5 Best Bachelor's Degrees in Forensic Accounting 2021



A forensic accounting bachelor's is typically a four-year, 120-credit program for undergraduates interested in pursuing careers in finance, investigation, consulting, and risk management.

This field of study serves as an excellent option for students seeking job security and opportunities to make an impact in legal proceedings, business decisions, and fraud prevention.

As the sophistication of fraudulent activity grows, so does the demand for forensic accountants. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of accountants and auditors is projected to increase by 4% from 2019-2029. A bachelor's degree meets the minimum education requirements for entry-level positions in this field, making the degree an attractive option for those pursuing a rewarding career.

Aspiring forensic accounting majors can use the following ranking to review top program options, explore course requirements, and evaluate their readiness for admission. We update our rankings annually to keep up with the latest developments in this rapidly growing field.

Top 5 Forensic Accounting Bachelor's Programs 2021

Rank School Location
1 Mount St. Mary's University Emmitsburg, MD
2 Utica College Utica, NY
3 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott Prescott, AZ
4 Champlain College Burlington, VT
5 Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH

What Is Forensic Accounting?

The accounting field offers several specialization options, including one in forensic accounting. This subfield focuses on analyzing financial information to investigate criminal activity, manage risk, and resolve legal conflicts. Forensic accountants interpret and share their findings in courtrooms, boardrooms, and other business and legal venues.

Common employers of forensic accounting professionals include public accounting firms, risk management firms, financial consulting companies, and government agencies. Forensic accountants also find work in law firms, directly supporting the investigation and prosecution of civil and criminal cases.

Read on to explore forensic accounting career options in greater detail, but note that common job titles for these professionals include forensic accountant, internal auditor, and financial analyst. To succeed in forensic accounting, professionals must be detail-oriented and able to interpret complex records. Employers value individuals with excellent analytical, investigative, and communication skills.

An undergraduate forensic accounting degree fulfills the minimum education requirements for most entry-level jobs in the field. The ideal student has an innate interest in finance and investigation. Forensic accounting majors can also benefit from pursuing their certified public accountant (CPA) license and/or certifications from the Institute of Certified Forensic Accountants and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.

Comparing Forensic Accounting to General Accounting Degrees

The standalone bachelor's degree in forensic accounting is relatively new to the college education scene, offering an alternative to the general bachelor's in accounting. Both programs have similar requirements, curriculum content, and student body makeups, with a few key differences.

The forensic accounting degree offers a narrower focus than general accounting, serving students with a definite interest in the specialization. The typical bachelor's in accounting provides students with a broader approach to the field, allowing undecided graduates to easily apply their learning to a variety of career paths.

Compare these two programs in the table below.

Comparing Forensic and General Accounting Programs
Bachelor's in Forensic Accounting Bachelor's in Accounting
Focus Major core focuses on forensic accounting concepts and techniques Major core focuses broadly on accounting concepts and techniques, applicable to multiple specializations
Program Length Four years of full-time study Four years of full-time study
Types of Classes Combines lecture-based and hands-on courses to provide relevant career training Combines lecture-based and hands-on courses to provide relevant career training
Student Demographics Young students with a definite interest in forensic accounting careers Young students with varied career interests across the accounting field
Program Goals Prepare graduates for entry-level careers in forensic accounting, forensic auditing, and related fields Prepare graduates for entry-level careers in public, government, or management accounting

5 Best Bachelor's Degrees in Forensic Accounting 2021

The following list introduces a few of the nation's top forensic accounting bachelor's degrees. To provide the most comprehensive information, our ranking features both standalone forensic accounting degrees and general accounting degrees with forensic accounting concentration options.

Topics covered in our rankings include curriculum content, admission requirements, program formatting, and accreditation. These detailed, school-specific entries offer prospective students a great place to start their program search. Each ranking links to the college or university's forensic accounting program page, where readers can find additional information.

