Dreams of becoming the Nancy Drew or Columbo of finance are within closer reach thanks to affordable online master’s in forensic accounting programs. Forensic accounting master’s degrees are awarded by graduate B-schools to train detectives who are capable of drawing legal conclusions from transactional data.
PricewaterhouseCoopers reported that 36 percent of global organizations in 2016 experienced some economic crime. Numbers won’t lie, so forensic accountants can follow the money to uncover securities fraud, embezzlement, tax evasion, bribery, money laundering, bank fraud, and more for justice. Advancing to the master’s level is increasingly necessary to compete, especially to fulfill states’ Certified Public Accountant requirements. According to the American Institute of CPAs, there’s been a 19 percent increase in master’s enrollment since 2013. Many online forensic accounting master’s degrees offer great bargains with 24/7 access to virtual classrooms and no commutes.
At Grad School Hub, our staff has been busy researching inexpensive online forensic accounting master’s programs using the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator. We refined the search to view only advanced degrees in forensic accounting, financial crime, and fraud examination available 100 percent by distance education. Each online college had to be regionally accredited, but we also gave priority for business accreditations from the AACSB, ACBSP, and IACBE. Then, we judged the initial pool of 20 schools’ affordability by recording the average in-state graduate tuition prices for 2016-17. From high to low, below we’ve highlighted the 10 cheapest forensic accounting master’s online options costing under $13,000 annually.
Ranking Low-Cost Online Forensic Accounting Master’s Programs
10. Gardner-Webb University
Online Master of Accountancy: Forensic Emphasis
Boiling Springs, NC
Average Graduate Tuition: $13,365 per year
Awarding $24.6 million in annual financial aid, including the Tom Bell Graduate Scholarship, Gardner-Webb University is a private, civic-oriented coeducational school founded by the Sandy Run Baptist Association in 1905 that’s serving 5,000 Bulldogs in Boiling Springs, Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Hickory, and online. GWU is declared America’s 223rd best university by the U.S. News & World Report and 133rd most focused accounting institution on College Factual. Coordinated by Dr. Anthony Negbenebor, the Goldbold School of Business lets students connect via Looking Glass for the Online Master of Accountancy’s Forensic Emphasis. The 30-credit, CPA-satisfying curriculum leads to a capstone project after Christ-centric courses like accounting information systems and fraud examination. Online Gardner-Webb post-grads also access the MBA Plus Forensic Certificate or Master of Wealth and Trust Management.
9. Liberty University
Online Master of Science in Accounting, Forensic Accounting Cognate
Average Graduate Tuition: $12,942 per year
Receiving 4.3/5 stars on Unigo, Liberty University is a well-known, for-profit conservative Christian school of the Big South Conference that’s trained over 250,000 alumni at a 17:1 student-faculty ratio away from its 7,000-acre campus in Gallup’s eighth happiest city. Liberty has America’s 27th most popular accounting education on College Factual and 107th hardest admissions on Niche. Headquartered in Green Hall, the Christ-centered Business School maintains ACBSP approval to grant a 30-credit Online Master of Science in Accounting with six cognates, such as Forensic Accounting, 100% on Blackboard asynchronously. After finishing required courses like tax jurisprudence and corporate governance with minimum “C” averages, post-grads have excelled at Goodman Dixon Hughes LLP, Beacon Wealth, KPMG, Target, and more. Similar online Liberty degrees include the MBA in Accounting and M.S. in Information Assurance.
8. SUNY Polytechnic Institute
MS Accountancy, Forensic Accounting & Valuation Online
Average Graduate Tuition: $11,520 per year
Approved in 2014 by Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher, SUNY Polytechnic Institution is the State University of New York’s only public, STEM-centric research hub that’s endowed for $2.63 million to challenge 2,917 Wildcats on its 762 combined acres in Marcy and Albany or online. SUNY Poly is crowned America’s 22nd best accounting value on College Factual and 252nd most liberal school on Niche. Headed by Dr. Robert Edgell, the College of Business Management awards the MS Accountancy online with a Forensic Accounting & Valuation concentration. Intended for BBA graduates, the 33-credit, one-year curriculum accelerates 11 courses like financial statement investigations and forensic asset auditing for CFE prep. Key master’s features include computer-assisted advising, management policy simulations, and internship connections with agencies like the IRS.
