While the word “forensics” is typically associated with crime scene analysis and specialized criminal investigations, in reality, CSI only represents one aspect of the industry. Forensic psychologists, for example, work within the criminal justice system to examine the behavioral and emotional underpinnings of violent crimes, assessing the mental health of people accused or convicted of crimes. There are also forensic accountants whose investigative skills are used to detect financial crimes like fraud or embezzlement. Law enforcement agencies and private clients such as attorneys, insurance companies, and financial institutions can employ these expert analysts.
Unlike auditors, who may focus exclusively on a company’s compliance with specific standards or practices, forensic accountants can look at all facets of business activity to search for possible wrongdoing, from individual accounts and departmental processes to overall operations and procedures.
Forensic accountants are called upon to uncover various white-collar crimes, including corruption, missing assets, money laundering, or negligence. More granularly, these professionals perform damage assessments, rigorously analyze financial data, work with cross-disciplinary teams, and serve as expert witnesses in court. Not surprisingly, this career requires strong attention to detail and a working knowledge of financial and legal systems.
Overall, becoming a forensic accounting professional can provide a rewarding career; in fact, the National Association of Forensic Accountants (NAFA) reported that Al Capone—one of the most notorious criminals in American history—was finally brought to justice through the patient application of this discipline, which unearthed evidence of embezzlement, insurance fraud, money laundering, and other financial crimes.
Additionally, the opportunities for accountants—including those focused on forensics—are steadily growing. For illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2022) projected that accounting positions would grow 6 percent between 2021 and 2031—adding 81,800 jobs nationally. This is slightly faster than the average growth expected across all occupations during that decade (5 percent).
Forensic accountants also command relatively generous salaries. According to a survey published by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE 2020) titled the Compensation Guide for Anti-Fraud Professionals, forensic accountants with a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) certification earn 34 percent more. Specifically, the ACFE reported the following annual salary ranges for CFE-credential and non-CFE credential holders:
|CFE Credential Holders
|Non-CFE Credential Holders
In short, these professionals can expect a relatively bright career outlook into the future. So how does a person become a forensic accountant? Candidates must typically have at least a bachelor’s degree to achieve professional certification through esteemed entities such as the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), or the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), among others. For those seeking more leadership opportunities and higher pay, however, earning a master’s degree can prove beneficial, especially with the rise of distance-based educational pathways.
This guide examines the wealth of online master’s degrees in forensic accounting, including discussions of the coursework, typical costs, and four exceptional online professors.
|Fraud & Forensic Accounting Graduate Programs
|MBA - Forensic Accounting
|The University of Scranton
|Online Master of Accountancy - Forensic Accounting
|Stevenson University Online
|Online Master's in Forensic Accounting
|Stevenson University Online
|Online Master's in Forensic Studies
|Online MS - Financial Crime & Compliance Mgmt
|MS in Accounting - Forensic Accounting
For full-time workers, people living in rural areas, or those with family commitments, attending a traditional, campus-based program can be difficult. Fortunately there’s a growing number of online graduate programs in forensic accounting to accommodate people with time- and distance-based constraints.
These master’s degree programs generally combine web-based lectures, assignments, and examinations, along with an in-person component or externship, typically completed under the guidance of a locally approved mentor. In short, an online program can allow forensic accounting students the flexibility to design their studies around their lives, providing the latest accounting techniques plus some more advanced methods of investigation and detection.
Here are six standout online master’s degree programs in forensic accounting and three graduate certificate programs:
Southern New Hampshire University, Online MS in Accounting, Forensic Concentration
This distance-based master’s of science (MS) program teaches students to closely examine complex financial arrangements, including bankruptcies, contract disputes, and mergers and acquisitions. Over 15 months, students also learn how forensic accounting evidence can be presented in court.
Completing this program can help qualify someone for more technical jobs or provide excellent groundwork for professional certifications such as certified public accountant (CPA), certified fraud examiner (CFE), and certified management accountant (CMA) credentials.
New England College, Online MS in Accounting, Forensic Concentration
This distance-based program provides a collaborative and flexible environment to learn intricate details about the investigative process, forensic accounting, and proper reporting methods for litigation purposes. This degree program typically takes two years to complete and includes 40 credits, mainly focusing on leadership and deductive skills.
They also prepare students to apply for professional certifications, including the CFE designation. The core accounting classes include 24 credits in intermediate accounting; cost accounting; and federal taxation, while the forensic concentration includes 16 credits in internal audit and risk management, among others.
