The field of forensic accounting contains many exciting and demanding professional careers. Today, many students choose to earn their bachelor's degree in forensic accounting online rather than in a traditional classroom setting because the flexible online format allows distance learners to balance schoolwork with professional and familial commitments.
Undergraduate online accounting programs cover a broad range of topics, including investigation, examination, and prevention of fraud and economic crimes. Students obtain specialized forensic accounting and critical business knowledge, as well as leadership, interpersonal, communication, and critical-thinking skills. Graduates are prepared to sit for professional exams and can become fraud examiners, public accountants, and internal auditors.
A healthier economy typically means a greater number of jobs for accountants and auditors. As a result, the field of forensic accounting is currently in demand and is continuing to grow; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), accountants and auditors can expect 11% job growth over the next seven years.
The text below describes what you can expect from an online forensic accounting program and the kinds of career opportunities you can pursue after you earn your degree.
Choosing a Program
Earning an online degree in forensic accounting equips learners with a broad understanding of accounting principles and specialized forensic accounting knowledge. Forensic accounting programs focus on the investigation of complex financial transactions, statements, reports, audits, and records. They also cover all aspects of fraud forensics, from detection to prevention. Graduates gain leadership, interpersonal, communication, analytical, and critical-thinking skills. Certain programs offer hands-on curricula that feature simulated investigations, enabling students to gain practical experience with industry-standard software.
Some schools offer forensic accounting students two specializations: financial investigation or fraud prevention. Financial investigation focuses on the search for and documentation of misconduct and financial crimes. Alternatively, fraud prevention concentrates on looking for potential vulnerabilities in order to stop economic crime before it happens.
Students who earn a bachelor's degree in forensic accounting online complete a variety of classes, many of which are closely related with criminal justice coursework. Students take classes in legal elements of fraud, investigating with computers, interview techniques, federal taxation, and auditing.
What Are The Best Online Bachelor's in Forensic Accounting Programs?
Southern New Hampshire University
|Manchester, NH||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 49%||
Southern New Hampshire University is one of the fastest-growing colleges in the nation due to its significant number of virtual learners. The school's 90,000 online students choose from 200 programs in fields spanning many disciplines. Its student body enjoys scheduling flexibility, affordable tuition, and a generous transfer system, in addition to a robust business program that includes the 120-credit BS in accounting with a forensic accounting and fraud examination concentration.
The degree prepares accountants to become skilled in conducting complex financial transactions while equipping them with the analytical and presentation skills that employers value. In addition to general education, students complete a business core that covers topics such as cost accounting, federal taxation, business law, and auditing principles. The four-course forensic accounting and fraud examination concentration examines auditing and forensic accounting, investigating with computers, and interview techniques in investigations. Students also explore the various methods employed by forensic accountants to detect financial statement fraud.
This degree and additional master's-level courses put learners on track for professional certification exams such as the CPA. Students can transfer up to 90 credits from four-year colleges into the forensic accounting degree online and complete the program at their own pace with eight-week courses that facilitate accelerated learning. Learners pay the same tuition regardless of residency, and the school offers military personnel up to 30% in tuition discounts.
Admission requires school transcripts from all students, and SNHU generally accepts transfer credits with grades of C- or higher. The BS in accounting in forensic accounting and fraud examination is fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.
|Utica, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 49%||
Located in central New York, Utica College is a small private school founded by Syracuse University. U.S. News & World Report ranks the institution as one of the nation's top regional colleges. The school offers bachelor's degrees in healthcare and criminal justice, while the degree completion BS in fraud and financial crime investigation, one of its kind in the nation, draws from various disciplines such as criminal justice, economics, and sociology.
This fully online degree trains professionals to become highly skilled in investigating economic crimes. The curriculum's core introduces learners to economic crime theory and economic crime investigation, as well as cybercrime law and investigations. Students use 18 credits to explore subjects such as financial accounting, criminology, and jurisprudence of criminal law.
