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Q&A - Graduate Programs in Forensic Accounting

How hard is it to gain admission to brick-and-mortar or online graduate programs in forensic accounting?

Though graduate certificates and masters programs in forensic accounting are still relatively new, they are becoming increasingly popular, so getting into the best graduate program for forensic accounting can be quite challenging.

In general, the top forensic accounting graduate programs require you to hold a bachelors degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 in accounting or a related field, such as business administration or finance, and also demonstrate some professional experience in the field or have recommendations from accounting professionals. For brick-and-mortar colleges, you must meet the same general enrollment requirements as all graduate students of that school do in addition to the specific requirements of the accounting or business department.

If you are considering forensic accounting online graduate programs, the enrollment requirements may not be as strict and you may be able to substitute relevant work experience for some prerequisite courses. For example, the program director of an online masters in forensic accounting may waive certain prerequisites if you can demonstrate a basic competency in the subject through years of working in the field, or if you hold relevant certifications such as the certified public accountant (CPA) or certified fraud examiner (CFE) designations.

What are the average salaries for forensic accounting degree graduates?

The average salaries for graduates of forensic accounting graduate programs vary considerably depending on the type of employer, the level of education reached and the number of years of experience you have. As long as they are certified, graduates of accredited forensic accounting online graduate programs should earn the same salaries as graduates of brick-and-mortar institutions.

According to Payscale.com, the average annual salary for forensic accountants is about $73,000, though the range is between about $46,000 and well over $100,000, depending on the employer. This is still much higher than the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics median pay estimate for all accounting professionals, which is about $62,000.

The salaries of forensic accountants employed by nonprofit and government institutions are generally lower than the salaries of those employed by private companies. Private company salaries are even lower than those of forensic accountants working for top professional services firms such as PricewaterhouseCoopers or self-employed forensic accounting consultants, though both generally require many more years of experience.

If I am interested in pursuing a graduate degree in forensic accounting, what related graduate programs should I consider?

Many people considering a graduate program for forensic accounting will look into related fields such as general accounting, business or finance. Perhaps the most popular graduate program for students interested in accounting and finance is the Master of Business Administration (MBA).

While an MBA does include courses in finance and accounting, and many MBA graduates hold undergraduate degrees in those fields, an MBA is more focused on the management of employees and what it takes to run a company effectively. If you are interested in investigating what makes people work rather than what makes people commit fraud and other accounting malpractices, you may consider an MBA program instead.

Another related field is finance. Graduate programs in finance prepare students to analyze a company’s financial statements, commodity prices, sales, costs, expenses and tax rates. While a certain amount of investigative research is required in finance, most company records are open to the public, and finance graduates focus on learning to project future earnings rather than uncovering financial wrongdoing.

Students interested in a broader accounting graduate program should consider getting a Master of Accountancy (MAcc) degree. This general accounting program prepares students for careers in public accounting, industry, banking, and working as general accountants for other organizations. Students completing the MAcc degree should be prepared to take the CPA exam.

Are there any iPhone or iPad apps that would benefit me while I am completing my on-campus or online forensic accounting graduate degree?

Students enrolled in a forensic accounting graduate program have a number of tools at their disposal, and those with access to an iPhone or iPad should take advantage of the apps that are out there to help them out.

One such app, Forensic Accounting Exam Prep, was developed by the Dublin School of Economics to help students studying for forensic accounting exams. The app features material on fraud transactions, legal elements of fraud and financial transactions.

A good reference tool for all accounting students is the Dictionary of Accounting Terms, which contains over 1,000 terms covering all aspect of accounting, from basic to advanced concepts. This is a handy app to have whether reviewing for an exam or just trying to remember a term you learned as an undergraduate.

A very helpful accounting app for students about to graduate is Accounting Principals. This app provides a frequently updated directory of accounting jobs, allowing you to browse by job type and location.