Our Ranking Methodology

What the Best Forensic Accounting Programs Have in Common

Individual schools strive to differentiate their programs, but many top-ranked bachelor's degrees in forensic accounting share specific strengths. These include:

  • They are accredited. All schools in this ranking hold valid regional accreditation. Regional accreditation signifies that the institution meets demanding academic quality standards, ensuring that students graduate with the requisite knowledge and proficiencies. The regional accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and Council for Higher Education Accreditation include:

    • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
    • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
    • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
    • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
    • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
    • WASC Senior College and University Commission

    In addition, relevant programmatic accreditors include:

    • Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
    • International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE)

  • They offer academic excellence. Key signifiers of academic excellence include metrics like retention rates, graduation rates, and the percentage of faculty who hold full-time, permanent positions. All schools that made the cut posted strong performances in these data categories, indicating high levels of student satisfaction with the quality of their academic programs.

  • They are reputable. Reputation matters, particularly to employers and students considering graduate studies in accounting, business administration, or a related field. Quantitative indicators of a strong institutional reputation cover factors like the percentage of applicants offered admission, the percentage of those offers accepted by students, and student return on investment. For example, Mount St. Mary's University boasts a 100% post-graduation placement rate, indicating elite educational investment value.

  • They are affordable. With the costs of higher education continuing to climb, affordability is an increasingly important consideration. The schools that made this year's list maintain proactive affordability policies. Large percentages of the student body receive financial aid, and students carry lower levels of debt into their post-graduation careers. Rankings analysts also consider the net price of attendance for enrollees receiving nonrepayable forms of aid such as grants or scholarships.

Mount St. Mary's University

Public university in Emmitsburg, MD, accredited by MSCHE and IACBE


The second-oldest Catholic university in the United States, Mount St. Mary's University was founded in 1808 and quickly earned a reputation as a preeminent seminary school. Today, The Mount supports more than 40 areas of academic study across three undergraduate colleges.

Bachelor of Science in Forensic Accounting

Offered through the IACBE-accredited Bolte School of Business, this acclaimed bachelor's in forensic accounting uses a rigorous pedagogical methodology focused on case studies. Degree-seekers master advanced forensic accounting and auditing strategies, with a special focus on technology's increasing role in the perpetration and investigation of financial crimes.

The Mount counts as one of only seven U.S. institutions to offer a specialized BS in forensic accounting, and all learners enjoy full access to the school's cutting-edge digital forensic laboratory. Graduates emerge with the skills and knowledge to pass the certified public accountant and certified fraud examiner licensure examinations, giving alumni enhanced career flexibility.

Applying to The Mount

Admission requirements include a completed institutional or Common App application, high school and postsecondary transcripts, and at least one letter of recommendation. Officials usually deliver admission decisions in 2-3 weeks.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $42,200/year; $540/credit
  • Required Credits: 120 credits
  • Program Length: 4 years
  • Delivery Format: On campus

Utica College

Private university in Utica, NY, accredited by MSCHE and ACBSP


As a legally and financially independent institution since 1995, Utica College retains full administrative and pedagogical freedom. Its business programs hold specialized endorsements from the prestigious Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.

Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation

UC's groundbreaking forensic accounting program was the first undergraduate degree in the United States to focus exclusively on fraud and financial crime investigation. The school's rigorous and specialized curriculum was developed in cooperation with UC's world-renowned Economic Crime and Cybersecurity Institute.

Learners engage with multidisciplinary perspectives that combine elements of accounting and finance with law, investigative techniques, and applied technology. All students enjoy full access to UC's advanced economic crimes, justice studies, and cybersecurity tech lab, and campus-based degree-seekers can also take advantage of a pioneering program providing cryptocurrency crime detection training.

Applying to UC

UC's application process requires candidates to submit transcripts from all previously attended institutions, along with explanations of extracurricular and professional activities and a 300-word personal statement.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $21,560/year (on campus); $450/credit (online)
  • Required Credits: 120 credits
  • Program Length: 4 years
  • Delivery Format: On campus or online

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott

Private university in Prescott, AZ, accredited by SACSCOC


Established as a flight school during the early years of the aviation boom, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is now a leading technical and business institution. The school maintains campuses in Florida and Arizona, along with a worldwide campus that operates in more than 130 locations.

Bachelor of Science in Forensic Accounting and Fraud Examination

ERAU's specialized undergraduate forensic accounting degree covers four key areas: financial transactions and fraud schemes, financial crime investigation techniques, fraud deterrence and prevention, and finance law. The program maintains a formal educational partnership with the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, which participated in curriculum development.