As they train to become economic crime fighters, learners use 18 credits to specialize their skills in one of two areas: financial investigation or fraud prevention and detection. Students acquire solid experience working with one of Utica College's many partnering organizations during required internships.
UC holds a coveted status as an education partner of the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS). As one of the nation's finest forensic accounting online degree programs, the BS helps prepare learners for ACAMS' certified anti-money laundering specialist certification exam. The degree also helps prepare learners for the certified fraud examiner exam administered by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.
Admission requires an associate degree or at least 57 credits from a four-year institution.
The International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts formally recognizes the BS in fraud and financial crime investigation.
Indiana State University
|Terre Haute, IN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 39%||
Established in 1865, Indiana State University enrolls 13,000 students in programs that emphasize experiential learning as much as scholastic aptitude. The school manages a robust virtual college with more than 70 programs. The 120-credit BS in accounting with a minor in forensic accounting provides learners with much of the foundation necessary to take the certified public accountant (CPA) exam.
The business core gives students a well-rounded education in areas such as business finance, management information systems, and management and organizational behavior. A notable business information course develops students' problem-solving and critical thinking skills through the use of integrated projects and other assignments. Students learn to use information management tools to address complex business problems and communication tools for effective oral, written, and visual business communication.
The program features 27 credits in areas such as financial and cost accounting, accounting systems, federal income tax, and auditing theory and practice. Students specialize in forensic accounting by selecting three courses from a comprehensive suite of electives, such as fraud examination and occupational fraud, before acquiring real-world expertise during a repeatable internship. Note that in Indiana, students must complete this degree and an additional 30 credits for eligibility to sit for the CPA exam; Indiana State Online also offers these credits online.
Admission requirements to the BS specify a minimum 2.0 GPA for transfer students. The BS in accounting with a minor in forensic accounting is fully accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
|Columbus, OH||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 6%||
Since 1902, Franklin University has developed programs for nontraditional learners. In addition to locations throughout the Midwest, the Ohio-based Franklin University offers a comprehensive portfolio of online degrees. The BS in forensic accounting trains professionals skilled in detecting and deterring all manner of economic fraud, including corporate malfeasance and tracking terrorist funding.
The 124-credit degree requires general education in subjects such as math, English, and science. The business core's 28 credits build learners' general knowledge in operational areas such as accounting, finance, and business law. Students can become fraud investigators skilled in fundamental aspects of the profession by exploring auditing, accounting information systems, and interviewing techniques.
During a capstone, learners integrate all of the degree's business and forensic accounting competencies as they demonstrate their ability to conduct fraud examinations and assess an organization's controls within ethical frameworks.
Students use elective credits in one of the nation's best online forensic accounting degree programs to pursue more accounting coursework, independent study, or an internship in a relevant work environment. This transfer-friendly school allows learners to allocate up to 94 credits from regionally accredited colleges.
Students pay the same tuition regardless of residency, while military personnel receive steep tuition discounts. In addition to affordable tuition, the school offers comprehensive scholarships for financial aid and notes that its tuition includes no hidden fees, unlike some other institutions.
Admission requires that learners demonstrate proficiency in college algebra and writing, as well as passing a Basic Learning Strategies course. Applicants with more than 24 credits can submit school transcripts for review.
University of Northwestern Ohio
|Lima, OH||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 57%||
Founded in 1920, the University of Northwestern Ohio administers programs through five colleges. Students study on a 200-acre campus in Lima or through the virtual college. While the school maintains recognition for its technical programs, UNOH also offers bachelor's degrees in fields such as business and information technology, as well. The 180-credit BS in forensic accounting blends both these fields to offer a program that prepares learners to sit for the certified fraud examiner examination.
