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 10 Forensic Accounting Bachelor's Programs
|1||Mount St. Mary's University||Emmitsburg, MD|
|2||Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott||Prescott, AZ|
|3||Champlain College||Burlington, VT|
|4||Hilbert College||Hamburg, NY|
|5||Utica College||Utica, NY|
|6||CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice||New York, NY|
|7||Pfeiffer University||Misenheimer, NC|
|8||Southern New Hampshire University||Manchester, NH|
|9||Franklin University||Columbus, OH|
|10||Indiana State University||Terre Haute, IN|
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.
|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|
The Best Forensic Accounting Degree Programs of 2020
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.Learn About Our Ranking Methodology
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
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
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
Bachelor of Science in Accounting with an Accounting Forensics Track
A small, Catholic institution in Greater Buffalo, New York, Hilbert offers an accounting forensics track as part of its bachelor's in accounting. The program uses practice sets, hands-on exercises, and computer simulations to ground students in basic accounting principles.
The forensics component comprises classes in financial investigation, fraud examination, law of economic crime, introduction to criminal justice, and crime and society. All degree candidates must complete an accounting capstone. Many students pursue internships at local businesses. The school boasts a low 13-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio and holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Average Net Price of Program: $15,274
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
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
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.