The program supplements its forensic accounting core with targeted instruction in business studies, technology, criminal justice, and cybersecurity. Its curriculum also meets federal government forensic accounting standards, qualifying graduates for immediate employment with federal agencies including the CIA and FBI.

Applying to ERAU

As a nontraditional university, ERAU maintains flexible admission standards. Applicants should possess a high school diploma or equivalent with senior-level coursework in mathematics and business. Optional materials include ACT/SAT scores, letters of recommendation, and a personal essay.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $39,116/year
  • Required Credits: 120 credits
  • Program Length: 4 years
  • Delivery Format: On campus

Champlain College

Private university in Burlington, VT, accredited by NECHE


Founded in 1878, Champlain College enjoys a strong reputation for academic innovation. The Vermont-based school maintains international campuses in Montreal, Canada and Dublin, Ireland.

Online Bachelor's Degree Program in Accounting

Delivered in a compact format covering two seven-week terms per semester, this 100% online accounting degree offers outstanding flexibility with strong appeal to nontraditional learners. Degree-seekers interested in forensic accounting can pursue Champlain's 21-credit certificate in the discipline, which the school offers as a standalone program or as a concentration within the bachelor's degree.

The forensic accounting module provides a thorough introduction to the specialization. Coursework covers accounting information systems, white-collar crime, cybercrime, search and seizure law, and auditing. Enrollees explore the investigation techniques accounting specialists use to conduct digital and forensic examinations. Competencies for the online bachelor's degree in accounting draw on the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants' core competence framework.

Applying to Champlain

Candidates must submit academic transcripts, extracurricular activity summaries, and letters of recommendation for admission consideration. SAT/ACT scores and personal essays are optional. Champlain also considers performance metrics such as class rank and GPA if provided.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $318/credit
  • Required Credits: 120 credits
  • Program Length: 1-4 years
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)

Southern New Hampshire University

Private university in Manchester, NH, accredited by NECHE and ACBSP


Chartered in 1963, Southern New Hampshire University occupies a scenic 300-acre campus overlooking the serene Merrimack River. It also maintains offices and satellite campuses in central Manchester and in the city's famous mill district.

Bachelor of Science in Accounting (Forensic Accounting Concentration)

SHNU offers its bachelor's degree in forensic accounting online, with learners committing to their specialization within the framework of a general accounting degree. The program teaches essential skills including auditing techniques, financial reporting standards, applicable laws and regulations, and professional ethics. The curriculum meets standards set by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

This affordable and flexible program offers some of the most affordable online tuition rates in the United States, and degree-seekers deepen their knowledge and professional versatility through required business courses. Course content covers business law, business analysis, marketing, strategic management, human resources, finance, and other enterprise essentials.

Applying to SHNU

SHNU's flexible, inclusive admission policies are specifically designed to remove barriers to higher education. The school admits qualified learners on a rolling basis and candidates receive decisions within days of submitting a completed application.

Program at a Glance

  • Tuition: $320/credit
  • Required Credits: 120 credits
  • Program Length: 4 years
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)

What To Expect as a Forensic Accounting Major

Forensic accounting majors can expect to complete approximately 120 credits of coursework before graduation. Transfer students with previously completed associate degrees may need to complete fewer credits. Studying full time, freshmen can complete their degree in four years, and transfer students can do so in two.

Students may pursue either a BS or a bachelor of business administration (BBA) in forensic accounting. General accounting programs also offer forensic accounting concentrations for students interested in specializing.

Depending on the school you select, your forensic accounting degree may take place online, on campus, or as a hybrid combination of both formats. The 120-credit curriculum comprises general education, major core, and electives. The total cost of annual tuition, fees, room, and board varies, with 2017-18 averages totaling $27,357 for four-year institutions, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Bachelor's degree admissions typically require a high school education, standardized test scores, and other supplemental materials.

Different Degree Types and Specializations

Prospective students may find forensic accounting majors within both BS and BBA programs. These two degrees offer similar course content, with a few key differences.

The BS primarily focuses on technical training, while the BBA takes a more theoretical approach, combining technical accounting skills with business administration courses.