7. Pfeiffer University
Master of Science in Financial Fraud Investigations Online
Average Graduate Tuition: $10,870 per year
Acquired by the Women’s Home Missionary Society in 1903, Pfeiffer University is a private, coeducational Methodist school that’s occupying 321 total acres in Misenheimer, South Park, Morrisville, and online to attract 1,200 Falcons. Pfeiffer was applauded for the South’s 145th best buck in Washington Monthly and 87th best education by the U.S. News & World Report. Led by Dr. Dawn Lucas, the Division of Business reaffirmed its ACBSP accreditation in 2016 for five graduate degrees, including the Master of Science in Financial Fraud Investigations Online. Going “Beyond Boundaries,” the 30-credit distance degree builds on core courses like corporate governance on Blackboard with three concentrations: Computer Forensics/Cybercrime, Civil Litigation, and Law Enforcement. Partnered with Bank of America and Wells Fargo for 20% employee discounts, the non-thesis program waives GRE/GMAT scores for entrants with 5+ years of industry experience.
6. West Virginia University
Online M.S. in Forensic & Fraud Examination
Average Graduate Tuition: $9,000 per year
West Virginia University is a public, coeducational Big 12 school and the FBI’s lead biometrics partner that sponsors $174 million for research annually while educating 6,112 post-grads on its 913-acre Morgantown campus and off-site. Called The Exponent’s 2016 Job Creator of the Year, WVU is recognized for America’s 92nd top public education on Niche and 90th best business school by Bloomberg BusinessWeek. The AACSB-accredited College of Business and Economics offers the Online M.S. in Forensic & Fraud Examination with built-in CFE Exam prep for Mountaineers interested in financial litigation careers. Following the Baker Tilly Accounting Playbook, the 30-credit degree integrates moot court exercises for prosecuting experience into courses like criminology and fraud data analysis. Expecting a minimum 500 GMAT score, the program chaired by Dr. Richard Brooks includes a capstone analysis project with the Institute on Fraud Prevention (IFP).
5. Davenport University
Online Master of Accountancy (MACC), Fraud Examiner Focus
Grand Rapids, MI
Average Graduate Tuition: $8,051 per year
Given the 2017 ERG & Council Honors Award, Davenport University is a private, nonprofit graduate school opened by Conrad B. Swensburg in 1866 that’s giving $15 million financial aid dollars annually to 7,767 Panthers atop 69 acres in “Furniture City” and online on Blackboard. Davenport landed as America’s 186th best online university on the U.S. News & World Report and 120th most conservative college on Niche. The IACBE-accredited Donald W. Maine College of Business helps enter one of Michigan’s Hot 50 jobs with the Fraud Examiner Focus for the Online Master of Accountancy (MACC). Coordinated by Dr. Irene Bembenista, the 30-credit degree has synchronous evening courses averaging 15 students that touch topics like business law, asset misappropriation, and financial analytics online. For capstone and CFE credentialing, the portfolio-based master’s major offers an internship or graduate ACG experience.
4. Stevenson University
Master of Science in Forensic Accounting Online
Owings Mills, MD
Average Graduate Tuition: $8,040 per year
Originally called Villa Julie College until 2008, Stevenson University is an independent, Catholic liberal arts school that’s endowed for $77 million under the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur to instruct 4,185 Mustangs at its 104-acre Greenspring Valley campus and online via Blackboard Learn. Boasting a 91 percent six-month placement rate, Stevenson is crowned America’s 81st best value in The Economist and 72nd top criminal justice school on Niche. Chaired by Dr. Joyce K. Becker, the Master of Science in Forensic Accounting Online belongs to the SACS-accredited Brown School of Business & Leadership. Leading to the Mock Trial capstone, the 36-credit, interactive program integrates eight-week online modules like auditing analysis, forensic journal research, and foundations of justice. Post-grads with minimum 3.0 GPAs could also obtain the M.S. in Forensic Studies or M.S. in Cyber Forensics online.
