The 10 Best Master's Degrees in Forensic Accounting

Compiled and Written By Accounting-Degree.org Staff


The first step toward an exciting and lucrative accounting career, a bachelor's degree in forensic accounting provides the accounting and legal knowledge needed for careers in financial crime investigation. Forensic accountants earn an average annual salary of about $67,000, above the annual average salary of $51,000. These professionals earn almost $20,000 above the mean annual salary for all occupations, according to 2018 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The 2020 updated list of programs introduces the nation's best in forensic accounting education. This list can inform prospective learners' program search, allowing them to easily compare high-quality forensic accounting programs.

What Are the Best Forensic Accounting Programs of 2020? Here Are Our Top 10:

Rank School Location
1 Mount St. Mary's University Emmitsburg, MD
2 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott Prescott, AZ
3 Champlain College Burlington, VT
4 Utica College Utica, NY
5 CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice New York, NY
6 Pfeiffer University Misenheimer, NC
7 Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH
8 Franklin University Columbus, OH
9 Indiana State University Terre Haute, IN
10 University of Northwestern Ohio Lima, OH

Best Forensic Accounting Programs for 2020

Mount St. Mary's University

Bachelor of Science in Forensic Accounting

A private, liberal arts institution in Maryland, MSMU ranks among the country's best forensic accounting schools. The school's bachelor's in forensic accounting degree teaches students to find and expose crimes like fraud, theft, embezzlement, and money laundering. The 120-credit program readies graduates for the CPA and certified fraud examiner exams.

Learners study topics like accounting, tax preparation, and auditing. MSMU is one of only a few schools in the nation with its own digital forensics laboratory. Many students elect to double major in accounting and forensic accounting, given the significant overlap of both topics. MSMU requires degree candidates to maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA to graduate. The program holds accreditation from the International Accreditation Council for Business Education.

Average Net Price of Program: $28,548
Program Website

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott

Bachelor of Science in Forensic Accounting and Fraud Examination

ERAU designed its bachelor's degree in forensic accounting according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners' certification standards. The 120-credit program also meets the requirements the federal government sets for hiring fraud investigators and prepares students to sit for the CPA exam.

The program includes coursework in accounting, business, computer science, law, and security. Degree candidates must complete 38 general education credits, 73 major credits, and nine elective credits. Students culminate the degree with a thesis or internship. The program holds accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.

Average Net Price of Program: $33,258
Program Website

Champlain College

Bachelor's in Accounting with a Forensic Accounting Certificate

Vermont's Champlain College offers a 120-credit bachelor's in accounting with a forensic accounting certificate. The 21-credit certificate includes classes on topics like white-collar crime, accounting information systems, cybercrime, auditing, digital forensic investigation techniques, and law and digital evidence.

Champlain charges all online students the same tuition rate regardless of residency. Classes follow accelerated, seven-week terms. Intended for working professionals, this program offers flexible, asynchronous courses. The college accepts up to seven transfer credits into its forensic accounting program.

Average Net Price of Program: $38,577
Program Website

Utica College

Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation

Utica's bachelor's in forensic accounting program ranks among the country's oldest. Students can access state-of-the-art facilities at Utica's Economic Crime, Justice Studies, and Cybersecurity Center.

Learners study topics like accounting, economics, criminal justice, management, and computer science. The program offers concentrations in fraud prevention and detection and financial investigation.

Utica boasts recognition from the National Centers of Digital Forensics Academic Excellence. Program graduates have earned positions at many major companies and agencies, including Bank of America, Deloitte, HSBC, JP Morgan Chase, IRS Criminal Investigations, and the U.S. Secret Service.

Average Net Price of Program: $22,991
Program Website

CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Bachelor of Science in Fraud Examination and Financial Forensics

John Jay's bachelor's degree in fraud examination and financial forensics approaches financial theft from an interdisciplinary perspective. The program integrates concepts from accounting, criminal justice, and the social sciences to give students a comprehensive view of the causes and methods of fraud.

The 120-credit degree includes 54 major credits, 42 general education credits, and 24 elective credits. Degree candidates can use electives to explore areas of interest, such as criminal culture, ethics, white-collar crime, and psychology. John Jay holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Roughly 80% of the college's students graduate debt-free.

Average Net Price of Program: $4,745
Program Website

Pfeiffer University

Bachelor of Science in Accounting

A Methodist institution in North Carolina, Pfeiffer hosts a bachelor's in forensic accounting that prepares graduates for the certified public accountant and certified fraud examiner exams. Students explore all facets of accounting, including financial, managerial, cost, and taxation accounting.

The fraud component comes as part of a 15-credit concentration, with courses on topics like forensic accounting, business analytics, criminology, criminal justice, and white-collar investigations. Students gain valuable experience offering volunteer income tax assistance or working directly with clients through the small business center in nearby Albemarle. Pfeiffer's business programs hold accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.

Average Net Price of Program: $19,554
Program Website

Southern New Hampshire University

Bachelor of Science in Accounting with a Concentration in Forensic Accounting and Fraud Examination

SNHU offers a bachelor of science in forensic accounting through its virtual campus. Available entirely online, the curriculum aligns with standards outlined by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Classes run asynchronously.

The 120-credit program includes general education, business core, and major coursework. This program does not meet credit requirements for the certified public accountant exam. Learners study topics like computer investigation, interviewing, and documentation. Learners can transfer up to 90 credits toward this degree. All online students pay the same tuition rate regardless of residency.

