Both undergraduate and graduate certificates in forensic accounting are available through entirely online study, but graduate certificate programs are not common. Students may complete an undergraduate certificate as a supplement to an associate's or bachelor's degree in accounting, although a degree is not required. If the student has no background in accounting, additional courses may be required. A bachelor's degree is necessary to enter a graduate certificate program. Some programs may offer students the option to complete a voluntary internship at the undergraduate level.
Although credentialing is not mandatory, individuals may be able to qualify for professional credentials in forensic accounting if they meet education and experience requirements. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants offers the Certified in Forensic Accounting credential.
Undergraduate Certificate in Forensic Accounting
Through this certificate program, students study fraudulent activities in finances and accounting. They learn to identify and investigate theft of property and funds, as well as insurance claims. The program requires only that students have previously earned a high school diploma.
Program Information and Requirements
This certificate program takes 12 to 18 months to complete. The courses are available entirely online. There are no in-person components for this program, although some students may choose to complete an internship, requiring in-person training. Typically, students use Blackboard to log into their courses, through which they watch lectures, participate in class discussions, interact with students and turn in assignments completely online.
Students taking online courses should have high-speed Internet access and computer software that includes Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel.
Through this professional certificate, students only take courses related to forensic accounting. Credits from these classes can be transferred to an associate's degree or bachelor's degree program.
Students learn techniques for examining computer crime scenes. They learn to find and interrogate witnesses, gather evidence and determine suspects.
Preventing and Examining Fraud
This course examines techniques specifically designed to prevent fraudulent activity. Students learn how to determine when checks have been tampered with, examine misappropriations and uncover corruption within a business.
Auditing and Controlling Computers
Students study ways to control computer systems. They study systems design, maintenance and ways to use this information to gather evidence of financial crimes.
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Graduate Certificate in Forensic Accounting
Through this online certificate, students develop the skills necessary to investigate a crime scene where financial crimes have taken place. They study ways to tell that a financial statement has been altered, that computer files have been tampered with or that other crimes related to banking, finances and accounting have occurred.
This program requires that students have previously completed at least a bachelor's degree, preferably in accounting or a related field. This business-driven program isn't overly common online, although some universities do offer it.
Program Information and Requirements
An online graduate forensic accounting certificate can be completed in about one year. Available entirely online, this program uses a wide variety of formats, including video, lecture, notes and audio to train students and help them learn the concepts and ideas presented. Students access the course through a Web-based educational server, such as Blackboard, and follow lectures, turn in assignments and interact with classmates.
For this program, students should have Internet access, and a computer with a sound card and a media player. They also need to have computer software, such as Microsoft Word and PowerPoint so they can turn in assignments.
Graduate certificates are typically short, offering advanced training in a specific subject, building upon the skills students already have.
Principles of Forensic Accounting
Students study the basics of forensic accounting and examine the roles and expectations of forensic accountants. They examine government requirements and study cases of fraud to fully understand the process.
Investigating Fraud in Accounting
This course provides students with the opportunity to gain practical, hands-on experience examining actual cases of fraud using common investigative techniques and gaining evidence to prove the way the crime was committed. Students examine payroll problems, bribery, accounting issues, insurance fraud and billing schemes.
Students examine the litigation process for when cases involving forensic accounting go to court. They study ways to determine future earnings to determine ways to settle financial disputes.
Upon completion of an undergraduate certificate in accounting forensics, students could find jobs as bankers, tellers or bookkeepers. More advanced positions, such as accounting careers, require at least a bachelor's degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In May 2015, bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks made a median annual salary of $37,250; bank tellers made a median annual salary of $26,410 (www.bls.gov)
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), the median annual salary for accountants and auditors was $67,190 in May 2015. Those in forensic accounting could earn more or less depending upon their employer, specific responsibilities and training.
Forensic accounting is a highly interdisciplinary field that combines studies in finance and criminal justice. Earning an online certificate in this field enables students to build the skills they need to detect accounting fraud without having to commit to on-campus coursework.