The degree requires 64 credits in general education courses, covering topics such as English, math, and communications. Students develop in-demand accounting skills in areas such as managerial accounting, auditing, and personal taxes, in addition to governmental and nonprofit accounting. Faculty members emphasize analytical thinking and applied skill development in forensic accountant trainees while students explore how to conduct fraud interviews, digital forensics, the litigation process, and the legal implications of fraud examination. Students can apply the lessons learned during required accounting capstone projects.
UNOH offers students virtual learning support, such as live tutoring through Smarthinking, and faculty members hold live weekly office hours made possible through Collaborate. UNOH offers affordable tuition, and students pay the same rate regardless of residency. Learners can finish the degree faster when they transfer an associate degree, with the ability to transfer 135 quarter hours into one of the nation's top online forensic accounting degree programs. The school also awards credit for military coursework and experience, as well as prior learning credit through CLEP and DANTES. Admission requires a minimum 2.0 GPA.
What Else can I Expect from an Online Bachelor's in Forensic Accounting Program?
Students interested in pursuing an online degree in forensic accounting have several variables to consider when selecting a program. For example, some colleges and universities deliver coursework asynchronously, encouraging more independent and self-directed learning, while other schools teach classes synchronously and require students to participate in real-time web conferences.
Curriculum For an Online Bachelor's in Forensic Accounting
Specific curriculum requirements, coursework, and specializations differ from school to school; however, all forensic accounting programs include classes related to auditing, fraud examination, and taxation. Below are a few sample courses you can expect to complete.
- Fraud Examination: Fraud examination courses teach students the methodology behind examining occupational fraud. Topics include causes of white-collar crime, detection and implementation of prevention strategies, evidence gathering, and writing forensic documents to report findings.
- Interviewing Techniques for Investigations: Courses on interviewing techniques teach distance learners useful principles and strategies for interrogating parties of interest, such as suspects. Students discuss verbal and nonverbal cues, the legal aspects of interviewing, and how to properly document findings.
- Auditing: All forensic accounting programs include at least one or two classes on auditing. These classes focus on compiling and reviewing financial statements such as assets, liabilities, and equity accounts of profit-oriented enterprises. Topics include standards, ethics, resolution of irregularities, and preserving evidence.
- Federal Taxation: Federal taxation courses examine the theory and practice behind filing federal income tax returns. Topics cover individual, employee, sole proprietor, and investor returns. Distance students examine exemptions, exclusions, deductions, technical research, memo documentation, and the Internal Revenue Code.
How Long Does it Take to Get an Online Bachelor's in Forensic Accounting?
Online courses represent one of the most flexible options for learning. Many students choose to take classes on a part-time basis and work full-time jobs while earning their degree. Many students, however, go to school full-time and complete their bachelor's degree in forensic accounting online program in four years. Some schools have generous transfer policies and allow incoming students to transfer up to 90 credits, expediting the graduation process. Most bachelor's degree programs require students to complete approximately 120 credit hours; these classes consist of a general education courses, business and economics classes, and forensic accounting-specific coursework.
Colleges and universities offer different approaches and methods to online learning, including courses that are delivered asynchronously and synchronously. Some programs are more self-directed and flexible, while others are cohort-based, which means students go through a sequence of classes together as a group.
Accreditation for Online Bachelor's in Forensic Accounting Degrees
When selecting a school for your online degree in forensic accounting, it is prudent to look for its accreditation. Academic accreditation ensures the quality of programming at an educational institution.
Accrediting agencies are reputable organizations that verify the continuous upkeep and improvement of colleges and universities. There are two main types of accreditation: regional and national. Regional accreditation, which tends to be more prestigious and preferred by other institutions and employers, is a comprehensive educational review of an entire school. Alternatively, national accreditation has less strict standards. Nationally-accredited schools tend to be profit-oriented with lower tuition rates and more flexible admissions requirements.
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) helps determine and approve accreditors and oversees all federally-recognized accrediting agencies. While the ED does not accredit institutions or programs individually, they do maintain a list of nationally-recognized accreditors and accredited schools.
