Author: Brenda Rufener
Reviewed by: Melissa Anderson
Reading level: Grade 8
Reading time: 10 minutes, 39 seconds
Original Publication Date: November 2020
In this article, we profile the top 10 forensic accounting degree programs.
The best forensic accounting programs prepare students well for this demanding profession. A bachelor’s in forensic accounting can lead to a secure, high-paying career. While few online forensic accounting programs exist, traditional, on-campus programs abound. You must find a reputable program to gain the skills needed to succeed in this accounting career. Below, we feature 10 of the best universities for accounting with a forensic focus.
10 Forensic Accounting Programs Methodology
We reviewed approximately 125 schools offering bachelor’s in forensic accounting programs. Selection criteria were based on accreditation and rankings with major publications like U.S. News and World Report. Tuition costs were taken from the National Center for Education Statistics, College Navigator. and verified accreditation on the school’s website. We then ranked on-campus and online forensic accounting degree programs according to affordability.
Ranking the Top 10 Forensic Accounting Degree Programs 2024
Types of Forensic Accounting Degree Programs
#10 – Franklin University
Online BS in Forensic Accounting
Franklin University offers an online forensic accounting degree emphasizing fraud detection. This program is for those seeking a rigorous, flexible, efficient accounting program. It’s ideal for busy individuals. Plus, more students prefer online courses. They can dive into the curriculum without following a traditional class schedule. Self-motivated students report high satisfaction rates with Franklin’s online classes. Students complete courses that tackle complex issues such as:
- Money Laundering
- Financial Misappropriations
- Tax Evasion
- Data Analysis of Financial Information
The degree is useful for preparation for an auditing career or graduate school. Students interested in the program are encouraged to apply for financial aid.
- 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio
- Programs are designed for adult learners
- Advisors are overbooked
- Faculty have received very mixed reviews
#9 – Indiana State University
Terre Haute, Indiana
Online Bachelor of Science in Accounting
Indiana State University offers an online forensic accounting degree. This program is entirely online, with no on-campus visits required. Of course, students are welcome to take courses on campus. They can also use on-campus services as part of their online experience. The degree results in a BS in accounting with a minor in forensic accounting. The degree curriculum ensures students graduate with a strong set of accounting skills. These are the same skills needed for entry level accounting jobs at various size firms. Forensic accounting courses provide specialized skills and knowledge in detecting and preventing fraud. They can be applied in various contexts and provide support in criminal cases. ISU ranks #154 among top public schools, according to U.S. News.
- They accept AP and CLEP exams for acceptance
- Their acceptance rate is higher than the national average
- Some students have reported racist behavior
- Student to faculty ratio is high
#8 – University of Alabama at Birmingham
Online BS in Accounting
The University of Alabama at Birmingham offers an online forensic accounting degree. It is offered through its Collat School of Business. This flexible program can be completed in four years. The program is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. The Princeton Review recently named it one of the top 10 in diversity in the United States. Courses are taught by the same leading business and accounting faculty that teach on-campus courses. Prospective students will learn foundational accounting principles and specialized courses in:
- Internal audits
- External auditing
- Crime detection
- Fraud prevention
UAB is ranked #153 in national universities by U.S. News.
- All classes are taught by faculty, not grad students
- They offer credit for life experience
- Graduation rate is lower than the national average
- Some issues with the financial aid department have been reported
#7 – Colorado State University Global
Online Bachelor’s in Forensic Accounting
Colorado State University Global offers an online forensic accounting degree. The program is ideal for individuals seeking to complete their bachelor’s without commuting. The program is online, which is why the program is popular for working adults and busy students. The core curriculum teaches in-depth accounting fundamentals and financial data analysis. Students are then able to choose from several concentrations. This includes forensic accounting, which provides students with expertise in:
- Auditing processes
- Fraud prevention
- Writing investigative reports for business organizations
Colorado State University Global ranks in six U.S. News categories. For example, it has been named #11 in best bachelor of arts online programs. Financial aid opportunities and student services are available to online students.
- They are generous in accepting transfer credits
- Career-focused program curriculum
- Admissions process can be difficult to navigate
- Some issues with the financial aid office have been reported
#6 – Purdue University Global
Online Bachelor’s in Forensic Accounting
Purdue Global offers an online forensic accounting degree. The program is ideal for individuals seeking a quality bachelor’s degree. The School of Business and Information Technology is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs. It offers online delivery, flexible curriculum, and a generous transfer credit policy. Purdue Global is an excellent option for working professionals seeking professional certification. It’s also suitable for busy students who cannot take on-campus courses. The degree can be completed in as little as four years.
