Best Master's Degrees in Forensic Accounting of 2022

Updated September 26, 2022

An online master's degree in forensic accounting can help advance your career. This guide will cover the cost of this degree, plus career and salary expectations.

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A master's in forensic accounting develops advanced financial investigation skills. This accounting specialization uses deep analysis to identify irregularities in financial statements and activities.

Forensic accountants do not need to possess specialized licensure. However, multiple professional organizations offer optional certifications in the field. These credentials signal a professional's commitment to the field and may boost job prospects and earning potential.

Graduate degree-holders tend to post significantly higher pass rates on accounting examinations. They also develop stronger expertise in specialized fields through additional years of advanced study.

Students can maximize these benefits by selecting rigorous forensic accounting programs that match their professional goals. This ranked list of the top forensic accounting college programs of 2022 is a great place to start your search.

Why Get a Master's in Forensic Accounting?

  • Superior Preparation for Certification Exams: Forensic accountants do not require specific licensure to practice. However, many opt to earn valuable credentials such as the certified fraud examiner endorsement. A master's in forensic accounting doubles as an excellent certification exam prep opportunity.
  • Enhanced Networking Opportunities: Forensic accounting college programs are excellent for connecting with potential mentors and employers. Traditional campus-based and hybrid programs tend to maximize these opportunities. Keep this in mind as you search for programs if network-building is a high priority for you.
  • Increased Earning Potential: Payscale data from June 2022 indicates that accounting professionals with master's degrees earn strong salaries. A bachelor of accountancy yielded an average base salary of $71,000. Meanwhile, those with comparable master's degrees earned an average of $3,000 more per year.

What to Expect From Graduate Forensic Accounting College Programs

Forensic accounting master's programs cultivate deep, agile, and advanced accounting skills that build on undergraduate coursework. Coursework also emphasizes the importance of professional ethics, given the complexity of many fraud investigations.

Master's programs in forensic accounting usually cover about 30-36 credits. Institutions follow varying schedules. Some space their courses out over two full academic years, while others offer more compact paths to graduation. Typical timelines range from about 14-24 months.

Notably, some master of forensic accounting programs do not require applicants to hold bachelor's degrees in accounting. Students with non-accounting academic backgrounds typically need to complete additional courses to bridge knowledge gaps.

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Degree and Concentration Options

Forensic accounting is already considered an accounting specialization — most programs do not support narrower areas of academic focus.

Most master's in forensic accounting programs lead to a master of science (MS) designation. MS degrees indicate a strong emphasis on quantitative and technical content. However, some programs culminate in a master of accounting (MAcc). Few if any functional distinctions exist between the MS and MAcc designations.

Institutions continue to expand and diversify their online programs, allowing some learners to earn forensic accounting master's degrees 100% remotely. Online learning may offer cost savings, depending on your situation. However, online programs feature fewer interactions with peers and instructors.

Hybrid programs that blend in-person and online learning split the difference. They combine the scheduling and flexibility benefits of remote learning with interactions of the traditional classroom. However, in-person attendance requirements may come with additional costs.

Should You Get a Master's in Forensic Accounting or General Accounting?

Forensic accountants perform technical analysis of financial records to seek and identify potential fraud. They apply intermediate and advanced principles of general accounting.

While forensic accounting and general accounting share similarities, the two fields also diverge in key ways. General accountants keep systematic financial records to track organizations' financial standing and health. Forensic accountants detect financial crimes related to theft, fraud, tax evasion, and money laundering.

In addition, forensic accountants can serve as expert witnesses in civil cases. Their work requires a combination of accounting, investigative, and analytical skills. Forensic accounting programs are built to develop these specialized abilities. The table below summarizes major similarities and differences between general and forensic accounting programs:

Comparing Master's in Forensic Accounting and Accounting
Key Factor Master's in Forensic Accounting Master's in Accounting
Program Length 1-2 academic years (full time) 1-2 academic years (full time)
Program Structure Usually a standalone master's degree Students can pursue standalone master's degrees or "4+1" programs that confer both a bachelor's and master's in five academic years
Content Focus Fraud examination | Digital forensics | Advanced analysis of financial statements | Auditing Accounting theory | Financial reporting | Taxation | Accounting analytics

Admissions Process

Forensic accounting programs generally prefer applicants with academic backgrounds in accounting. Notably, not all schools require applicants to hold bachelor's degrees in accounting. However, programs that accept students from non-accounting backgrounds usually ask them to complete prerequisite course sequences.