Remember that not every college and university uses the same terminology. If your prospective institution does not offer a forensic accounting option, you may find a similar program or specialization under another name, like accounting forensics, fraud examination, or financial crime investigations.

Course content may vary slightly between concentrations. A financial crime investigations concentration, for example, might entail a few criminal justice courses, which may not be required for a fraud examination concentration.

Prospective forensic accounting majors must make careful considerations to select the program and/or specialization that best fits their interests and long-term goals.

Admission Requirements for Forensic Accounting Programs

Before becoming a forensic accounting major, you must complete the enrollment process at your school of choice.

Bachelor's degree applicants must hold a high school diploma, a high school equivalency diploma, or an associate degree. Minimum GPA requirements vary by college, but students should aim for a minimum 2.0 GPA, or a minimum 3.5 GPA for more selective schools. Students with an associate degree must typically demonstrate a minimum 2.0 GPA for any course they want to transfer.

Other common application materials include:

  • ACT or SAT scores
  • Letters of recommendation from teachers, mentors, or employers
  • Official transcripts from high school and any colleges attended
  • Personal essay and/or written answers to supplemental questions
  • An application fee, which averages $44

Nearly 900 colleges and universities use the Common App to help streamline the application experience for prospective students. The Common App allows learners to apply to multiple schools without having to re-enter information or write multiple essays.

Popular Bachelor's in Forensic Accounting Courses

Bachelor's programs focus on producing well-rounded graduates who can demonstrate fundamental knowledge of their major and key skills in critical thinking, communication, and cooperation. Whether you complete your forensic accounting degree online or on campus, you can expect to take a combination of general education, core, and elective courses. Four common forensic accounting courses are listed below.

  • Financial Accounting

    This introductory course teaches students to interpret and process financial statements to obtain information about a business's performance. Topics covered include the accounting cycle, accrual accounting, and preparation of statements and balance sheets. Students also examine major elements of statements like cash, receivables, inventory, assets, and payroll.

  • Fraud Examination

    This course explores how the most common types of fraud occur and how forensic accountants can help prevent and detect fraud. Students review current behavioral research associated with occupational fraud and learn about the methodologies of fraud examination, such as obtaining evidence, examining documents, interviewing witnesses, and testifying.

  • Accounting Information Systems

    By combining business, information technology, and accounting concepts, this course provides students with a framework for understanding accounting information systems. Common topics include current developments in information technology, the control and development of information systems, transaction processing cycles, and REA (Resource-Event-Agent) enterprise ontology.

  • Federal Income Tax

    This course introduces students to the federal income tax structure as it relates to individuals. Covered topics include filing status, deductions and exemptions, and what counts as taxable and nontaxable income. Students may also explore the formation, operation, and liquidation of corporations. Some technical tax research is required.


Forensic Accounting Jobs and Salaries

Several exciting career options become available with an undergraduate forensic accounting degree. Four of these, highlighted in greater detail below, include forensic accountant, auditor, financial examiner, and financial analyst. According to the BLS, these careers offer median salaries from $70,000-$80,000, plus faster-than-average growth projections between 2019 and 2029.

Professional certification can boost a job candidate's resume and competitiveness in the job market. Alongside on-the-job experience, additional education like a master's degree allows graduates to pursue advancement to senior-level positions. The most successful candidates may transfer to management or executive positions or establish their own accounting or consulting firms.

Forensic Accountant

Forensic accountants investigate financial records for criminal activity like fraud and embezzlement. They aid in contract disputes, work closely with law enforcement, and may appear as expert witnesses during court trials.


  • Required Education: This career requires at least a bachelor's degree. Some forensic accountants pursue CPA certification.
  • Job Outlook: +4%
  • Median Annual Salary: $71,550
Auditor

Auditors review financial records for mismanagement of funds, identifying fraud or wasted money. They may work as internal employees at a single organization or as external auditors, serving various clients.


  • Required Education: This career requires at least a bachelor's degree. Certification is available for internal auditors and information systems auditors.
  • Job Outlook: +4%
  • Median Annual Salary: $71,550
Financial Examiner

Financial examiners ensure banks and financial institutions comply with the law. They typically specialize in risk assessment, evaluating the health of the institution, or in consumer compliance, ensuring borrowers receive fair treatment.


