Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Forensic Accounting 2021

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An online forensic accounting degree delivers the advanced skills needed to investigate financial crimes, such as fraud, money laundering, and insider trading.

This four-year degree provides an excellent stepping stone to a profitable and rewarding career as a financial crime investigator.

Graduates also qualify for positions in traditional accounting fields, such as auditing, assurance services, and actuarial science.

With financial crimes on the rise, forensic accounting majors face strong employment prospects. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 4% growth in the accounting field from 2019-2029, keeping pace with the national average.

The rankings below provide detailed descriptions of the best online bachelor’s in forensic accounting programs. This page also offers insight into the benefits and costs of online forensic accounting degrees, along with pathways to becoming a forensic accountant.

What Is Forensic Accounting?

Forensic accounting degree programs teach students to analyze financial data and identify fraudulent activity. Enrollees develop expertise in obtaining and presenting evidence that can withstand scrutiny in a legal setting.

Common careers for forensic accounting professionals include forensic accounting, assurance services, and auditing. Many forensic accounting graduates find employment in law firms, government agencies, or insurance companies.

An online forensic accounting degree also meets the educational requirements for most entry-level accounting jobs, including financial examiner, financial analyst, and financial advisor. An online bachelor’s in forensic accounting provides 120 of the 150 credits required to sit for the certified public accountant (CPA) exam in most states.

To succeed in the forensic accounting field, professionals must possess superior analytic, inductive, and computational skills, along with strong attention to detail. Many employers prefer graduates with certified fraud examiner (CFE) licensure or certification in financial forensics (CFF).

CFE certification requires a bachelor’s degree, two years of field experience, and membership with the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE). To remain current as a CFE, a professional must obtain 20 hours of continuing professional education annually and pay the ACFE dues.

CFF licensure requirements are even more demanding. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants only provides this licensure to CPAs who have passed the CFF exam and possess a minimum of 1,000 hours of work experience in financial forensics within the past five years.

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Why Get an Online Forensic Accounting Degree?

An online forensic accounting degree qualifies students for fulfilling and lucrative roles in financial forensics. Graduates can expect to see a return on investment after a few years in the field. CFF certification further increases earning potential.

Most online forensic accounting degree programs offer flexibility to students with professional or family commitments. Benefits of earning an online forensic accounting degree include:

Flexibility
Most online bachelor’s in forensic accounting programs use asynchronous delivery methods, allowing enrollees to complete their degrees at their convenience.
CFF Certification
An online bachelor’s in forensic accounting delivers 120 of the 150 credits required in most states to sit for the CPA exam. CPAs with at least 1,000 hours of work experience in forensic accounting in the preceding five years qualify for CFF certification.
Lucrative Career
The BLS reports a median annual pay of $71,550 for accountants and auditors as of 2019, including forensic accountants. Meanwhile, the average salary for CFF-certified accountants reaches almost double that of an average forensic accountant.

What To Expect From Bachelor’s in Forensic Accounting Programs

Earning an online bachelor’s in forensic accounting requires 120 credits and takes four years of full-time study. Forensic accounting majors with prior associate degrees in accounting can typically transfer up to 60 credits toward their online bachelor’s in forensic accounting, completing their degrees in as little as two years.

Degree options vary by school. Available online forensic accounting degrees include a bachelor of accountancy (BAcc), a bachelor of science (BS), and a bachelor of business administration (BBA) in forensic accounting.

Applicants must submit transcripts, SAT/ACT scores, and other application materials. Some programs may waive the requirement for standardized test scores. A typical online bachelor’s in forensic accounting curriculum includes general education, core, and concentration courses. The total cost of tuition for online bachelor’s degrees for in-state residents averages $38,496.

Read More About Forensic Accounting Programs

Admission Requirements

For admission into a forensic accounting degree program, applicants must hold a high school diploma or a GED certificate. Typical application materials include transcripts, letters of recommendation, standardized test scores, personal essays or answers to essay prompts, and a nonrefundable application fee.

Minimum GPA and standardized test scores vary by program, but many forensic accounting degree programs require a minimum 2.5-3.5 GPA. A prior associate degree or undergraduate certificate in accounting may increase the chance of admission to some programs.