- Program is flexible
- You can “try before you buy”
- As a relatively new venture, some wrinkles are still being worked out
- A lack of communication with faculty has been reported
#5 – University of Maryland Global Campus
Online BS Accounting
UMGC offers an online forensic accounting program. Those seeking this degree may find it to be an excellent option. This is due to its flexible online delivery and accredited curriculum. The program is taught by highly qualified faculty. It is 120 credits and accepts up to 90 transfer credits from other institutions on approval. It serves as excellent preparation for industry examinations, work in various financial institutions, or for graduate school. Students take courses such as:
- Advanced Accounting
- Auditing Theory and Practice
- Fraud and Forensic Accounting
- Internal Auditing
- Financial Statement Fraud
Students must meet admission requirements as either a freshman or transfer to apply. U.S. News ranks Maryland Global #9 in most innovative schools.
- Program offers excellent career advancement opportunities
- Degree programming is highly rated
- There is a low graduation rate
- A lack of diversity has been reported
#4 – CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice
New York, New York
Bachelor’s in Fraud Examination and Financial Forensics
Forensic accounting jobs are in high demand. This is due to companies attempting to minimize financial crimes within their organizations. John Jay College of Criminal Justice is an excellent option for academic programs. This degree focuses solely on identifying and preventing financial fraud through sound accounting, financial, and criminal justice principles. The program takes an interdisciplinary approach to tackling fraud prevention. This provides the graduate with a holistic view of financial crime and fraud. Students learn ethics, philosophy, and sociology concepts to prepare for future professional responsibilities. Other classes include cost accounting, economics, and statistics. John Jay is ranked #16 in top public schools by U.S. News.
- High rated faculty
- Inclusive community
- Lack of student support has been reported
- Some issues with financial aid have been reported
#3 – University of Florida
Bachelor of Science in Accounting
The University of Florida has a forensic accounting degree. The Warrington College of Business and Fisher School of Accounting offers it. The program focuses on accounting fundamentals. It helps students learn business practices and concepts. These are the prerequisites for a successful post-college career working in various industries. The program is taught by leading faculty in their respective disciplines. The vast majority hold PhDs along with industry experience working with financial institutions. Students take courses for college credit in:
- Advanced Accounting
The University of Florida ranks in 21 U.S. News categories. For example, it’s been named #30 in national universities and #6 in top public schools. Students are encouraged to apply for financial aid.
- Graduation rate is significantly higher than national average
- A diverse and supportive community
- 30% acceptance rate
#2 – Brigham Young University
BS in Accounting
Brigham Young offers a bachelor’s degree in accounting. It is comparable to a forensic accounting degree. It is 64 credits (not including general education courses) and is limited to 275 students. Applicants must take prerequisite courses in accounting or management information systems to apply. They must also have a minimum 3.0 grade in ACC 200 or ACC 300. Courses may include:
- Financial Statement Auditing
- Managerial Finance
- Supply Chain Management
- International Business
BYU ranks in 12 U.S. News categories. It’s been named #80 in national universities and #11 in best value schools.
#1 – Florida Atlantic University
Online BBA in Accounting
Boca Raton, Florida
Those seeking a forensic accounting degree online may find FAU a good fit. The offering combines the convenience of online delivery, affordable tuition, and quality curriculum. And because the program is online, students save time and money while earning college credit. Graduates of the program have gone on to careers like:
- Financial analysts
- Forensic accountants
- Public accountants
- Certified management accountant
FAU is ranked #272 in national universities by U.S. News. Financial aid is available for students who qualify.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I do with a forensic accounting degree?
Individuals possessing a forensic accounting degree have several career options in accounting and finance. These positions require that they analyze financial statements and records to ensure that they follow laws and industry regulations. Job titles may include:
- insurance fraud auditor
- accounting technician
- financial analyst
- regulatory analyst
In addition to identifying non-compliance, accountants spend much of their time preparing financial records and statements. They may do this as an internal member of the organization, or as an outside representative performing these duties for clients or customers. Accountants and auditors need to have an in-depth understanding of accounting and financial principles and practices. They must also possess mastery of accounting and financial information systems designed to increase productivity and accuracy.
Individuals with a forensic accounting degree may seek to work in virtually any industry due to the ubiquitous nature of accounting. The degree provides much latitude in terms of work environment and location. This is because all forms of industry as well as various government agencies require accounting functions to be completed.
There are several different types of accountants and auditors. These include:
- government accountants
- management accountants
- public accountants
- external auditors
- internal auditors
Accounting careers are constantly evolving due to the rapid evolution in accounting and cyber-security technology. Thus, professional development and continuous training is also part of the job.
