At the master's degree level, programs specifically in fraud investigation are rare; however, students can study this field through several related programs. Some programs that contain coursework in fraud investigation include Master of Business Management (MBA) programs with concentrations in fraud management and Master of Science (MS) programs in Forensic Accounting. Graduates from these programs are prepared to analyze financial statements and assist attorneys in fraud investigations. Prior to graduate, they must demonstrate a superior command of financial instruments, corporate governance, internal auditing controls and taxation. In order to apply to these programs, students must hold a bachelor's degree. For the MS program in Forensic Accounting, students must also have passed the CPA exam.
Master of Business Management in Economic Crime and Fraud Management
Students earning their MBA in Economic Crime and Fraud Management acquire a wide range of financial analysis, corporate taxation and accounting skills. These are required to understand the nature of financial instruments, securities trading, insurance and generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). Graduates in the field use economic crime and fraud management knowledge to verify regulatory compliance in a wide variety of industries, including insurance, banking and finance. Aside from foundational MBA and accounting courses, students learn about quantitative and qualitative data analysis. Statistics and math courses provide a foundation for coursework that deals with complex financial instruments, taxation and insurance. Corporate and taxation policy may also be covered. Generally, a fraud investigation program covers:
- Fraud analysis
- Loss prevention
- Research methods
- Investigation techniques
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Master of Science in Forensic Accounting
Students in this program learn about regulatory requirements, such as the Sarbanes Oxley Act. Prior to graduation, they are often required to give a seminar on GAAP practices, fraud investigation and financial reporting. Students take coursework in advanced accounting, regulatory compliance and financial instruments. They also acquire statistical and quantitative research skills and the ability to generate financial reports for shareholders or government agencies, such as the Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC), Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Common course titles include:
- Forensic accounting principles
- Corporate finance
- Managerial economics
- Corporate taxation
Graduates of an MBA program with a concentration in fraud management or fraud investigation are prepared for careers related to financial investigations in both the public and private sectors. Some possible career titles include:
- Forensic accountant
- Internal auditor
- Financial investigator
- Government accountant
- Independent auditor
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to PayScale.com, the median salary of a forensic accountant was $64,939 as of January 2016. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that demand for financial analysts will rise by 12% between the years 2014 and 2024. The BLS also reported that the median annual salary for financial analysts was $80,310 as of May 2015. Employment growth is most likely because of the growing range of financial instruments and the demand for professionals with comprehensive knowledge of the economics of particular geographic regions.
Graduates from these programs are prepared for relevant industry certifications, such as the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners' Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) designation. While the minimum requirement to work in the field is a four-year degree and a passing score on the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam, graduates looking for a career in fraud investigation may also need to pass the CFE and Certified Forensic Accountant (CFA) exams.
Alternatively, students with master's degrees are eligible to enroll in Ph.D. programs. A Ph.D. in Accounting prepares students for careers in academia and research. Graduates may also find opportunities to work as consultants on fraud investigations with government agencies.
Because of the comprehensive financial skills students gained while earning a master's degree in a field related to fraud investigation, they graduate prepared for licensure and professional work in the field or further study.