Prospective forensic accounting majors can use Common App to apply to their schools of choice. This undergraduate college admission application allows candidates to submit application materials to multiple schools at once, with more than 900 colleges and universities participating in the service.

Degree Options

Available types of online forensic accounting degrees include a BAcc with a specialization in forensic accounting, a BS in forensic accounting, and BBA with a concentration in forensic accounting. The three degree options require similar core courses, with a few differences. A BS requires more STEM courses than a BAcc or a BBA, while a BBA requires more business courses than a BAcc or a BS.

Schools that do not offer forensic accounting degrees or specializations under that name may still provide similar programs, such as fraud examination, forensic auditing, and financial crime investigation.

Course options and requirements vary among programs. A specialization in financial crime investigation, for example, requires more criminal justice classes and fewer STEM courses than a traditional forensic accounting major.

Comparing General Accounting and Forensic Accounting Majors

A bachelor’s degree in forensic accounting offers an alternative to a general bachelor’s degree in accounting, providing students with general accounting prowess and specialized knowledge for financial crime investigation.

General bachelor’s degrees in accounting appeal to prospective students interested in general accounting careers. A bachelor’s in forensic accounting attracts potential learners hoping to secure jobs in financial criminal investigation.

Forensic accounting and general accounting programs generally require the same number of credits and foundational accounting classes. However, they differ in focus, goal, and types of advanced and specialized courses. Below, we compare how forensic accounting programs typically stack up against general accounting programs.

Bachelor’s in Forensic Accounting Bachelor’s in Accounting
Length Four years of full-time study Four years of full-time study
Credit Load 120 credits 120 credits
Focus Focuses on accounting fundamentals and forensic accounting theory and practice Focuses on general accounting theory and practice; many available specializations
Available Specializations Most programs offer forensic accounting as a concentration, rarely offering further specialization; students choose electives in specialty topics like financial cybercrime, securities fraud, and tax evasion. Most general bachelor’s accounting programs offer specializations, including accounting information technology, actuarial science, and fiduciary accounting
Student Demographics Students with high school diplomas or associate degrees looking to pursue forensic accounting careers Students with high school diplomas or associate degrees who aim to pursue general accounting or business careers
Goal Prepare students for entry-level jobs or graduate degrees in forensic accounting Prepare learners for entry-level employment or graduate degrees in the accounting field
Explore General Accounting Programs

Popular Forensic Accounting Courses

A typical forensic accounting degree program delivers a combination of general accounting and forensic accounting classes. Some programs also require students to take capstone seminars. These culminating courses require learners to work individually or in teams to solve real-life or theoretical issues in forensic accounting, such as determining whether any illicit financial activity contributed to the great recession of 2008.

Common courses in forensic accounting degree programs include:

In this class, learners acquire the analytic skills needed to ascertain a company’s financial health, report findings to corporate leaders, and make recommendations for maximizing profits. Coursework explores cash flow analysis, trend analysis, and risk assessment.
Students learn to apply their financial analysis knowledge to verify financial reporting accuracy. The course also develops expertise in executing financial audits, along with detecting and reporting evidence of fraudulent activity.
Through practical experience, enrollees learn to apply statistical tools to analyze financial information and detect improbable transactions. Topics covered include discrete and continuous probability distributions, regression and correlation, and inferential data analysis.
Enrollees study how to detect and prevent different types of financial fraud, such as payroll fraud, asset misappropriation, and consumer fraud. Learners also acquire advanced knowledge interviewing witnesses, testifying in court, and obtaining evidence that meets legal standards.
Coursework explores the principles and techniques needed to investigate financial cybercrimes and obtain forensic evidence that is admissible in court. Degree-seekers also gain insight into investigating financial crimes on the dark web.

How Much Will a Bachelor’s in Forensic Accounting Cost?

The cost of a bachelor’s in forensic accounting depends on the public or private status of an institution, whether students qualify for in-state tuition, and the availability of online learning platforms.

The cost of tuition and fees for an on-campus bachelor’s at elite private schools averages $35,087 annually. The cost of tuition and fees for an on-campus degree at a public college depends on state residency. The cost of tuition averages $9,687 per year for in-state residents and $21,184 for out-of-state residents.