Average Net Price of Program: $39,071
Program Website

Franklin University

Bachelor of Science in Forensic Accounting

Founded to provide educational opportunities to adult learners, Franklin offers a bachelor's in forensic accounting accredited by the International Accreditation Council for Business Education. The fully online program prepares students for certified public accountant, certified fraud examiner, and certified internal auditor exams. Students build hands-on experience through industry-standard software simulations.

Learners study topics like fraud, tax evasion, embezzlement, and money laundering. All students must maintain a minimum 2.25 GPA in major coursework to graduate. Courses feature a flexible, asynchronous format. All distance learners pay the same flat tuition rate regardless of residency.

Average Net Price of Program: $18,684
Program Website

Indiana State University

Forensic Accounting Minor

Indiana State offers its forensic accounting program as a minor. Paired with a bachelor's in accounting, this course of study ranks among the nation's best forensic accounting degrees. The program prepares learners for the certified public accountant exam.

The 18-credit forensic accounting curriculum includes coursework in fraud accounting, fraud examination, occupational fraud, and criminal investigation. Students learn to use accounting techniques to investigate embezzlement, money laundering, and other crimes. Students can transfer up to 90 credits toward the degree. The university's business programs hold accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

Average Net Price of Program: $11,923
Program Website

University of Northwestern Ohio

Bachelor of Science in Accounting with a Forensic Accounting Track

Located in Lima, the University of Northwestern Ohio hosts a bachelor's in forensic accounting as part of its larger undergraduate accounting degree program. Unlike many schools, the university gets future accountants into their accounting curriculum in their very first quarter. The course of study prepares students for the CFE exam.

The 102-credit curriculum grounds students in the basics of accounting, featuring classwork in bookkeeping, auditing, and accounting information systems. The program also gives learners the tools to investigate white-collar crimes such as fraud, embezzlement, and bribery. Degree candidates must complete 64 credits of general education in addition to accounting coursework.

The university reports that 87% of accounting graduates find employment or enroll in graduate school within six months of graduating.

Average Net Price of Program: $17,645
Program Website

Why Earn a Forensic Accounting Degree?

This bachelor's degree provides the foundational knowledge for exciting, diverse, and increasingly in-demand forensic accounting careers. Forensic accountants identify financial inconsistencies in crimes like insurance fraud, asset hiding, money laundering, and embezzlement.

Forensic accounting graduates work in many industries, including accounting, government, and insurance. Mid-level salary positions held by forensic accounting graduates include internal or external auditor and claims adjustor or investigator. These professionals earn a median annual salary of $65,000-$75,000. Higher-paying positions include financial examiner and financial analyst; these professionals earn an annual median salary of $80,000-$86,000.

Analytical, ethical, and detail-oriented individuals make good candidates for bachelor's degrees in forensic accounting. Students in these programs cultivate advanced skills in research, analysis, and reporting. Forensic accounting programs also teach students to prepare evidence for legal disputes and serve as expert witnesses in court.

Full-time students typically earn their bachelor's in forensic accounting in about four years, and part-time programs may take longer. Accelerated programs, which run several terms of intensive courses each year, sometimes cut degree length in half.


How to Find a Forensic Accounting Program

Choosing the right forensic accounting bachelor's program usually requires some forethought, research, and planning. Learners interested in specific career fields such as fraud prevention and financial investigation should identify programs that offer corresponding concentrations and courses.

Applicants should consider schedule constraints as they choose whether to pursue their degree part time, full time, or at an accelerated pace. Motivated students with disposable time sometimes select accelerated bachelor's program options, while working adults often find part-time and/or online programs best for their busy schedules.

Online programs feature the same curricula as on-campus programs, but they often allow students to study during after-work hours. However, online learning may involve less collaborative learning, networking, and mentorship. Some students opt for hybrid programs, combining on-campus and online attendance formats.

Working students who prefer on-campus attendance may choose programs with evening or weekend classes at nearby schools. Those planning to work in specific areas or regions might benefit from attending local, well-known schools. Applicants open to relocation may consider programs that would bring them to high-opportunity areas for forensic accountants.

Many forensic accounting bachelor's programs require internships, which help students gain work experience and build their professional networks. Other programs may require a capstone thesis or project. Before applying, degree candidates should ensure they meet all such requirements. Forensic accounting programs also vary in cost, so students should compare prices and explore all financial aid avenues before deciding where to apply.

Learners enrolled in programs accredited by the Council of Higher Education's approved agencies may qualify for federal aid.

Professional Organizations in Accounting

Professional organizations for accountants help students and professionals stay current on relevant news, research, and career opportunities. Through networking events, online networking platforms, and leadership and volunteer opportunities, these organizations connect members to potential accounting mentors, colleagues, and employers. The organizations listed below also provide continuing education opportunities, including certification programs, courses, webinars, and workshops.

American Accounting Association

Designed to develop the accounting discipline through research and teaching, AAA serves accounting academics through conferences, publications, a career center, and education resources.

Association of Certified Fraud Examiners

The ACFE, the largest anti-fraud professional organization, offers many professional development resources, including CFE certification, conferences, and a job board.

Institute of Management Accountants

IMA administers the CMA certification, distributes publications, and provides continuing education courses. Professionals and students also turn to the institute for networking and leadership opportunities.

National Society of Accountants

Dedicated to establishing high professional standards and advocating for accounting practice rights, NSA provides tax preparation tools, continuing education courses, and free legal advice.

Institute of Internal Auditors

The best-known international association in the internal auditing field, the IIA advances the field through education, advocacy, and professional standards for internal auditing practice.