Strayer University, Online MS in Forensic Accounting
This program builds upon undergraduate knowledge in accounting, honing students’ grasp of technical topics such as organizational environments, risk assessments, and complex fraud detection and prevention.
This online master of science in forensic accounting satisfies the requirements to allow the student to sit for various professional certifications. Notably, “success coaches: assist online and on-campus students. This program consists of 12 courses offered in 11-week terms.
Bay Path University, Online MS in Accounting, Forensics Track
This fully online master’s of science in accounting program is designed to be flexible, so students can complete their 30 required credits in eight, 12, or 24 months.
Bay Path provides instruction in modern methods of accounting and meets CPA requirements. It is also designed to accommodate the busy season of working accountants, requiring no coursework between January and April. Graduates from this program go to work as forensic accountants, comptrollers, and similar positions.
Cambridge College Global, Online MS in Business Ethics, Forensic Accounting Concentration
This 30-credit online forensic accounting master’s degree program offers students advanced skills to qualify for a variety of positions, including compliance officers, compliance managers, financial examiners, and auditors. Students who choose the forensic accounting program study fraud examination and techniques, forensic data analysis, and forensic accounting in financial services. Students choose from two additional elective courses and complete a capstone project to complete this master’s program.
Utica College, Online MS in Financial Crime & Compliance Management
This 36-credit distance-based master’s of science program prepares students for leadership roles within their organizations to identify or prevent fraud. The program was created in partnership with the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS), which can provide tuition discounts for students willing to take the CAMS exam upon completion. It also provides information to sit for the CFE credential.
Finally, noteworthy online graduate certificate programs in forensic accounting include:
In general, the admissions processes for online forensic accounting graduate programs are similar to their on-campus counterparts. The admissions requirements generally include:
Prospective online students in forensic accounting are advised to ensure that their desired program follows current educational and industry standards in its curriculum, especially if the institution is based in another state. There are varied accreditation bodies across the country, but they aren’t all created equal.
In general, the most reputable organizations have been recognized by the US Department of Education’s Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), including these six regional accreditation bodies:
Additionally, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) is an internationally recognized accreditation entity for business schools, many of which have forensic accounting tracks.
Lastly, prior to applying to a distance-based graduate school, students should verify an institution’s “state authorization” status. In short, sometimes, a school based in one state isn’t allowed to offer online education to students from certain other states. Fortunately, programs typically list this information on their websites (e.g., Southern New Hampshire University), and for schools which don’t, students should contact program coordinators to ensure eligibility.
As dean of the School of Accounting and Bruce F. Braden School of Taxation at Golden Gate University, Fred Sroka, JD offers both in-person and online instruction in taxation and accounting.
Shortly after retiring from PricewaterhouseCoopers, he was appointed program dean in 2014. He has been an instructor at GGU since the early 1980s and serves on the institution’s tax advisory board. Notably, he practiced as a tax lawyer for 18 years.
Dr. Decorti Rodgers-Tonge serves as an associate at Central Connecticut State University. Previously, she was the undergraduate program chair at Bay Path University, a women’s only college at the undergraduate level.
Dr. Rogers-Tonge has two decades of experience in public and private sector accounting, including managing auditing for various clients, focusing on their compliance and financial functions. These included major corporations such as CIGNA Healthcare, Voya Financial, and Traveler’s Insurance.
Dr. Debra Touhey has been specializing in online program delivery for 20 years, emphasizing accounting and leadership. She currently holds an adjunct position at the American College of Financial Services and delivers YouTube educational lectures through her private site.
Along with her education work, she is the vice president/controller of South Florida Financial Services, which focuses on complex financial issues, insurance, fraud, and auditing in four states. She has also held online teaching positions at Grand Canyon University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Broward College. Her numerous degrees include a doctorate in business administration and finance from Northcentral University and a master of science in accountancy from the University of Phoenix.
Jocelyn Blore is the chief content officer of Sechel Ventures and the co-author of the Women Breaking Barriers series. She graduated summa cum laude from UC Berkeley and traveled the world for five years. She also worked as an addiction specialist for two years in San Francisco. She’s interested in how culture shapes individuals and systems within societies—one of the many themes she writes about in her blog, Blore’s Razor (Instagram: @bloresrazor). She has served as managing editor for several healthcare websites since 2015.