What is the job outlook for individuals with a forensic accounting degree?
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the expected job outlook for accounting and auditing occupations is expected to grow by 7% during the time period between 2020 and 2030. This growth rate equals the rate for all other occupations tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
As technology improves, many basic accounting functions are expected to be rendered obsolete. These advances are not expected to decrease demand, though. The need for qualified accountants and auditors who are adept at the analytical and advisory aspects of the occupation should see increased need for their skills.
Demand is expected to be strong for entry-level accountants with bachelor’s degrees. As has been the case, competition for jobs at prestigious firms will be fierce. Those with specializations in forensic accounting should have slightly better occupational odds than those with general accounting degrees. Graduates who are willing to move to areas with high growth and high demand should experience greater-than-average odds of being hired. These projections are based on the health of the economy and may vary according to economic performance.
How much do forensic accounting positions pay in terms of average annual salary?
According to the United States Department of Employment’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for accountants and auditors is $77,250 as of May 2021. Looking further at the data reveals the top 10% earn an average annual salary of $128,970, while the bottom 10% earn $47,970. For context, the average median annual salary of all occupations tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is $45,760.
Like other occupations, industry impacts pay levels. Forensic accountants working in finance and insurance earn the highest median salary at $79,310. This industry is followed closely by management and corporate accountants who earn $78,540 per year. Tax preparation and government accountants earn a median annual salary of $77,080 and $77,290 per year respectively.
Geographic location is also an indicator of pay levels. The top-paying geographic location for accountants is the District of Columbia. In this area, the average accountant earns a median annual salary of $103,930 per year. Accountants in the New York City metro area can expect to earn a median annual wage of $98,650 followed closely by New Jersey at $91,960 and Virginia at a median annual wage of $85,720. The highest-paying West Coast metro area is Los Angeles, which pays accountants a median annual salary of $83,910.
What will I pay for a forensic accounting degree?
The cost of a forensic accounting degree varies greatly – especially at the undergraduate level. The postsecondary business landscape is highly competitive with the advent of online degrees. Thus, any prospective student “shops around” for a tuition and fee structure they feel must provide a solid value in terms of bachelor’s degrees.
Bachelor degrees are typically 120 credits. Students take approximately 60 credits of general education courses, excluding any transfer credits. These accredited programs can be completed at any college or university with an average cost of $300 per credit. One way students save a great deal of money is to take these courses at a community college, either locally or out of state, and then transfer them to the university. Community college tuition is significantly cheaper and saves students thousands of dollars. This is because the cost per credit is typically about one-third of what they would pay for the same class at a four-year institution.
Students who attend a four-year institution the entire time can expect to pay anywhere between 25K – 100K for a forensic accounting degree. Tuition rates vary from institution to institution. However, a significant markup applies to students who must pay out-of-state tuition. For the best value, students often attend an in-state institution. The alternative is an online institution that does not differentiate between out-of-state and in-state students. Despite the significant investment, obtaining a bachelor’s degree is still one of the best ways to earn a livable wage and improve one’s economic standing.
What coursework will I take while earning a forensic accounting degree?
Forensic accounting degrees require students to take 120 credits of coursework in two broad categories – general education courses and major courses. General education courses include subjects such as English, mathematics, humanities, sciences, and social sciences. These classes are required for all bachelor’s degrees. They ensure the graduate gets a well-rounded curriculum. Once gen ed courses are completed, students move into major coursework in forensic accounting and other business-related classes. This includes forensic accounting courses online.
Since degrees in forensic accounting fall within the business and accounting discipline, students take general business courses, such as:
- Business Law
These courses are required for all business majors and lay a solid foundation. Once general business courses are completed, students will take in-depth accounting courses. Topics will include:
- Accounting Ethics
- AccountingInformation Systems
- Financial Transactions
- Financial Fraud
Students considering a forensic accounting degree should ensure they are comfortable working with numbers and complex formulations routinely. Forensic accounting majors should also be detail-oriented and procedural to avoid making critical errors. With the advent of advanced artificial intelligence within the accounting software industry, forensic accountants must also have strong analytical and critical thinking skills and knowledge of interviewing techniques and methods of obtaining documentary evidence.
- Best Online Colleges
- Best Online Community Colleges
- Cheapest Online Colleges
- Best Accredited Online Colleges
- 30 Colleges Helping Students Manage Finances
- Most Affordable Accounting Degrees Online
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook
- National Center for Education Statistics: College Navigator
- US News & World Report: Best Colleges
This concludes our list of top 10 forensic accounting degree programs.