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) also plays a key role in the accreditation process; the CHEA is a leading advocacy membership nonprofit association of more than 3,000 U.S. institutions of higher learning. It works to strengthen the accreditation process. Click here to see a list of all CHEA-approved colleges and universities.
The International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE) is the accreditation leader in the quality assurance of business programs, including forensic accounting programs. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business is another popular organization and is made up of nearly 800 accredited business schools worldwide. Other prestigious accrediting agencies include the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, the Council on Occupational Education, the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, and the Higher Learning Commission.
Employment Outlook for Bachelor's in Forensic Accounting Graduates
Bachelor's in Forensic Accounting Careers
Earning an online degree in forensic accounting qualifies you to work in a variety of settings, including accounting firms, governmental agencies, law offices, insurance companies, large and small private companies, and nonprofit organizations. You'll also be prepared to sit for for professional certifications, such as a certified fraud examiner and certified public accountant, which could help you eventually start your own accounting or consulting business. Five of the most common career pathways are illustrated below.
- Forensic Accountant
These professionals work closely with law enforcement officers and lawyers during investigations to search for traces of illegal activity and detect fraudulent financial activities and economic crime. They conduct financial investigations to ensure financial integrity and compliance. Forensic accountants often appear as expert witnesses during trials.
Median Annual Salary: $68,150
Projected Growth Rate: 11%
- Internal and External Auditors
Internal auditors evaluate their organization's operating guidelines and check for any mismanagement of funds. Their main goal is to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements, industry standards, and corporate policies. They also find ways to improve the auditing process, reduce financial waste, and prevent fraud. External auditors work outside of organizations to perform similar duties as internal auditors.
Median Annual Salary: $68,150
Projected Growth Rate: 11%
- Claims Adjusters, Appraisers, and Investigators
Claims adjusters, appraisers, and investigators evaluate insurance claims and decide if and how much an insurance company must pay for a claim. They work to ensure claims are not fraudulent, confer with legal counsel, and negotiate with policyholders when necessary.
Median Annual Salary: $63,670
Projected Growth Rate: 3%
- Financial Analyst
Financial analysts, also known as securities analysts and investment analysts, assess the performance of investments (e.g., stocks and bonds). They work closely with mutual funds, securities firms, insurance companies, and pension funds to provide guidance and recommendations for investment decisions.
Median Annual Salary: $81,760
Projected Growth Rate: 12%
- Financial Examiners
Financial examiners review transaction and balance sheets and operate income and expense accounts. They also assess bank management to evaluate risks and ensure regulatory and legal compliance for banks and other financial institutions. Examiners sometimes specialize in risk scoping or consumer compliance.
Median Annual Salary: $79,285
Projected Growth Rate: 10%
Bachelor's in Forensic Accounting Salary
As the table below indicates, the median yearly income in the field of forensic accounting ranges from $52 to $64K. Overall, a worker's experience positively affects their income, although this influence is relatively limited for auditors, claims adjusters, appraisers, and investigators. Financial analysts tend to experience a salary increase in the first 10 years of their careers; however, additional experience does not play a huge role on their income.
Median Salary for Forensic Accounting Careers by Experience
|Job Title||Overall Median Salary||Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years)||Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years)||Median Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ years)|
|Claims Adjusters, Appraisers, and Investigators||$51,927||$43,000||$52,000||$64,000|
Financing Your Online Bachelor's in Forensic Accounting Program
Distance learners can fund their degrees with grants, loans, work-study programs, and scholarships. Some schools also offer military and veterans' benefits. Upon enrollment, be sure to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to apply for federal financial aid, such as the William D. Ford Federal Direct Student Loan Program. Merit-based scholarships are also available through professional accounting-related organizations, including the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, and the International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts.
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- Best Online Bachelor's in Forensic Accounting Programs of 2018
Ranking School Location 1 Franklin University Columbus, OH 2 Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH 3 Indiana State University Terre Haute, IN 4 Utica College Utica, NY 5 University of Northwestern Ohio Lima, OH