GPA requirements vary, but most programs prefer candidates with GPAs in the 3.0 range. When tests are required, institutions typically ask for GMAT or GRE scores. However, many schools offer GMAT/GRE waivers and test-free admission policies.

Programs often request personal essays and resumes or CVs. Students with strong essays and candidates with professional experience in accounting, auditing, and/or fraud investigation can stand out from the competition.

Popular Forensic Accounting Graduate Courses

Forensic accounting coursework varies among institutions. Schools include mandatory core courses and electives in their curricula.

Examples of commonly offered core and elective forensic accounting courses include:

  • Auditing and Assurance Procedures: This required course introduces students to basic and intermediate techniques for auditing financial records. Some programs present the material across multiple modules, culminating in advanced techniques.
  • Financial Statement Examination: Another core subject, this course introduces the different types of financial statements and defines their purposes. Some programs also cover financial statement analysis for corporate valuations and the calculation of economic damages.
  • Fraud Investigation: Forensic accountants often function at the crossroads of finance and criminal investigation. They require well-developed abilities to gather and document evidence, source information, and conduct interviews.
  • Cybercrime and Cyber Analysis: The internet and the dark web have become forums for an increasing amount of fraud and white-collar crime. This elective course covers investigative techniques specific to cyberspace, including intelligence-gathering and the deanonymization of user data.

How Much Do Forensic Accounting Master's Programs Cost?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), graduate tuition and required fees at U.S. public institutions averaged $12,410 in 2019-20. That same year, graduate students at private institutions paid an average of about $26,600 in tuition and fees. Students can generally expect the cost of their master's in forensic accounting to align with these averages.

Several factors can influence tuition costs. Nonprofit private schools tend to charge significantly more than their for-profit counterparts. School prestige and location also affect tuition. At public institutions, students who qualify for in-state rates usually benefit from cost advantages not available to out-of-state learners.

According to a 2021 analysis, U.S. graduate students collectively own about 50% of the country's total student debt load. Seeking non-repayable forms of aid such as scholarships, fellowships, and grants can help reduce debt burdens. In general, graduate students should look to federal and private loans as a last resort.

Should You Get Your Degree Online?

Online learning continues to redefine U.S. higher education. Accounting translates well to the digital classroom, as the subject matter does not depend heavily on real-time peer and faculty interactions. As such, recorded lectures offer a viable alternative to the traditional classroom.

The advantages of online learning include scheduling flexibility and financial savings, especially on commuting and relocation costs. However, some learners prefer campus-based experiences. In-person learning also tends to offer more networking opportunities, which can affect a student's career prospects.

Each learner should carefully weigh the pros and cons of each option through an individual lens. Both formats offer advantages and drawbacks. Choosing is often a matter of personal preference.

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Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.

Forensic Accounting Jobs and Salaries

Learners who complete forensic accounting master's programs typically pursue careers in financial crime investigation or auditing. However, graduates can also consider paths in risk assessment and law enforcement. A graduate degree in forensic accounting may also be useful to attorneys specializing in forensic or financial law.

The following list explores career paths other than forensic accounting. Options include:

Auditor

Auditors are accounting specialists who analyze financial records. They usually focus on verification for regulatory compliance or taxation purposes.

  • Required Education: Most auditors hold specialized bachelor's or master's degrees in accounting or auditing. Some also study forensic accounting at the undergraduate or graduate levels.
  • Job Outlook (2020-30): +7%
  • Median Annual Salary: $77,250

Source: BLS

Financial Risk Analyst

Financial risk analysts perform internal and external organizational assessments on behalf of clients and employers. They identify actual and potential vulnerabilities, uncovering data and trends that affect financial performance and valuations.

