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Master’s in Forensic Accounting Degree Programs

The enticement to “fix” a company’s accounting books may be tempting, particularly in a time of economic unrest or while a company is on the road to recovery. Professionals trained to detect these types of fraudulent changes in accounting are known as forensic accountants and higher education programs are available to help them learn more about fraud and detection, financial statement sheets, and auditing and assurance. With the 10-year job demand for the forensic accounting field expected to grow by 15.7 percent, according to CNN Money, and a career that has median pay falling at $103,000, this may be a career that is hard to resist. Many master’s in forensic accounting degrees are available to help professionals obtain needed knowledge and training.

Prerequisites for a master’s in forensic accounting

Admission requirements for students seeking master’s in forensic accounting degrees will vary by program and school. For example, at the school of business at the University of Albany, State University of New York, an undergraduate degree in accounting is required for master’s degree applicants, and, if they don’t have this, then they must have a minimum of 24 undergraduate credits in accounting. By comparison, the prerequisites are different for master’s degree applicants at the University of Charleston, in West Virginia, where they need to have at least six undergraduate credits in accounting, six undergraduate credits in economics, and three undergraduate credits in finance. Other schools may only require completion of a bachelor’s degree, although undergraduate accounting coursework will surely offer a learning advantage. Many other requirements may be necessary for admission to a master’s degree program, including letters of recommendation, completion of the Graduate Record Examination or the Graduate Management Admission Testing, a standard GPA, often a minimum 3.0, and even an interview.

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Common courses

Many master’s in forensic accounting programs will be from 30 to 36 credits in length. Some may be fast-tracked and completed in one year while others may allow students to work at their own pace. In general, the Master of Forensic Accounting, often referred to as an MFAcc or MFA, enables students to learn more about aspects of the field such as criminology, legal issues, professional ethics and various data-analysis methodologies. Students may also learn about cyber forensics, internal auditing, and risk management. Case studies and role management may be part of some learning, and some courses may even be offered as part of a Masters of Science in Forensic Accounting, or MS, program. Master’s level courses often include:

  • Fraud Examination: Detection and Deterrence
  • Principles of Forensic Accounting
  • Topics in Audit and Assurance Services
  • Economic Analysis
  • Digital Forensics
  • Financial Statement Analysis

Instead of individual classes, some programs may also be offered through cohorts, such as that with Southeastern University, in Lakeland, Florida. In this program, five 12-week cohorts build one upon another, advancing students from concept to concept as they expand their learning framework and structural knowledge. Many programs also give students the opportunity to complete the extra coursework needed to apply for certified public accountant (CPA) licensure. This is true of the masters in forensic accounting programs at the University of Albany, the College at Brockport, State University of New York and Widener University, in Chester, Pennsylvania, which happens to offer a master’s of science in forensic accounting and analytics, or MSFAA.

Additionally, many of these programs prioritize flexibility for students, offering them online learning or the ability to take classes in the evening. For example, at the College of Brockport, classes in its forensics accounting masters start after 5 p.m. so that students have the chance to work or to complete internships during the day. Students can also complete their degree in either one to two years at the school, depending upon their part-time or full-time enrollment. Finally, they can take up to nine credits, or three courses, on a non-matriculated basis, meaning they don’t even have to be admitted into the program.

Hybrid and online degrees

To offer students even more options, master’s in forensic accounting programs are being made available through web-based learning, which may be wholly online or available through hybrid learning that provides a mixture of campus-based on online classes. Below is a list of schools offering some of these e-learning options for masters in forensic accounting.

  • The program available through Southeastern University is hybrid, allowing students to complete most of their courses online but requiring students to head to campus at least once per semester for 16 hours of face-to face contact. As mentioned, this masters in forensic accounting is built around the concept of modules, allowing students to expand their knowledge as they advance through each.
  • The University of Charleston also takes a hybrid approach in instruction. Students are at campus for a total of eight two-day class sessions for each of the five 12-week modules comprising the program. These two-day sessions run late Friday and during the day Saturday and include meals, but much of the learning also occurs through the school’s online learning portal.
  • Finally, many schools offer an online masters in accounting with a concentration in forensic accounting, which often has a broader overall accounting focus and fewer classes specifically focused in forensic accounting. Nonetheless, these accounting degrees also target many of the important forensic accounting topics. New England College is an online program offering a concentration in forensic accounting while Southern New Hampshire University offers a similar program, requiring students to take four courses in forensic accounting, including Interview Techniques/Legal Aspects of Fraud and Intro to Forensic Accounting/Fraud Exam. Florida Atlantic University, in Boca Raton, is yet another school that has a master’s program in accounting with a concentration in forensic accounting, but with a program based on two years of instruction.

Students interested in forensic accounting may want to give further thought to whether a degree entirely focused in forensic accounting is their objective or whether a masters degree in accounting with a forensic accounting concentration would be a sufficient alternative.

Accreditation

Students planning to enroll in a master’s in forensic accounting program will want to ensure that their school is accredited by a regional agency and accredited nationally through the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB). This association, which accredits business schools, has 180 schools accredited for their accounting programs. For example, the University of Albany has regional accreditation through the Middle State Commission on Higher Education and both business and accounting accreditation through the AACSB. In fact, this dual accreditation in both business and accounting through the AACSB is rare, and has only been obtained by approximately two percent of the 13,000 business schools worldwide, reports the University of Albany.