Earning a forensic accounting degree online as an in-state resident at a public institution is more cost-effective. The total cost of an online bachelor’s degree averages $60,593 for private school, $38,496 for in-state residents in public colleges, and $54,183 for out-of-state residents.

Students can save on costs by transferring prior college credit and pursuing available financing options. Many forensic accounting degree programs consider eligible applicants for merit-based scholarships. Learners can also finance their forensic accounting degrees by applying for financial aid, student loans, or grants. The links below provide additional insight into financing options.

Forensic Accounting Jobs and Salaries

Graduates with online bachelor’s degrees in forensic accounting qualify for rewarding and lucrative careers in areas like forensic accounting, financial examination, and securities investigation. These careers garner annual salaries ranging from $65,000-$80,000.

Forensic accounting professionals with CFF certification may earn a substantially higher salary. Aspiring forensic accountants can also boost their career credentials by completing internships, pursuing graduate certificates, and earning master’s degrees in forensic accounting.

  • Forensic Accounting

    A forensic accountant investigates financial crimes, including insurance fraud, insider trading, and tax evasion. Typical job duties include identifying suspicious financial activity; locating and gaining access to relevant financial records; and interviewing suspects, victims, and witnesses.

    • Required Education: Bachelor’s degree; some employers preferentially hire accounting professionals with CFF certification.
    • Average Annual Salary: $68,920

  • Claims Investigator

    Claim investigators handle insurance claims in which the company suspects fraudulent activity. Responsibilities include reviewing the circumstances of the claim; examining the background of claimants and witnesses; and obtaining statements from witnesses and experts.

    • Required Education: High-school diploma or equivalent; many employers preferentially hire applicants with bachelor’s degrees and CPA or CFF certification.
    • Job Outlook (2019-29): -6%
    • Median Annual Salary: $66,540

  • Securities Investigator

    These analysts investigate suspicious investment activities like insider trading, Ponzi schemes, and late-day trading. Typical job duties include remaining apprised of changes to financial regulations; examining investment and market movements to detect illicit investment activity; and obtaining evidence to prove suspicions.

    • Required Education: Bachelor’s degree
    • Job Outlook (2019-29): +5%
    • Median Annual Salary: $81,590

  • Financial Examiner

    Financial examiners ensure organizational compliance with financial regulations. These professionals remain apprised of changes to finance laws; review financial records to ensure organizational compliance with legislation; and establish procedures and policies to reinforce regulatory compliance.

    • Required Education: Bachelor’s degree
    • Job Outlook (2019-29): +7%
    • Median Annual Salary: $81,090

  • Auditor

    Auditors scrutinize financial records to identify potential errors and fraud. Typical job duties include calculating risks of fraud; examining financial statements for accuracy; and reporting errors, fraud, and mismanagement of funds to financial managers.

    • Required Education: Bachelor’s degree
    • Job Outlook (2019-29): +4%
    • Median Annual Salary: $71,550

Explore Accounting Careers

Choosing the Right Forensic Accounting Program

Our rankings offer a strong starting place on your search for the right forensic accounting degree program, but aspiring forensic accountants should also consider other elements. Key factors include:

Regional Accreditation
Regional accreditation ensures that an institution meets rigorous educational standards, which employers value. This type of accreditation also qualifies credits for transfer to other regionally accredited schools.
School-Specific Accreditation
Business schools that hold accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business offer the most reputable forensic accounting degree programs.
Alumni Networks
The success of a program’s alumni network provides another valuable marker of program quality and can offer a stepping stone to building a strong professional network. Before applying, prospective distance learners should ensure that each program maintains a strong alumni program.

Why You Should Get Your Forensic Accounting Degree Online

Earning a forensic accounting degree online rather than on campus offers several benefits. Distance learning programs typically cost less than in-person programs. By electing to learn remotely, students can also avoid expenses associated with on-campus housing, commuting, and parking.

Aspiring enrollees usually encounter online forensic accounting degrees in two formats. Synchronous learning requires students to attend real-time lectures and class discussions in a virtual classroom. This method thus provides an immersive online learning experience while still accommodating learners with work or family commitments.

An asynchronous format provides unbridled convenience by allowing students to listen to pre-recorded lectures, contribute to online discussion boards, and complete assignments at their convenience. Learners considering this format should keep in mind that without strong self-discipline and time management skills, they may fall behind in their courses.