  • Required Education: A financial risk analyst usually begins their career by obtaining a bachelor's degree in business, economics, or finance. They may then earn a master's degree in a specialized area that matches their professional aspirations.
  • Job Outlook (2020-30): +6%
  • Median Annual Salary: $81,410

Source: BLS

Lawyer

Lawyers apply deep technical knowledge of the law to represent clients in criminal and civil court cases. Professionals who specialize in forensics and finance may benefit from master's degrees in forensic accounting.

  • Required Education: Lawyers must hold a master of laws or juris doctor degree to qualify for licensure.
  • Job Outlook (2020-30): +9%
  • Median Annual Salary: $127,990

Source: BLS

Detective

Agencies including the Internal Revenue Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Central Intelligence Agency employ forensic accounting specialists and investigators.

  • Required Education: Law enforcement officers engaged in financial investigations may hold degrees in auditing, forensic accounting, or other related specializations.
  • Job Outlook (2020-30): +7%
  • Median Annual Salary: $66,020

Source: BLS

Selecting the Right Forensic Accounting Program

Many factors contribute to students' decisions when selecting programs. Key examples include the institution's reputation and how well its forensic accounting curriculum matches learning interests.

Others factors that may influence school choice include:

  • Tuition costs
  • The availability of internships, practicums, and field placements
  • Program length
  • Career services and job placement resources

Students should research institutional and regional accreditation status for their prospective schools. Some programs also have optional accreditations from specialized agencies, such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and the Accreditation Council of Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).

AACSB and ACBSP accreditation indicate strong program quality. They may be worth seeking out if a school's credentials are a high priority for you.

Top Forensic Accounting Master's Programs

The need for forensic accountants continues to grow in the increasingly complex technological business landscape. Below, review some of the nation's top master's degrees in forensic accounting. The mix of on-campus and online programs provide flexible learning options.

#1

West Virginia University

School Information
Location Morgantown, West Virginia
Admission Rate 84%
Graduation Rate 61%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 34% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Located in Morgantown, WVU is the flagship school of West Virginia's state university system. The institution offers a selection of online graduate degrees in various fields.

MS in Forensic and Fraud Examination 

WVU works with the National Institute of Justice to develop fraud and forensic accounting programs. The business school administers the MS in forensic and fraud examination, which students can complete online in as few as 12 months. 

The 30-credit curriculum teaches enrollees to detect fraud and other financial crimes. The asynchronous program also provides preparation for certification through the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE). Coursework explores topics such as fraud data analysis, fraud investigation, and financial statements analysis.

Applying to WVU

Admission requires a bachelor's degree from an accredited school alongside prerequisite coursework or two years of related professional experience. Prospective students must submit transcripts, a statement of purpose, and a resume.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC); Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
  • Tuition: $820/credit
  • Required Credits: 30 credits
  • Program Length: 12 months
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
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#2

Florida Institute of Technology

School Information
Location Melbourne, Florida
Admission Rate 66%
Graduation Rate 59%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Florida Institute of Technology is a private, research-intensive college located on Florida's Space Coast. Florida Tech develops programs with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and math. 

MS in Accounting and Financial Forensics

Florida Tech's MS in accounting and financial forensics is open to students from any academic background. Students complete the 30-credit degree on campus in Melbourne. The program provides upper-level training for certified public accountant licensure in Florida.

The degree's core curriculum includes classes in advanced internal auditing, fraud examination, and tax and financial accounting research. Case studies and projects ensure students receive extensive qualitative and quantitative analysis training. 

Degree-seekers take several elective courses like financial management, portfolio analysis, and organizational behavior. Enrollees can complete internships and explore research opportunities to round out their training.

Applying to Florida Tech

Admission requires a bachelor's degree, transcripts, and letters of recommendation. While optional, GMAT scores strengthen applications. 

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $896/credit 
  • Required Credits: 30 credits
  • Delivery Format: On campus
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#3

SUNY College at Old Westbury

School Information
Location Old Westbury, New York
Admission Rate 78%
Graduation Rate 48%
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 16% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

At SUNY Old Westbury, over 4,000 students pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees. The school boasts a 14-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, which encourages personalized learning. 

