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Overview of Degree Programs in Forensic Accounting

Majors Overview May 7, 2014

Once forensic accounting majors earn their Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree, they can find work as financial analysts, forensic accounting specialists, and auditors. Individuals usually have some experience providing accounting advice or examining an organization’s books and are licensed as Certified Public Accountants (CPAs). Licensure requires 30 hours of additional collegiate study, which a master’s degree program can provide.

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) Programs in Forensic Accounting

Students enrolled in a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree program in Forensic Accounting are provided with the basic training needed for investigating accounting fraud, verifying compliance with regulatory law, and supporting litigation.

Coursework focuses on numerous themes, including waste, negligence, and internal theft, in various business industries. Legal process is also reviewed by students, whereby they learn about collecting evidence of accounting fraud or providing evidence of a firm’s compliance with financial regulations. Recording-keeping and analytical and communications skills of forensic accounting majors are developed to ensure that these tasks are supported.

A graduate who seeks work as an auditor or an accountant may often need professional certification such as the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credential.


Introductory and intermediate principles of accounting begin coursework in the program; these include the nature of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), in addition to capital, depreciation, liabilities, and assets. Students also learn about accounting software, including Microsoft Excel and Peachtree, to support the study. Core coursework may include subject areas such as:

•Insurance and banking
•Fraud examination
•Regulatory frameworks
•Financial principles

Job and Wage outlook

A job growth rate of 16% has been predicted for accountants over the 2010-2020 decade (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)). In 2012, these professionals took home an average annual wage of $63,550. CPA certification and a four-year degree are required by those who wish to pursue a career in forensic accounting (BLS). Some employers also require candidates to pass the Certified Fraud Examiners (CFE) exam or the Certified Forensic Accountant (CFA) exam. A master’s degree is required for some positions, such as those relating to technical or management fields.

In order to be able to render a professional opinion or attest to record for the Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC), a candidate must be a CPA – this can be accomplished through 150 hours of postsecondary study (most bachelor’s degree programs offer only about 120 hours).

Master of Science (M.S.) Programs in Forensic Accounting

Ahead of graduate studies, a bachelor’s degree in Accounting is needed by students. If they don’t meet the course prerequisites to take the CPA exam, they would have to ensure that they satisfy these prerequisites before they graduate. Graduate study does not mandate a forensic accounting background; however, students enrolled in some programs may have to complete business research, analysis, and reporting courses before they can enroll in programs relating to advanced forensics in the financial industry.

Advanced techniques in law, computer science, and quantitative analysis are covered in a master’s degree. After they complete the program, individuals gain a grasp of GAAP practices, asset valuation, and forensic analysis in the field. They are also able to calculate total losses from misappropriation, negligence, or fraud. Graduates can seek entry-level careers as financial analysts, forensic accounting specialists, or accountants.


Program coursework features intermediate and advanced accounting principles, in addition to managerial accounting and taxation lessons. Case studies are used to teach students about evaluating financial statements for consistency and compliance. Students may also be required to participate in a research seminar. Statistical methods, jurisprudence, shareholding, and internal revenue procedures are also addressed in graduate programs. In addition to an internship, prerequisites may include subject areas such as:

•Non-profit organizations
•Fraud investigation
•Business and tax strategy
•International transactions

Job and Wage Outlook

A four-year degree is a rudimentary necessity for a career as a forensic accounting specialist, accountant, or financial analyst; however, job prospects can be improved by earning a graduate degree. Armed with a master’s degree in Accounting, the candidate will be eligible to take the CPA exam.

A job growth rate of 16% has been predicted for accountants and auditors over the 2010-2020 decade (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics [BLS]). In 2010, forensic accounting specialists were paid an average annual salary ranging from $126,661 to $198,333 by the Securities and Exchanges Commission.

In 2012, the top 10% of accountants and auditors took home an average annual wage of at least $110,000, while the top 10% of business analysts banked nearly $150,000 (BLS). A job growth rate of 23% has been predicted for business analysts over the 2010-2020 decade, expected to be fuelled by the need to comprehend various foreign markets that follow their own accounting standards, in addition to the increasing complexity of financial instruments and the growth of hedge funds. In 2012, business analysts took home an average annual wage of $76,950.

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