Complete Guide to an Online Forensic Accounting Degree
Online financial accounting degrees are available at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and certificate levels. Forensic accountants may find jobs in many different settings, such as insurance companies, law offices, corporations, and the FBI , as well as various other government agencies. Their job duties usually center around looking over transactions and monitoring for illegal activity. They may also be involved in contract disputes and bankruptcies.
When choosing a degree program in forensic accounting, one aspect to consider is the program's accreditation. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) is the main agency accrediting accounting degrees—their stamp of approval ensures that students are choosing a good program.
Most Popular Accredited Online Schools for Forensic Accounting Degrees
Online Forensic Accounting Degree Overview & Career Information
Online forensic accounting degrees can be found at both the bachelor's and master's level; there are online certificate programs available as well. A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement to becoming an entry-level forensic accountant, though some employers do require a master's. A forensic accounting degree will prepare graduates to study financial transactions, looking for cases of fraud or other illegal financial activities.
Online Associate Degrees in Forensic Accounting
Forensic accounting is a specialty practice area within the field of accounting concerned with existing and/or anticipated legal disputes. On a daily basis, forensic accountants generally monitor financial records for illegal activity, including securities fraud, tax fraud, and money laundering. They also produce and prepare materials intended for use as evidence in a court of law, including documents used to resolve contractual disputes and bankruptcy claims. Forensic accountants may work for private organizations or for the government.
An associate degree in accounting is a good way to enter the field of forensic accounting, although a bachelor’s degree is required in order to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Associate degree holders, however, will still find many opportunities available to them as tax and audit associates, bookkeepers, accounting clerks, payroll associates, and other positions under the supervision of certified accountants. They can also choose to go on to earn a bachelor’s in accounting with a forensic accounting specialization, having already completed some relevant coursework. Online associate degree programs in accounting are available at many two- and four-year institutions.
Admission to an online associate program typically requires documentation of high school graduation with a transcript or proof of having passed a General Education Development (GED) test, along with the application. Admitted students can then expect to spend two years earning their associate degree, if they proceed at a standard pace. An online associate degree in forensic accounting is often flexible, so working students can complete their degree at a pace that works best for them. Online accounting programs typically include courses in managerial accounting, financial accounting, professional ethics, taxation, tax theory, and budgeting.
Online Bachelor's Degrees in Forensic Accounting
At the undergraduate level, students may pursue an online degree in accounting with a specialization in forensic accounting, or they may earn a bachelor's degree that focuses entirely on forensic accounting. Bachelor's degrees will prepare students for entry-level work, but if they wish to advance or to become a CPA, additional education will be necessary. A bachelor's degree in forensic accounting will take about four years to complete with a requirement of 120 credits. Typical coursework includes fraud examination, auditing and internal controls, interview techniques and legal aspects of fraud, and detection and prevention of fraudulent financial statements. In order to gain admittance to one of these bachelor's programs, a prospective student will have to have a high school diploma or GED. They will also have to fill out an application which often includes an essay, though requirements vary by school. Online forensic accounting degrees are offered at colleges and universities across the country.
Online Master's Degrees in Forensic Accounting
A master's degree in accounting is usually required in order to become professionally certified as a Certified Public Account (CPA), Certified Fraud Examiner, or Certified Management Accountant. These online programs offer coursework in topics like fraud investigation, giving expert testimony in court, dispute resolution, accounting ethics, business law, and corporate finance. A master's program usually takes between 15 months and two years to complete. In order to gain admission, applicants must already have a bachelor's degree—preferably in business, accounting, or another related field. Students must usually submit a resume as well. After completing an online master's program, students may be qualified for advanced opportunities in a variety of settings. Those who graduate with a master's in financial accounting tend to become certified public accountants, chief financial officers, internal auditors, and management accountants. Online master's programs are available at domestic colleges and universities.
