An undergraduate program in forensic accounting covers the fundamentals and includes introductory general and forensic accounting coursework as well as general education subjects. The prerequisites for a bachelor's degree are a high school diploma and an interest in mathematics and computer operating systems. Aspiring accountants must successfully complete this degree program and pass their states' qualifying examination.
Master's-level programs allow students to conduct research while expanding their knowledge of fraud theories and corporate finance. Students will need a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field for the master's program. Graduates could pursue positions as senior forensic accounting managers or analysts.
Online coursework is available at both the undergraduate and the graduate level.
Bachelor of Science in Forensic Accounting
A four-year bachelor's degree program in forensic accounting typically consists of both forensic courses and accounting courses. Students first learn about the basics of accounting, economic trends, business and statistics, while familiarizing themselves with spreadsheets and databases in their coursework. They then learn how to perform audits, research accounting records and examine accounting information systems for potential fraud. Most bachelor's degree programs in the field also include courses related to the legal elements of forensic accounting and court interview techniques. Accounting programs typically last five years, and graduates are eligible to obtain the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation.
In addition to completing core courses in business, accounting and law, students enrolled in a bachelor's degree program in forensic accounting also take general education courses in mathematics, sciences and humanities. Some examples of core course topics commonly found in such programs include:
- Introductory accounting and managerial accounting
- Principles of finance
- Fraud examinations
- Legal aspects of fraud
- Tax auditing
Master of Science in Forensic Accounting
Graduate programs in forensic accounting are more common than undergraduate programs in the field. They are designed for students who already have an educational background in accounting or business. Students enrolled in a 2-year degree program in forensic accounting are expected to gain the skills needed to perform forensic accounting investigations and audits, examine information systems and offer litigation support. Such programs also often require students to examine case studies and conduct research in the field.
The courses found within a master's degree program in forensic accounting comprise practical and vocational lectures, as well as seminars covering theories and research. Examples of course topics are listed below.
- Information systems control and audit
- Advanced principles of forensic accounting and case studies in forensic accounting
- Fraud theory
- Occupational fraud and abuse
- Corporate finance
- Decision analysis
Popular Career Options
Forensic accountants who specialize in fraud are responsible for finding evidence of business fraud within accounting records and transactions and presenting that evidence within a court or legal setting.
Graduates of a master's degree program in forensic accounting are more likely to gain advanced or supervisory roles in the field. Some career titles open to these graduates include:
- Manager of forensic accounting
- Financial forensic analyst
- Senior forensic accountant
- Senior forensic consultant
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Accountants and auditors in general held over 1.4 million jobs in the country in 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accounting jobs are expected to increase 6% between 2018 and 2028, faster than the average rate for all occupations. According to PayScale.com, forensic accountants made a median annual salary of $72,000 in September 2019.
Individuals interested in becoming forensic accountants must first attain the CPA title. Those seeking CPA status must obtain licensure from their state's Board of Accountancy by passing an intensive 4-part examination. Individuals are typically required to complete coursework amounting to five years of undergraduate study before they can become CPAs.
Forensic accountants can gain specialized training and certification in forensic accounting through the National Association of Forensic Accountants (NAFA). The organization offers continuing education programs in 23 technical service areas of the field, including acquisitions and mergers, insider trading cases, kickback investigations, patent infringement losses, embezzlement, hidden assets investigation and more.
Undergraduate 4- to 5- year programs in forensic accounting can lead careers in investigating financial crimes. Master's degrees may lead to advancement in the field of forensic fraud accounting.