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Frequently Asked Questions

What is forensic accounting?
How does forensic accounting differ from traditional accounting?
What kind of knowledge, skills, and abilities do forensic accountants need?
Is there a demand for forensic accountants and forensic accounting education?
Why should you choose UC’s MFA program?
How does the hybrid structure of the MFA program work?
Do I need an accounting degree to enroll in the MFA?
Is the program accredited? 


What is forensic accounting?

Forensic accounting is a specialized field of practice that involves the application of accounting principles and analysis in a legal setting. Forensic accounting services can be divided into two broad categories:

  • Litigation services — Related to actual or potential litigation, including expert witness services and consulting services. Common engagements include business valuations, economic damage calculations, and analysis of equitable distribution in divorce actions.
  • Investigative services — Related to observed or suspected occurrences of fraud, generally outside litigation. Examples include fraud investigation, fraud detection, and fraud deterrence.

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How does forensic accounting differ from traditional accounting?

Traditional accounting involves gathering, processing and communicating quantitative information about economic entities. This information is primarily financial in nature and is applicable to economic decisions.

Forensic accounting, on the other hand, provides a perspective beyond the numbers. In addition to accounting skills, forensic accounting requires investigative skills (gathering and evaluating evidence) and communication skills to deliver opinions via expert testimony and expert reports.

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What kind of knowledge, skills, and abilities do forensic accountants need?

Forensic accountants need an understanding of accounting, finance/economics, criminology, and law. Necessary skills include communication skills (both written and oral) and familiarity with various technologies. Most importantly, forensic accountants must possess an attitude of professional skepticism and the ability to think critically.

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Is there a demand for forensic accountants and forensic accounting education?

Yes!

First, the accounting profession and business community have growing concerns about the incidence of fraud. According to research conducted by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), U.S. organizations lose an estimated 5% of annual revenues to fraud. Based on the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for 2010 ($14.7 trillion), this indicates annual fraud losses of $735 billion.

Second, attention to the subject matter is mandated by new regulations in the accounting profession (e.g., SAS 991 and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 20022), which have significantly enhanced the requisite knowledge and skills required of today's accounting students and practitioners.

Third, the 150-hour rule3 and professional licensing mandates (e.g., continuing professional education) enhance the demand for graduate accounting education, particularly specialized courses such as forensic accounting.

Finally, a number of recent publications have identified forensic accounting as the fastest-growing niche market in the accounting profession and one of the hottest job prospects for college graduates.

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Why should you choose UC’s MFA program?

The Master of Forensic Accounting (MFA) is the premier graduate degree in accounting. The University of Charleston’s MFA program is specifically designed to accommodate the time constraints of working professionals allowing students to earn the MFA while maintaining full-time employment. Its unique hybrid structure maximizes the joint benefits of online learning and traditional face-to-face instruction. The program can be completed in fourteen months, with only seven campus visits.

The MFA program is ideal for both executives with years of professional work experience and recent college graduates who are beginning their professional work career. The MFA also is a great program for working students interested in meeting the 150 credit-hour requirement to sit for the Certified Public Accounting (CPA) licensure exam. The MFA emphasizes practical application, with the goal of preparing students for career advancement. The program’s curriculum was designed by practicing forensic accountants, and all instructors are active practitioners.

MFA students benefit not only from the expertise of experienced instructors, but also from shared experiences with a diverse peer group. This interdisciplinary offering allows students to join a network of professionals in a variety of fields, including accounting, finance, management, criminal justice, sociology, psychology, law, and computer science.

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How does the hybrid structure of the MFA program work?

The MFA is a module-based program, comprised of five 12-week modules (equivalent to 8 semester hours each) over a period of fourteen months. Students meet on campus for a total of seven two-day class sessions, held on Fridays from 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Between class sessions, students complete both individual and group assignments and participate in a variety of interactive online learning experiences (e.g., discussion forums, live chats, videos).

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Do I need an accounting degree to enroll in the MFA?

No. While most forensic accountants have accounting degrees, of equal value are backgrounds in finance, economics, and business management. Related areas of study include criminology, law, computer science, sociology, and psychology.

To be admitted to the MFA program, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  1. A bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution including
    1. Six semester hours of accounting (Principles of Accounting I & II)
    2. Six semester hours of economics (Macro & Micro)
    3. Three semester hours of finance (Business or Managerial);
     
  2. A cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 in undergraduate work;
  3. Letters of recommendation.
    1. Recent college graduates without work experience must provide two or more instructor references from courses taken during the junior or senior year.
    2. Working professionals must provide two or more recommendations, including one from the applicant’s current employer.
    3. All references should address the applicant’s career potential and ability to take on graduate-level work.
     
  4. An interview with the MFA program coordinator.

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Is the program accredited?

Yes! UC is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges & Schools - Higher Learning Commission. This is a regional organization (one of the six) that accredits institutions in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

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1Statement on Auditing Standards No. 99: Consideration of Fraud in a Financial Statement Audit, commonly abbreviated as SAS 99, is an auditing statement issued by the Auditing Standards Board of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) issued in October 2002. The original exposure draft was distributed in February 2002. SAS 99, which supersedes SAS 82, was issued partly in response to recent accounting scandals at Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia, and Tyco. The standard incorporates recommendations from various contributors including the International Auditing & Assurance Standards Board. SAS 99 became effective for audits of financial statements for periods beginning on or after December 15, 2002.

2The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (Pub.L. 107-204, 116 Stat. 745, enacted 2002-07-30), also known as the Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act of 2002 and commonly called SOX or Sarbox, is a United States federal law enacted on July 30, 2002 in response to a number of major corporate and accounting scandals including those affecting Enron, Tyco International, Adelphia, Peregrine Systems, and WorldCom.

3150 hours of college coursework are required to sit for the CPA exam in West Virginia.