Online Certificates in Forensic Accounting
Certificate programs in forensic accounting are also available online. These certificates are most commonly found at the graduate level and are designed for current accounting professionals who want to add to their skill set by learning the fundamentals of forensic accounting, or current forensic accountants who want to learn more advanced topics in their field. Admission requirements vary by program but typically include undergraduate transcripts, a written essay, and a resume. Length of time for completion and number of credits differ from program to program, but certificates can usually be finished in a year or less. Coursework includes classes in fraudulent financial reporting, forensic accounting principles, litigation support, and fraud prevention and detection.
The Importance of an Accredited Online Forensic Accounting Degree
Accreditation is the process through which an outside independent agency evaluates a school's or program's quality. Regional accreditation means that the school as a whole has been accredited. Students may want to check to make sure the school they plan to attend is regionally accredited for a few reasons. First, accreditation ensures that the school is offering an educational program that meets high standards overall. Additionally, federal financial aid can only be used at accredited institutions. Employers often prefer to hire candidates from accredited programs as well, and some professional certifications may require that the applicant have a degree from an accredited program or school.
The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) is an internationally recognized organization that accredits specific accounting degree programs. AACSB's standards are rigorous and students that attend a program that holds this accreditation can be assured they are receiving a quality education that will teach them exactly what they need to know to enter the workforce and start their career as a forensic accountant.
Forensic Accounting Jobs
Professionals who specialize in forensic accounting can work in a variety of settings, the most common of which are law offices, government agencies, and insurance companies. Their days will consist of seeking out instances of financial fraud and other types of corruption involving money. Forensic accountants may also find work with the FBI, investigating crimes such as political corruption and terrorism. They may spend their time analyzing the financial records of suspected terrorist groups or looking at possible cases of fraud committed by government employees. They will also be required to testify in court hearings and stay current with everchanging financial laws.
Another common career path for forensic accountants to become a fraud examiner. These professionals know how to pick out signs of fraud or identify places where the risk of fraud may be higher. They must understand financial law, how financial transactions work, and how to resolve issues regarding fraud allegations. Fraud examiners can earn the Certified Fraud Examiner credential, which demonstrates a high level of expertise and dedication to the subfield.
- AACSB International. Accessed August 25, 2016. http://www.aacsb.edu/.
- Accountants and Auditors. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed August 25, 2016. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm#tab-1.
- BS in Accounting Forensic Accounting & Fraud Examination. Southern New Hampshire University. Accessed August 25, 2016. http://www.snhu.edu/online-degrees/bachelors/bs-in-accounting/forensic-accounting-and-fraud-examination.
- Forensic Accounting Certificate. UNC Charlotte. Accessed August 25, 2016. http://continuinged.uncc.edu/public/category/courseCategoryCertificateProfile.do?method=load&certificateId=31011.
- Forensic Accounting Degree Program. Franklin University. Accessed August 25, 2016. http://www.franklin.edu/forensic-accounting-bachelors-degree-program.
- Forensic Accounting Jobs and Careers in the FBI. Florida Atlantic University. Accessed August 25, 2016. https://accounting.fau.edu/blog/forensic-accounting-blog/forensic-accounting-jobs-and-careers-in-the-fbi/.
- Graduate Certificate Forensic Accounting Online. Northeastern University. Accessed August 25, 2016. http://www.northeastern.edu/online/degrees/graduate-certificate-forensic-accounting/.
- Master's in Forensic Accounting. Florida Atlantic University. Accessed August 25, 2016. https://accounting.fau.edu/online-master-of-accounting-in-forensic-accounting/.
- MS in Accounting Forensic Accounting. Southern New Hampshire University. Accessed August 25, 2016. http://www.snhu.edu/online-degrees/masters/ms-in-accounting/forensic-accounting.
- The CFE Credential. Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. Accessed August 25, 2016. http://www.acfe.com/cfe-credential.aspx.
- The Importance of Accreditation. ACICS. Accessed August 25, 2016. http://www.acics.org/students/content.aspx?id=4320.