The Top Online Bachelor’s in Forensic Accounting Degrees of 2021

The field of forensic accounting grew a great deal in 2021, and our review of programs highlights accreditation from agency-specific, national, and regional agencies. Accreditation shows that an institution or program upholds a certain standard that employers, students, and educators agree delivers high-quality education. Regional accreditation is focused on the institution, while program-specific accreditation focuses on a particular program or department. The programs on our ranking hold accreditation from at least one of the following agencies:

  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
  • International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE)

Transfer students, undergraduate first-year students, and business students looking to focus their studies on cybercrime and forensic accounting may find suitable programs on our ranking.

Our Ranking Methodology

  1. Champlain College
    Location

    Burlington, VT

    Located in Burlington, Vermont, and founded in 1878, Champlain College offers students the opportunity to study online coursework in a variety of subjects. With the fun mascot of Chauncey T. Beaver, Champlain enrolls more than 2,100 undergraduate students annually.

    Forensic Accounting Online Undergraduate Certificate Program

    Champlain's online bachelor of science in accounting degree allows students to opt in to an additional forensic accounting certificate to further their studies and build their credentials. This 21-credit certificate explores forensic accounting with classes in accounting information systems, auditing, and digital forensic accounting techniques.

    Areas of focus involve white-collar crime, cybercrime, and the law of searching and seizing digital evidence. Graduates demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the relationship between technology and information in accounting, criminal law in the areas of cybercrime and accounting, and IT internal controls and fraud.

    Applying to Champlain

    To apply to the online forensic accounting certificate program, simply complete the free online application, answer a few short essay questions, and provide a resume. An admissions counselor is available throughout the process.

    Program at a Glance

    School Type: Public
    Accreditation: NECHE
    Tuition: $318/credit; $250/credit (military)
    Required Credits: 21 credits
    Program Length: 3 semesters
    Delivery Format: 100% online

  2. University of Northwestern Ohio
    Location

    Lima, OH

    Founded in 1920 and based in Lima, Ohio, University of Northwestern Ohio enrolls nearly 4,000 undergraduate students each year. A private school, UNOH offers 50 degree programs within its five colleges, granting associate, baccalaureate, and master's degrees.

    Forensic Accounting Program

    UNOH offers military students and families the option to enroll in courses online, including its accounting program. The accounting programs have three tracks, one of which is forensic accounting. The accounting curriculum at UNOH is unique as students begin taking accounting courses during their first year, whereas most schools usually don't begin accounting-specific coursework right away.

    Graduates of the UNOH accounting curriculum demonstrate strong managerial skills, including the ability to organize financial reports, evaluate financial operations, and provide recommendations to senior management and leadership. Accounting majors also learn about the legal components of accounting for the private companies, nonprofit organizations, or Fortune 500 sectors of business. Eighty-nine percent of UNOH graduates found employment or continued their education.

    Applying to UNOH

    To apply to UNOH, simply pay the $20 application fee. The application is available online, in person, or via mail. Prospective students may either take the SAT or ACT or enroll in UNOH's placement tests.

    Program at a Glance

    School Type: Private
    Accreditation: HLC
    Tuition: $275/credit
    Required Credits: 180 quarter credits
    Program Length: 4 years
    Delivery Format: 100% online

  3. Southern New Hampshire University
    Location

    Manchester, NH

    SNHU, based in Manchester, New Hampshire, enrolls more than 135,000 through its in-person and online campuses. The affordable, accessible degree programs, built for working professionals, cover a variety of subjects including accounting, business, psychology, and more at the bachelor's and master's levels.

    Forensic Accounting Degree

    SNHU offers an online bachelor of science in accounting with a concentration in forensic accounting and fraud examination program. This degree and exam allow students to transfer up to 90 credits from another institution. Students learn to investigate fraud and prepare for the fraud examiner certification.

    The program graduates demonstrate essential investigative skills to help identify, prevent, and document cybercrime and fraud. The curriculum explores how to analyze and apply accounting rules and regulations, prepare financial records and tax returns, and properly communicate accounting and financial information and controls. Additionally, students learn to apply ethics to business conduct and management decisions.

