← Back

Q&A - Certificates in Forensic Accounting

Can I work while studying for my certificate in forensic accounting?

If you are pursuing a forensic accounting certificate, you can benefit from working while you study. In fact, because the goal of most forensic accounting certificate programs is to prepare you to pass an exam and become a certified forensic accountant, it is recommended that you gain as much work experience in the field before your exam as possible, since many certifying bodies require you to have at least 2 years of experience.

Ideally, you should work either for an accounting firm or in the accounting department of a larger company or government office while earning your certificate in forensic accounting. Because forensic accounting requires a thorough knowledge of financial law, working in a law office or for a district attorney on fraud cases could also be beneficial for your future career, and the skills you gain may even increase your forensic accounting salary down the line.

One drawback to working while earning your certificate in forensic accounting is that your schedule may be limited by your coursework. However, if you choose to earn your forensic accounting certificate online, you are more likely to have a flexible schedule, as most online certificate programs are designed with working professionals in mind.

Are there any brick-and-mortar colleges that offer an online forensic accounting certificate program?

There are several brick-and-mortar colleges with online forensic accounting certificate programs. One example is the Online Forensic Accounting and Fraud Examination Graduate Certificate offered by Southern New Hampshire University, a U.S. News & World Report tier 1 university.

The program consists of 4 courses that will prepare you to pass the required exams to become a certified forensic accountant and is designed for students who already hold a bachelors in accounting or a similar degree and have professional accounting experience.

Another online forensic accounting certificate program is offered by University of North Carolina, Charlotte, a high-ranking public research university. The school’s online forensic accounting certificate consists of 3 courses: “Principles of Fraud Examination,” “Fraud Prevention and Detection” and “Introduction to Computer Forensics.” The courses are geared toward teaching students how to detect, deter and investigate fraud and are designed both for professional accountants and professionals in other business fields who want to learn how to protect their organizations from fraud.

Finally, Northeastern University, a top-ranked private university, offers a graduate certificate in forensic accounting online. The program comprises 4 required courses covering related issues such as investigative accounting and litigation support.

What are common assumptions about students who choose to get a certificate in forensic accounting?

While there are few assumptions specifically about students earning a forensic accounting certificate, there have been plenty of stereotypes about accountants in general, especially in popular culture.

In movies and on TV, accountants usually appear locked away in a basement office behind a cluttered desk as they bang away at a calculator all day. While that stereotype may have had some truth to it 20 years ago, today accounting is much more social, as accountants often consult with each other and work with teams within a corporation or organization. Forensic accountants are especially likely to be found working outside of an office, as they gather evidence in a variety of settings.

Accounting in general has also often been portrayed as boring, with accountants seen as dull number crunchers. However, the reality is quite different for forensic accountants. Even as a forensic accounting student you will learn to think like an investigator, and sometimes the work forensic accountants do has more in common with an exciting police investigation than boring office work.

Upon hearing the word “forensic,” you might assume that forensic accounting has something to do with crime scenes. In reality, “forensic” simply means “usable in a court of law,” and as a forensic accounting student you are far more likely to encounter bodies of financial evidence than actual bodies.

What is the hardest part of the application to an on-campus or online forensic accounting certificate program?

Most on-campus and online forensic accounting certificate programs require you to have completed a bachelors degree in accounting or a related business field, and many require professional experience in accounting before you can enroll.

The hardest part of the application for a forensic accounting certificate online or at a brick-and-mortar university is proving that you meet these prerequisites and have real accounting work experience. In some cases, you may be able to substitute work experience for required coursework or additional courses for work experience, though this depends on the university and usually requires filling out an extra section of your application to explain how you are prepared to complete the program.

The requirements for forensic accounting certificate programs do not differ significantly depending on whether the program is online or based on a campus. In fact, because most students enrolling in a certificate program are expected to be working professionals seeking to increase their skills in this field of accounting, online programs are uniquely tailored to accommodate working students. Some online programs even offer open enrollment, which means that you simply need to sign up and pay the tuition.