5 Best Online Bachelor’s in Forensic Accounting 2021
April 14, 2021 | Accounting.com Staff
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 following rankings 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.
2021’s 5 Best Online Forensic Accounting Degree Programs
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.
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:
Most online bachelor’s in forensic accounting programs use asynchronous delivery methods, allowing enrollees to complete their degrees at their convenience.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Four years of full-time study
Four years of full-time study
Focuses on accounting fundamentals and forensic accounting theory and practice
Focuses on general accounting theory and practice; many 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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.