Master’s degree in forensic accounting programs guide

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Advance your forensic accounting career

You have already earned a bachelor’s degree in forensic accounting, and you are thinking about taking your career and studies to the next level. You may have already started working, or you want to become a certified fraud examiner (CFE). Maybe you are eager to learn more about financial crimes, you want to hone your investigations skills even more, or are willing to get a position that needs thorough studies and experience. If you fit in any of the above descriptions, earning a master’s degree (M.A.) in forensic accounting is the right choice for you.

Take advantage of a master’s in forensic accounting

If you want to take your forensic accounting career to new heights and have more employment options, an M.A. in forensic accounting will help you reach your targets and open new career opportunities. First, you gain additional skills and in-depth know-how to perform successful financial investigations, identify fraud, or run vital audits. Second, you can choose from a broader range of employment opportunities than other competitors who only hold a bachelor’s degree.

It usually takes 2 years or 30-35 completed credit hours to earn a master’s degree in forensic accounting. The effort is worth it because the advantages are clear – increased salaries, multiple career paths, and enhanced overall knowledge, to name just a few.

How to choose a master’s in forensic accounting

Before enrolling in an M.A. program, the first step is to decide which program best suits your needs. Be sure you meet all the required admission criteria and think about other critical details: tuition costs, program duration, or location – in case you opt for on-campus learning. Therefore, do your analysis in due time and find out about all the ins and outs of the programs you are interested in.

The educated choice – accredited master’s programs

It’s highly important that you opt for a master’s program in forensic accounting that is accredited. Accredited institutions guarantee that you will access a quality program focused on the vital topics that will help you hone your forensic accounting skills. Plus, by choosing a program offered by an accredited university, you are eligible to get financial aid for your studies.

Moreover, if the program you decide to follow is accredited, you may be able to transfer credit hours to other programs that you decide to enroll in. That’s the case with the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification held by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

You can easily verify on several official online databases if an accredited institution offers the master’s program you have chosen. For instance, you can access the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs (DAPIP).

How long will you study?

It usually takes 2 years to earn a master’s degree in forensic accounting – that is around 30-35 credit hours at most public or private institutions. The duration of studies may be shorter if you can transfer credit hours from other programs. Plus, you have access to flexible options, choosing from online, hybrid, or on-campus programs.

If you are full-time employed, online or hybrid formats are better for you. You can access them without relocating, and thus you have a more comprehensive range of options to select. Besides that, you can tailor your day-to-day routine as needed and study whenever you have some spare time.

Tuition fees

The tuition fees of a master’s degree in forensic accounting program depend on the institution you choose and the program you decide to enroll in. According to FinAid.org, the costs start at $30,000 at institutions that aren’t too competitive and can reach $120,000 at high-ranking universities.

Admission requirements at a glance

Admission criteria vary from one institution to another, depending on the program, duration, or content. Most universities accept candidates who hold an accredited bachelor’s degree in accounting. Some of them also accept students with a bachelor’s degree in fields related to forensics, such as finance or economics.

Candidates may need to provide their Grade Point Average (GPA) scores. Some institutions also require a list of undergraduate degree courses and additional letters of recommendation and references.

The most prestigious universities have stricter entry criteria to select the best students for their courses. To enroll in an M.A. at such a reputable institution, you must have high scores, professional accomplishments, and very good recommendations. Additionally, you may be asked to participate in an admission interview.

Choosing the right M.A. program for you

You have already earned a B.A. in forensic accounting, yet you would like to have access to more career opportunities. If that’s the case, a master’s program will help you become a forensic accounting expert. Numerous business organizations seek to employ experienced personnel who hold an M.A. degree and have thorough investigative skills and financial knowledge.

An M.A. in forensic accounting explores forensic accounting principles, best practices, and is the next step if you want to earn a doctoral degree or become certified. Lastly, an M.A. grants you the opportunity to specialize in a particular domain of forensic accounting.

You can choose from several types of master’s programs in forensic accounting. Here’s what you need to know to make sure the M.A. you select is appropriate for you.

Master of science in forensic accounting

The M.S. is the most common type of master’s in forensic accounting you can find. The program focuses on in-depth forensic concepts, data analytics, and innovative techniques to detect fraud and financial crimes. This way, the students develop vital skills and knowledge to face the continuously evolving professional challenges an auditor or forensics expert has to tackle.

Master of accountancy

A master of accountancy program usually proposes a curriculum that revolves around the use of technology in your forensic accounting career. By earning this degree, you will be capable to become CPA or CFE certified, and top accounting companies may consider you an excellent candidate to join their ranks.