3. Stratford University
Online Master of Science in Digital Forensics
Average Graduate Tuition: $7,722 per year
Granted SACS candidacy in December 2017, Stratford University is a public benefit, for-profit online learning institution started in 1976 with Fairfax headquarters that’s “Changing Lives” for 2,849 adults from over 30 countries. Stratford won the PeaceJam Foundation’s 2015 Hero Award for Best University and ranked 163rd among America’s most popular business programs on College Factual. On Moodle, the School of Computer Science & Information Technology offers forensic accountants the Online Master of Science in Digital Forensics for in-depth cyber investigation skills when following money trails. Starting six times yearly, the 54-credit curriculum accelerates courses with 5-10 week schedules to save tuition. In just 15 months full-time, Stratford post-grads finish courses like auditing incident response and the cumulative capstone with a cooperative education option.
2. New England College
Master of Science in Accounting: Forensic Accounting Online
Average Graduate Tuition: $6,636 per year
Linked to 9,915 LinkedIn alumni, including Wallace Stickney and Mariela Griffor, New England College is a private, nonprofit school founded in 1946 that’s endowed for $11.6 million in the North Atlantic Conference for online and on-campus education in the Concord Micropolitan Area. NEC was declared America’s 81st most diverse college on Niche and the North’s 146th best university by the U.S. News & World Report. Directed by Kevin Martin, MBA, the Management Division launched the Master of Science in Accounting: Forensic Accounting Online on Canvas to develop students’ investigator tactics for protecting profits. Surpassing the 150-hour CPA requirement, the 40-credit curriculum structures two online courses like litigation services, federal taxation, and interrogation per semester for just 18 months. Intimate cohorts of 12-15 students collaborate with responsive faculty and use online library resources for capstone projects.
1. Strayer University-Alabama
Online Master of Science in Forensic Accounting
Average Graduate Tuition: $5,467 per year
Known for its Jack Welch Management Institute, Strayer University-Alabama is a private, cost-effective nontraditional learning branch operated by Strayer Education Inc. that generates $441 million annually to teach over 48,000 adults at 78 U.S. campuses and online via the Google Cloud platform. Strayer was ranked America’s 178th most focused accounting school on College Factual and 12th most popular online education on Eduventures with 3.5 stars from Consumer Affairs. The 8:1 student-faculty ratio keeps cohorts for the Business School’s Online Master of Science in Forensic Accounting small with Success Coach mentoring. Mandating a 450 GMAT score or better, the 54-credit, two-year program offers financial aid like the Graduation Fund to afford CPA preparation. Accelerated eight-week courses dig into auditing technologies, risk management, and more before the ACC 599 graduate capstone.
Other Master’s in Forensic Accounting Online Degree Offerings
Online Masters of Accounting – Forensic Accounting Certificate
Average Graduate Tuition: $13,560 per year
Executive Master of Accounting in Forensic Accounting Online
Average Graduate Tuition: $14,325 per year
Online MBA: Fraud and Forensics Concentration
Average Graduate Tuition: $16,261 per year
Online M.S. in Financial Crime and Compliance Management
Average Graduate Tuition: $17,483 per year
Master of Accountancy (MAc) Forensic Accounting Concentration Online
Average Graduate Tuition: $17,550 per year
Online MS in Accounting, Forensic Accounting Concentration
Average Graduate Tuition: $18,810 per year
Online MAcc Concentration in Forensic Accounting
Average Graduate Tuition: $22,239 per year
Forensic Accounting Concentration M.S. Online
Average Graduate Tuition: $22,420 per year
Online M.S. in Economic Crime Forensics Program
Average Graduate Tuition: $22,420 per year
Online MS in Accounting: Forensic Accounting and Fraud Investigation
Average Graduate Tuition: $24,120 per year
Which Careers Can Online Forensic Accounting Master’s Graduates Enter?