MS in Forensic Accounting

The 30-credit MS in forensic accounting provides technical training in forensic accounting and fraud examination. By completing the program, students earn the 150 credit hours required for certified public accountant licensure in New York. Enrollees also receive preparation to sit for the ACFE exam. 

Coursework explores topics such as fraudulent financial reporting; computer forensics; and forensic interviewing, fraud, and the law. Old Westbury's justice for fraud victims project gives MS students real-world experience assisting financial fraud victims.

The culminating capstone requires a supervised research project. Full-time students complete the degree in one calendar year over three semesters. The program offers evening classes and part-time enrollment options.

Applying to Old Westbury

Old Wetsbury requires applicants to hold a BA, BS, or bachelor's of business administration from a regionally accredited institution. Prospective students also submit GMAT scores, two letters of recommendation, and an essay. Non-accounting majors may need to complete prerequisite courses.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Public
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Tuition: $462/credit (in state); $944/credit (out of state)
  • Required Credits: 30 credits
  • Program Length: 12 months
  • Delivery Format: On campus
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#4

Carlow University

School Information
Location Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Admission Rate 92%
Graduation Rate 57%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 56% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Carlow University is a private college in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The school offers over 90 undergraduate and graduate programs, many of them available online.

MS in Forensic Accounting and Fraud Investigation

Students can complete Carlow's MS in forensic accounting and fraud investigation in an accelerated 14-month timeframe. The 30-credit program offers a fully online curriculum. By completing the degree, students earn the 150 credit hours required for certified public accountant licensure. The program also offers preparation for the ACFE exam. 

Enrollees join a cohort and take classes like white-collar crime and anti-money laundering. Degree-seekers can take two additional courses to complete the program's cyberthreat research and analytics track.

Applying to Carlow

Admission requires a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants submit a personal essay, resume, and transcripts.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE); International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE)
  • Tuition: $800/credit
  • Required Credits: 30 credits
  • Program Length: 14 months
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
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#5

Stevenson University

School Information
Location Stevenson, Maryland
Admission Rate 81%
Graduation Rate 60%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 55% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Founded in 1947, Stevenson University is a private college in Owings Mills, Maryland. The school offers 27 online programs designed for working professionals.

MS in Forensic Accounting

Stevenson's MS in forensic accounting enrolls experienced professionals and recent college grads with relevant accounting backgrounds. The faculty bring their forensic accounting career experience to the classroom, teaching courses like business valuation, litigation theory and practice, and investigative techniques and interviewing. 

Enrollees also strengthen their skills in research and writing about forensics and complete a capstone. The school offers certificates in fields like forensic investigation and cybersecurity and digital forensics for students interested in expanding their training and expertise.

Applying to Stevenson

Applicants need a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college with a minimum 3.0 GPA. If the degree is not in accounting, the applicant should demonstrate relevant work experience or completion of accounting coursework. Prospective learners also submit a personal statement.

Program at a Glance

  • School Type: Private
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Tuition: $695/credit
  • Required Credits: 36 credits
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
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Top Online Master's

Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.

Common Questions About Master of Forensic Accounting Degrees

Which degree is best for forensic accounting?

Business and accounting schools offer specialized forensic accounting college programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. An accounting degree with a focus on forensics provides an excellent knowledge base for a career in the field.

How much does a master's in forensic accounting cost?

NCES statistics from the 2019-20 academic year tracked average tuition and required fees at public and private institutions. Students in public institutions paid an average of $12,410. Enrollees studying at private schools paid about $26,600 for the year.

What's the difference between a forensic accounting master's and certification?

A forensic accounting master's is an advanced academic degree that signifies the holder's successful completion of a graduate program. Forensic accounting certification is an optional designation obtained by meeting education requirements, obtaining professional experience, and passing an exam.

How do I become a certified forensic accountant?

Multiple professional organizations offer certification programs in forensic accounting. Their eligibility standards vary. Generally, candidates must hold a bachelor's or master's degree in a related area plus multiple years of professional experience. They must then pass a rigorous examination.

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