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Several community colleges and four-year institutions offer forensic accounting training online through degree or certificate programs. They may be offered entirely online or in a blended format that includes short-term residencies. Distance learning programs, depending on the degree level, focus on fundamental accounting knowledge, identification of and response to fraudulent activities and methods for preventing related crimes within businesses or organizations. Training often is designed to prepare students for earning the Certified Fraud Examiner credential from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners as well. Examples of available online programs include the following:
- Certificate in Forensic Accounting
- Associate of Science in Forensic Accounting
- Bachelor of Science in Forensic Accounting and Fraud Examination
- Executive Master of Accounting with a concentration in Forensic Accounting
- Master of Business Administration in Economic Crime and Fraud Management
To be eligible for admission into an undergraduate program, students generally need a high school diploma or GED. Applicants to graduate-level programs must have a bachelor's degree and possibly GRE or GMAT scores. Online forensic accounting programs could require students to have taken certain prerequisite courses in areas like principles of accounting, accounting systems, and auditing.
Learning & Coursework
Many distance learning forensic accounting programs are conducted totally online. Students use their up-to-date computers with high-speed Internet access to complete coursework in a virtual classroom environment. In general, course materials are exchanged through an online course management system. Tests may also be given through this interface.
Learning is frequently asynchronous, although assignments may have firm due dates. Distance learners should feel comfortable sending and receiving emails and attachments, uploading or downloading files, making class discussion board posts or live chatting with peers and instructors online.
Students can enroll in an online 2-year or 4-year degree program in accounting with a forensic accounting track. Some undergraduate certificate programs may also be offered, although this is less common. The online curriculum in associate's and bachelor's degree programs may emphasize the role of technology in the field and computer investigations. Common coursework in this major can include the following:
- Basic and forensic accounting principles
- Auditing procedures
- Fraud detection
- Fraud prevention
- Interviewing skills
- Criminal law as it relates to accounting
Working accountants seeking forensic accounting training can earn a certificate in forensic accounting or master's degree in accounting with a forensic accounting specialization. Students will typically build upon their existing accounting knowledge and learn more in-depth skills related to opening, conducting and reporting on forensic accounting investigations. Case studies and data analysis may be part of the program. Topics such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 may also be discussed, along with utilizing technology to perform forensic accounting activities.
Some programs require a short-term residency, where a limited number of on-campus visits are required for a few days at a time. In that case, students meet cohort learners and participate through in-person learning with experienced professionals. Some graduate-level programs also offer continuing education units.
Online undergraduate and graduate programs in forensic accounting are multidisciplinary, combining studies in finance and law. Even though courses may be conducted entirely online, virtual classroom environments make it possible for students to watch lectures, communicate with instructors and discuss cases with classmates, just as they would in an on-campus program.