Programs in forensic accounting and master's degree programs in fraud management typically offer coursework in fraud investigation, and provide students with a strong business background. Undergraduate programs in forensic accounting are available but not common. An associate's degree provides an introduction to this profession, but a bachelor's degree is the minimum educational requirement for working in the field and attaining certification as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). More advanced degrees prepare students for executive-level accountant, analyst, or investigator positions. Master's degree programs are often offered in business administration with a concentration in financial fraud examination and management. Courses and programs are available online. Admission requirements vary by level, though a master's program will expect students to hold a bachelor's degree in business or have met the required relevant coursework requirement.
Associate's Degree Forensic Accounting Overview
This associate's degree program gives students a basic understanding of forensic accounting. Basic math and business courses provide students with an introduction to the program and a foundation in the field. This program is not offered at many schools and further education is recommended if students would like to seriously pursue this as a career choice. The courses offered in this program are basic and include business, finance, math and fraud investigation introductory courses. These are some of the courses offered in the core and major areas of the program:
- Accounting and finances
- Beginning and intermediate accounting
- Fraud investigation and examination
- Ethics and laws of fraud investigation
- Business calculus and statistics
Bachelor's Degree in Forensic Accounting Overview
This program offers students the skill set needed to become a forensic accountant. Applicants should be prepared to submit a high school diploma and qualifying grades and test scores. The Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Forensic Accounting is a very rare program and it gives a solid understanding of accounting and fraud investigation. The courses offered in this program teach students accounting and auditing skills, as well as ways to prevent and track down white-collar crime. Students take a base of accounting and auditing courses that give potential financial investigators a strong understanding of business laws and loss-prevention strategies. These are some of the core courses students will take:
- Business law, fraud and ethics
- Investigative techniques and strategies
- Financial principles
- Information systems
- Auditing principles
Master's Degree in Fraud Management Overview
This master's degree program typically awards the Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Fraud Management or MBA with a financial fraud examination and management concentration. It blends a business degree with fraud management, molding students into professional fraud managers, investigators or examiners. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree in business or a bachelor's degree from another field with specific prerequisite courses.
The background provided by this program gives students skills that allow them to venture into fields such as banking, telecommunications, insurance and finance. This program offers students a typical MBA core, giving students a thorough background in business administration, but then precedes those courses with a series of fraud detection, prevention and analysis courses. These are some of the courses that concentrate in fraud:
- Fraud detection, prevention, and investigation
- Management and leadership
- Researching and analyzing fraud methods
- Computer-related fraud
- Ethics in fraud
Certification and Licensing
In order to become a CPA, students typically need to have a bachelor's degree with 150 hours of education and pass a national CPA Examination that is overseen by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and offered by the state boards of accountancy; however, this can vary by state.
There are several other certification levels of accountants, including Certified Management Accountant, Certified Internal Auditor, Certified Information Systems Auditor and others. Professionals need certain experience and to pass different accountancy tests to qualify and these levels are all overseen by different organizations, similar to the CPA.
Graduates with an associate's degree may attain an entry-level position in accounting, auditing, fraud investigation, loss prevention and criminology. Students interested in becoming full-time forensic accountants will need to pursue their bachelor's degree.
The master's degree program prepares graduates for executive-level positions in many fraud and finance based careers. They can become fraud examiners, auditors, compliance officers, financial analysts, investigators and several types of accountants. There are also several positions in financial consulting that are available as well. Students with this degree have many options because they appeal to private and corporate companies, banks and the federal government.
Professionals trained in fraud management may be able to pursue employment in a variety of roles. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), financial examiners are expected to see a 7% growth from 2018 to 2028 and a median income of $80,180 per year, as of May 2018. Accountants and auditors should see faster-than-average job growth (at 6% over the same period) while bringing in a median of $70,500 annually. Among other reasons, the employment increases are largely attributed to changes in financial laws and governance regulations in response to recent corporate scandals and financial crises (www.bls.gov).
Aside from these positions, another potential fraud management career is in the insurance field as a claims adjuster, examiner or investigator. These professionals earn a median annual income of $65,900, according to the BLS in May 2018. Employment is only expected to decline by four percent over the 2018-2028 decade. However certain industries, particularly health insurance, may see growth as medical costs rise and federal legislation likely increases the number of people with health insurance.
The field of fraud management is an interesting one, especially for those with an interest in business and financial crime. There are a number of career opportunities within the discipline, especially when individuals pursue advanced degrees and professional certification.