Students in economic crime investigation degree programs learn a broad range of high-tech crime investigation methods. The coursework tends to blend instruction in criminology and criminal justice with training on the computer information systems integral to analyzing various types of evidence. Students learn to use accounting principles to detect fraudulent records.
Associate degree programs offer foundational information in the criminal justice system and accounting, while bachelor's degree programs allow students to explore the subject more thoroughly. Master's degree programs are not common, but students can often choose their coursework and research options to create a program that focuses on economic crime. Students will need a high school education to enter an associate's or bachelor's degree program. Completion of an undergraduate degree is required to enter the master's degree program.
Associate's Degree in Economic Crime Investigation
Students enrolled in associate's degree programs in economic crime investigation learn fundamental accounting principles and how the United States' criminal justice system functions. Coursework also provides students with critical-thinking and effective decision-making skills, as well as how to use specific computer software and hardware.
The majority of economic crime investigation associate's degree programs do not have additional entrance requirements beyond a high school diploma or GED. Some associate's degree programs are specifically developed to meet the needs of students who intend to transfer to a bachelor's degree program in this field.
Students enrolled in an economic crime investigation associate's degree program normally take general education courses to complement their computer and criminal justice subjects. The majority of these programs can be completed in two years. Specific classes can include the following:
- Criminal justice
- Criminal investigation procedures
- Economic crime research
- Fundamentals of computer programs and systems
- Security principles and strategies
Bachelor's Degree in Economic Crime Investigation
Institutes of higher learning in the United States that offer bachelor's degree programs with an economic crime investigation major provide students with instruction and training in accounting and computer science subjects directly related to economic crimes. These courses often cover areas in business fraud, identity theft, and loss prevention. Prospective students are normally expected to have earned a diploma from an accredited secondary school or a GED prior to applying to the program.
An economic crime investigation bachelor's degree program includes coursework in criminal justice, sociology, philosophy, computer science, and psychology in order to give students an understanding of some of the elements that can cause economic crimes. Some of the specific coursework common to many of these programs can include:
- Criminal justice
- White collar crime and fraud
- Forensic accounting and investigation
- Computer forensics, networks, and security
- Micro and macro economics
Master's Degree in Economic Crime Management
It can be a bit difficult to find master's degree programs that specify a concentration in economic crime investigation; however, some are available. Other closely related master's degree program options include Master of Science in Digital Forensics and Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs with an emphasis on fraud management. Some institutes of higher learning also offer elective specialization options within these programs, including computing, criminal justice, legal studies, and forensic science. These master's degree programs do not typically require that additional education prerequisites for admission beyond an undergraduate degree.
Graduate-level degree programs in economic crime management are an interdisciplinary blend of a number of academic subjects, typically including computer science, criminal justice, law studies, engineering technology, and forensic science. Some of the specific course common these programs can include:
- Advanced computer security systems
- Wireless systems forensics and security
- Fraud investigation methods and strategies
- Economic crime investigation research and analytical techniques
- Legal concepts of financial investigations
Economic crime investigation programs at the associate's degree level prepare students for a variety of careers in several different fields. Some common career options include:
- Police officers and detectives
- Private detectives and investigators
- Insurance claim appraisers, adjusters and examiners
- Bill and account collectors
- Security and surveillance officers
Graduates of an economic crime investigation graduate degree program often enter an investigative career related to finance, according to the BLS. Some possible job titles include the following:
- Internal auditor
- Government accountant
- Forensic accountant
- Forensic investigator
Students who graduate from bachelor's degree programs with an emphasis on economic crime investigation are generally prepared for careers investigating various types of fraud and corruption criminal cases. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) categorizes jobs in this field under both detectives and claims investigators.
The number of jobs for private detectives, according to the BLS, was predicted to increase by about 5% between 2014 and 2024, which is in line with the average rate for most other occupations. The growth rate for claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners and investigators was 3%, which is slower than average for all jobs during the 2014-2024 decade, according to the BLS. In 2015, the BLS shows that the mean wage among all claims investigators, adjusters, appraisers, and examiners was $64,300 per year, while the mean wage for private detectives was $52,840.
Forensic accounting, digital forensics, and auditing are all types of economic crime investigation. Entry level positions in this field are available by first earning an associate's, bachelor's or master's degree in economic crime investigation or economic crime management.