    Applying to SNHU

    To apply for the forensic accounting program, students must fill out the online application, which allows them to speak with an SNHU admission counselor for the rest of the process. Applicants submit a transcript release form for any schools attended and an electronic attestation form showing a high school diploma or GED certificate.

    Program at a Glance

    School Type: Private
    Accreditation: NECHE, ACBSP
    Tuition: $320/credit
    Required Credits: 120 credits
    Program Length: 5 semesters (transfers); 4 years (new enrollees)
    Delivery Format: 100% online

  4. Utica College
    Location

    Utica, NY

    Based in Utica, New York, Utica College offers numerous programs, with 52 degrees available in the online format. The high-quality online curriculum is flexible, convenient, and available 24 hours a day for students.

    Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation

    Utica College offers an online bachelor of science in fraud and financial crime investigation. The degree curriculum utilizes a holistic approach to the investigation and prevention of economic crime. Students enroll in economic crime and criminal justice studies, cultivating knowledge in forensic accounting, business, and mathematics.

    The program encompasses sociology, economics, and ethics, while allowing students to focus on one of two concentrations: financial investigation or fraud prevention and detection. Students also have the option to explore CipherTrace, a cryptocurrency intelligence company, where they can receive the CipherTrace Certified Examiner credential, furthering their career potential and opportunities.

    Applying to Utica College

    To apply for the forensic accounting program at Utica College, prospective students submit an online application, pay the application fee, and submit all previous undergraduate coursework as well as proof of a high school diploma or GED certificate, a resume, a letter of recommendation, and a personal statement. An admissions advisor walks students through the process.

    Program at a Glance

    School Type: Private
    Accreditation: MSCHE
    Tuition: $450/credit
    Required Credits: 120 credits
    Program Length: 4-6 years
    Delivery Format: 100% online

  5. Franklin University
    Location

    Columbus, OH

    Founded in 1902 and based in Columbus, Ohio, Franklin University has offered many online undergraduate programs for more than 20 years. From business to health sciences or media to education, Franklin helps students pursue higher education from the comfort of their home or remote workspace.

    Bachelor of Science in Forensic Accounting

    For business and accounting students, Franklin University offers an online forensic accounting degree. The curriculum requires 28 hours of foundational coursework in classes such as financial accounting, managerial accounting, business law, and microeconomics. Additional coursework includes principles of finance and management, marketing, and four hours of electives.

    All students must pass college writing and learning strategies courses prior to enrolling in 200-level classes and pass the university algebra requirement. Graduates successfully demonstrate competency in critical analysis, financial accounting, business ethics, and analyzing information systems through the evaluation of process controls and organizational system risks.

    Applying to Franklin University

    To apply to Franklin University, prospective students must fill out the free online application. Students can transfer up to 94 credits from a different institution. It is recommended to fill out the application at least six weeks prior to the semester's start date.

    Program at a Glance

    School Type: Private
    Accreditation: HLC, IACBE
    Tuition: $398/credit
    Required Credits: 124 credits
    Program Length: 4 years
    Delivery Format: 100% online

Questions About Bachelor’s Degrees in Forensic Accounting

  • How long does it take to get a degree in forensic accounting?

    Students can complete bachelor’s degrees in forensic accounting in four years of full-time study. Transferring prior college credits can shorten the duration of the degree. Part-time learners generally take two extra years to finish their degrees.

  • Which is better: a forensic accounting or general accounting degree?

    The “better” degree aligns with your professional goals. A forensic accounting degree benefits candidates interested in careers in investigating crime. A general accounting degree best suits students who want to qualify for more positions in the accounting field.

  • What can I do with a forensic accounting degree?

    With a forensic accounting degree, graduates qualify for further education in graduate programs, along with entry-level positions in forensic accounting, fraud examination, and financial crime investigation.

  • Do forensic accountants make good money?

    Yes. The BLS reports a median annual wage for accountants and auditors, including forensic accountants, of $71,550 as of 2019. Those with professional certification as forensic accountants receive substantially higher pay.

  • How do you become a certified forensic accountant?

    To become a CFA, you must obtain CPA licensure, earn certification in financial forensics, and possess 1,000 hours of work experience within the past five years.

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