Master’s in business ethics

This program prepares students to assume a proactive role and help detect and prevent illegal or unethical financial activities. The candidates will explore the most commonly used financial fraud methods and learn how to spot malicious intent signs at an early stage.

M.A. in forensic accounting courses

The curriculum of an M.A. in forensic accounting varies from one institution to another. Nevertheless, most of them include specialized courses that will broaden your know-how and enable you to become an expert in the field. Here are some of the courses that most programs usually include:

Advanced auditing

By completing this course, students learn how to manage internal controls, master best auditing practices, and get familiarized with the latest computer-based technology that provides relevant financial insights.

Data analytics

Advanced data analytics skills are a strong advantage if you work in taxation, auditing, or you are a risk management expert. Students thus gain experience in statistics and basic programming and are able to interpret complex financial data.

Fraud investigations techniques

This course focuses on methods to raise awareness of fraudulent financial activities, including various areas, from financial statement fraud to embezzlement and from acquisitions to bankruptcy or even divorce.

Taxation

This course highlights current tax laws and practices, focusing on how these regulations influence the financial decisions of various companies and their business investment plans.

Risk management

Aimed to help corporate professionals reach their targets, this course teaches you how to plan a sustainable business environment and develop strategies that minimize financial risks and prevent fraud.

How to become CPA certified

Many people who earn a master’s in forensic accounting choose to become Certified Public Accountants (CPA) after graduation. One of the main goals of a master’s program in forensic accounting is to guide you through the essential knowledge that will help you pass the CPA exam. Some classes may target the information required to pass the test successfully, while others will focus on guidelines, procedures, and admission criteria to enter the CPA exam.

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) organizes tests to get CPA certification. Once you become a certified public accountant, you need to work for a couple of years in a forensic accounting position before enrolling in a Certified Forensic Accountant (CRFAC) program.

Build your career with an M.A. in forensic accounting

If we don’t take into consideration doctoral studies, a master’s degree in forensic accounting is usually the farthest you can get in the field. Anyone who holds a master’s degree is considered a valuable professional and thus has multiple career options.

Once you earn an M.A. in forensic accounting, you gain access to complex roles within organizations, with better compensation packages, and you can even hope to apply for middle-management positions. As always, education pays off, and the more specialized you become, the more sought after you are by employers.

If we analyze the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2019, forensic accountants and auditors earned on average $71,550 per year. Based on your professional experience, education level, and expertise, you can access even higher-paid roles.

Career paths with an M.A. in forensic accounting

With a master’s degree in forensic accounting, you can access new career opportunities, ranging from taxation specialist and auditor to forensics expert in federal departments. You can opt for joining private or public organizations, multinational companies, law firms, or government agencies.

In this role, you must verify that your company complies with local, national, or even international regulations and laws. You may also need to oversee financial risk audits while keeping an eye on taxation and fiscal policy changes.

In this position, you will be collecting evidence of fraud through interviews and data analysis, making use of the in-depth techniques you have honed during your master’s studies.

A master’s in forensic accounting can grant you key positions in institutions like CIA, FBI, or IRS, where you may end up working closely with prosecutors to document financial crimes.

American Accounting Association (AAA)

The AAA gathers under one roof an extensive community of accountants from all walks of life, including the academic field.

National Society of Accountants (NSA)

NSA is a society with a core mission of helping tax and accounting professionals further their knowledge.

American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)

AICPA is the official body that represents CPAs, developing and grading the CPA certification examination at state and national level.

American Association of Finance and Accounting (AAFA)

The AAFA connects accounting organizations, firms, and professionals throughout the United States.

International Federation of Accountants (IFA)

This organization represents accounting professionals in more than 130 countries around the world, acting as a global common ground for networking and best practices in the accounting industry.

The Institute of Internal Auditors of North America (IIA)

The IIA is an organization with 200,000 members globally that represents internal auditors’ interests at national and international levels.

Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA)

ISACA now has more than 150,000 members in over 180 countries and is a global organization for information governance, control, security, and audit professionals.

National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA)

NASBA acts like a forum for the 55 State Boards of Accountancy in the US, which administer the Uniform CPA Examination. In partnership with AICPA, NASBA facilitates CPA examination for professionals oversees.

Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE)

Home to over 85,000 members, CFE is an anti-fraud organization that offers anti-fraud training, certification, and education.

European Accounting Association (EAA)

EEA is an academic organization that supports Europe’s accounting community through research, education opportunities and knowledge sharing.

Institute of Management Accountants (IMA)

Also known as the Association of Accountants and Financial Professionals in Business, IMA is the body in charge of organizing, grading CMA and CSCA examination certifications.

Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB)

FASB is an independent organization that sets the standards for public and private organizations following Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) in the field of financial accounting.