has learned multiple areas of forensic accounting subspecialties can also earn a higher than average forensic accountant salary due to possessing more experience and skills than most forensic accountants.
What is Forensic Accounting?
The job title of forensic accounting doesn’t reveal much as to the actual nature of the work that’s performed by the role. The use of the word forensic suggests that the role is one of investigations à la CSI and other crime programs on TV. So, just what is forensic accounting? The basic description of forensic accounting is that it’s the investigation of financial records in search of fraud and other non-approved use of funds. On the surface, answering the question of “what is forensic accounting” makes it sound like it’s not very interesting, especially when compared with other avenues of uncovering and fighting crime. However, forensic accounting can be fascinating and exciting for those who are interested in chasing down criminals, but don’t want to go into law enforcement.
Forensic accounting is a specialized area of accounting that draws upon various accounting skills. The forensic accountant looks through financial records to determine discrepancies the same as if they were working as a CPA, but instead of tracking finances and maintaining a balance sheet, a forensic accountant is looking to see where the money went. People who are best suited for the career are those who are good with numbers, want to help others, and are interested in using their skills to expose thieves. Forensic accountants spend a lot of time thinking, analyzing, checking information against known sets of data to determine if fraud is present and uncovering the trails that thieves left behind as they transferred money out of the organization.
What Does a Forensic Accountant Do?
The role of a forensic accountant is to find where money went to and determine how to recover the funds. The basic job description for a forensic accountant includes one or two types of functions: investigation or litigation support. Some forensic accountants do both if they have the skills to assist with legal procedures as well as perform investigative accounting. Most of the time, however, a job description for a forensic accountant seeks an individual with one of the two roles.
As previously mentioned, a forensic accountant can work as a generalist or engage in one of the many specialties in the field. Following is a look at what does a forensic accountant do as part of their job:
- Audits financial records in search of fraud
- Works independently and as part of a team as needed
- Present summary reports of their findings
- Testify as an expert witness
- Work with lawyers and law enforcement.
A forensic accountant audits financial records in search of misappropriated funds, tracks where the money went, and provides incontrovertible proof that the money was taken fraudulently. The information they uncover during their investigation can eventually be used in criminal or civil court against a thief.
What are the Career Options for an Accelerated Online Master’s in Forensic Accounting Degree?
- Certified Public Accountant
- Certified Fraud Examiner
- Forensic Accountant
- Fraud Financial Examiner
- Senior Forensic Accountant
- Senior Tax Manager
- Certified Fraud Specialist
- Federal Bureau of Investigation Financial Special Agent
- Internal Revenue Service Auditor
- Forensic Staff Accountant
- Team Leader for Fraud Investigation
- External Fraud Investigations Team Lead
- Senior Payments and Fraud Analyst
- Forensic Accounting and Advisory Service Managing Director
- Director of Forensic Accounting and Litigation Support
- Personal Financial Advisors
- Budget Analyst
- Tax Revenue Agents
What are the Various Disciplines of Forensic Accounting?
Forensic accounting is considered an interdisciplinary field that is firmly rooted in accounting and financial analysis. Since the field is about the investigation of financial records and statements, the field consists of more than just those two disciplines.
Disciplines included in this field include public policy, civil or private law, business, auditing, economy, and finance. Professionals will have to incorporate these disciplines with their investigative and analytical skills. They will also be expected to have excellent interpersonal, conflict management, and resolution skills.
The forensic accounting field is complex and challenging but is also a great option for professionals who are interested in financial crime and want to be at the forefront of stopping this type of crime. Most professionals in the field will have a bachelor’s degree in accounting, but graduate education is needed to really be a viable candidate for leadership positions in this industry. An accelerated online Master’s in Forensic Accounting is a great flexible program that will help professionals reach the heights of their career.