  • Required Education: This career requires a bachelor's degree in a relevant field, plus on-the-job training.
  • Job Outlook: +7%
  • Median Annual Salary: $81,090
Financial Analyst

Financial analysts consult individuals and businesses on their investment decisions. Forensic accounting graduates may choose to specialize in risk management, helping clients manage unpredictability and limit financial loss.


  • Required Education: This career requires a bachelor's degree. If desired, financial analysts can pursue certification and/or licensure.
  • Job Outlook: +5%
  • Median Annual Salary: $81,590

Selecting the Right Forensic Accounting Program

When searching for the right college or university, you should not rely on rankings alone. Take the time to understand your main priorities and thoroughly review school websites. Some key factors to consider include:

Accreditation

Accreditation indicates that a school meets rigorous, third-party standards regarding academics, financial activity, and student support services. Attending a regionally accredited school ensures the value of your education.

Faculty Qualifications

In college, instructors are your most important guides. Choose a school with faculty you want to learn from. Learn about their education, experience, publications, and awards.

Location

If you plan to live on campus, learn more about the surrounding town or city. Does it offer the opportunities, culture, and experiences you want? Campus location also determines off-campus commute time, seasonal climate, and whether you pay in-state or out-of-state tuition.

Program Length

Would you prefer a part-time, full-time, or accelerated program? If you need flexibility, make sure your prospective institution offers a program format and length that fits your schedule.

Extracurriculars

Extracurricular activities can vary widely from one institution to another, depending on budgets, available space, and student interest. If you want to be involved on campus, find a school that hosts athletic teams, clubs, and organizations you want to join.

Should You Get Your Forensic Accounting Degree Online?

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic caused a spike in virtual work and learning, online college programs had been growing steadily in popularity. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 35% of all college students took at least one course online in fall 2018. Nearly 17% enrolled exclusively in online education options.

Combining both technical and theoretical education, forensic accounting degrees make an excellent option for online learners. Students can take advantage of the online environment to collaborate with other students, communicate with instructors, and review lectures and material at their own pace.

Asynchronous online learning, which requires no set login times, offers the greatest flexibility. Students can use this opportunity to earn their degree while working part time, pursuing a volunteer opportunity, or managing other obligations.

Before pursuing an online degree, prospective students should evaluate whether the online experience is right for them. Factors to consider include:

  • Your at-home learning environment
  • The program's technical requirements
  • Whether you learn best in a classroom environment or on your own
  • Your comfort level with digital communication as a primary form of interaction
  • Whether any program components require in-person attendance

Find Online Forensic Accounting Programs

Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

What is forensic accounting?
Forensic accounting is a specialized practice area within the accounting field. Through a combination of accounting skills, investigative techniques, and legal knowledge, forensic accounting uncovers and aids in the prosecution of criminal activity like fraud and embezzlement.
Is forensic accounting a major?
Yes. Plenty of colleges and universities offer forensic accounting and investigation as a standalone major. Others offer forensic accounting as a concentration or minor within a general bachelor's in accounting.
How do you become a certified forensic accountant?
Several certification options exist for professionals in forensic accounting: certified professional forensic accountant, certified fraud specialist, certified professional internal auditor, and certified fraud examiner. To earn these certifications, candidates must complete required courses and examinations.
How much do forensic accountants make?
Accountants and auditors earn a median annual salary of $71,550. PayScale.com reports that forensic accountants earn an average of $68,115. Earning potential varies by location, employer, experience, and credentials.

Forensic Accounting Professional Organizations

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 AssociationDesigned 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 ExaminersThe ACFE, the largest anti-fraud professional organization, offers many professional development resources, including certified fraud examiner certification, conferences, and a job board.
  • Institute of Management AccountantsIMA administers the certified management accountant certification, distributes publications, and provides continuing education courses. Professionals and students also turn to the institute for networking and leadership opportunities.
  • National Society of AccountantsDedicated 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 AuditorsThe best-known international association in the internal auditing field, the IIA advances the field through education, advocacy, and professional standards for internal auditing practice.

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