Spending one to three years on master’s in forensic accounting online study prepares graduates for mid- and upper-level careers solving financial “mysteries.” Master’s degrees are helpful in unlocking several certifications that employers adore. For example, the American Institute of CPAs gives the Certified Public Accountant designation to post-grads who have finished 150+ credits and passed the 16-hour, computer-based exam. The Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) title is bestowed by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners for master’s-trained forensic accountants with 2+ years of experience in scam detection. After CPA licensing, some become Certified Forensic Accountants from the American Board of Forensic Accounting too. Here are five sample careers benefiting from online master’s in forensic accounting training:
Forensic Accountant- Online forensic accounting master’s programs most obviously lead to this fast-growing title in public firms, government agencies, consulting businesses, banks, and investigative bureaus like the FBI. Forensic accountants are sleuths who evaluate balance sheets for discrepancies, investigate any economic-related crime like tax evasion, give litigation support, conduct compliance reviews, and stay updated on legislation changes.
Fraud Investigator- QuickBooks reports that organizations lose five percent of revenue to fraud annually for $3.7 trillion total worldwide, so fraud investigators are essential examiners for finding malicious money use. The job description involves analyzing financial documents, scrutinizing potential fraud, interviewing suspects, coordinating with police and lawyers, testifying evidence in court, and helping companies thwart criminal activity.
Anti-Money Laundering Specialist- Financial crime fighters who focus on investigating white-collar criminals cycling in illegally gained revenue are called anti-money laundering specialists. Typical AML responsibilities include identifying suspicious transactions, tracking dirty money, reporting evidence to law enforcement, remedying system vulnerabilities, addressing FINRA violations, auditing high-risk accounts, and preventing market manipulation.
Operational Risk Consultant- Earning a forensic accounting master’s online might boost confidence to become self-employed and market one’s assessment skills for pinpointing financial risks. Traditionally holding IRM certification, operational risk consultants meet companies’ third-party requests for reviewing transactions, checking contracts, investigating business policies, implementing fraud prevention, and tightening up security protocol.
Internal Auditing Manager- Labeled America’s 40th best job by CNN Money, internal auditing is another forensic accounting master’s opportunity where poring over financial documents to find misstatements is paramount. Managers are responsible for collating ledger data, examining financial controls, gauging regulatory compliance, supervising internal auditors, identifying fraud, and suggesting policy changes to safeguard corporate assets in-house.
What is the Salary Potential After Master’s in Forensic Accounting Online Programs?
According to the Pew Research Center, attending graduate school pushes median monthly income from the bachelor’s level of $3,836 to $4,772 for millennials. Cheap online forensic accounting master’s programs reap generous ROI for a mean annual wage of $76,730 on the Bureau of Labor Statistics. New York, District of Columbia, and New Jersey are the top-paying states where forensic accountants earn $93,280, $93,210, and $88,940 on average. The Robert Half 2018 Salary Guide stated that corporate forensic accounting jobs generate yearly profits of $75,000 to $143,250. Public accounting pays slightly less with fraud investigation salaries of $58,000 to $111,000. Master’s graduates climbing the ranks to Chief Risk Officer (CRO) can take home top pay of $275,750.
How Are Hiring Opportunities with Forensic Accounting Master’s Online Degrees?
Since the 2008 U.S. financial crisis, we’ve seen big crimes being prosecuted more frequently. Therefore, one study from Kessler International found that 75 percent of surveyed companies believe the in-demand forensic accounting field lacks enough seasoned investigators. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that 140,300 new accounting jobs will blossom by 2026 for faster-than-average growth of ten percent. Accountants are most heavily concentrated in California, Texas, New York, and Florida. Fraud examiners and risk analysts are classified under the financial analysis umbrella where 11 percent growth will spark 32,000 jobs this decade. Though more competitive, a forensic accounting master’s online could prepare grads for top executive roles, growing by eight percent too. Prove your keen analytical skills and inspecting nature to employers by earning one of the cheap online master’s in forensic accounting degrees.