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Online Bachelor's Degree Programs in Forensic Accounting

Finding the Right Forensic Accounting Program & Exploring Careers

Updated on: 12/12/2018
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As long as financial fraud exists, organizations and business owners must rely on forensic accountants to protect assets and uncover deception. Driven by changing regulations, digital banking, and a booming economy, the demand for accountants is rapidly increasing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for accountants and auditors is projected to reach 10% in the coming decade — higher than the national average for all occupations. Combining foundational business coursework with topics like investigation and auditing, a bachelor's in forensic accounting offers the skills needed to take on entry-level roles in the field.

How Much Can You Make in a Forensic Accounting Career?

After earning a forensic accounting degree online, graduates go on to pursue a wide variety of accounting and finance positions. While a degree does not guarantee employment or a specific starting salary, a bachelor's in forensic accounting opens up numerous career opportunities in claims adjusting; financial analysis and management; auditing; and related areas. Below are median annual salaries, job descriptions, and projected job growth rates for three positions popular among graduates. Although many entry-level roles require only a bachelor's degree, some careers may necessitate further education or specialized credentials for advancement.

JOB GROWTH 2016-2026: 10.8%
Job Description

Working with private consultants or with businesses, financial analysts assist both individuals and organizations with financial decisions and investments. They examine economic trends and company financial histories to make informed decisions. After earning a forensic accounting degree online, prospective analysts usually pursue specialized credentials.

JOB GROWTH 2016-2026: 10%
Job Description

Accountants and auditors examine, evaluate, and prepare financial records and tax reports. They ensure that an organization complies with tax laws and maintains accurate records. A bachelor's in forensic accounting is especially useful for prospective auditors who investigate financial wrongdoing.

JOB GROWTH 2016-2026: 18.7%
Job Description

These high-level employees are responsible for an entire organization's financial performance, from budgeting and investing to strategy development. Financial managers generally work for banks, insurance companies, and similar businesses. In addition to a bachelor's in forensic accounting or a similar degree, most managers possess years of professional experience, and typically hold specialty credentials, certifications, and advanced degrees.

Sources: BLS 2018

Along with education, location plays a significant role in earning potential. While California, Texas, and New York boast the largest population of claims adjuster, examiner, and investigator positions, as well as the highest median salaries, the cost of living in these states is also among the highest in the country. Demand for accounting professionals is also strong in New York City, Phoenix, and Chicago. The following data looks at accounting job growth, demand, and salary potential across the U.S.

What Courses Can be Taken for an Online Forensic Accounting Degree?

Every bachelor's in forensic accounting curriculum is slightly different, and course offerings and concentrations tend to vary between programs and institutions. Most programs include a series of core courses that address foundational topics and develop standard accounting competencies. Regardless of the school you attend, you are likely to encounter one or more of the five sample courses below.

Intermediate Accounting

Presenting a broad survey of more advanced accounting topics, this course builds upon prior knowledge of cash flow, retirement benefits, and the value of money. Students learn to create balance sheets and income statements.

Auditing

This course provides a thorough overview of the auditing process. Possible lecture topics include evidence gathering, audit planning, internal control review, and other auditing procedures.

Legal Elements of Fraud

Students explore the protocols and legal standards surrounding fraud report preparation. Coursework addresses fraud-related criminal and civil laws in multiple contexts.

Fraud Investigation Interviewing

Building upon theoretical foundations, this course introduces interrogation and investigation techniques used in suspected fraud cases. Class topics include interview preparation and reading verbal and nonverbal cues.

Capstone

Capstone contents and requirements often vary considerably between programs. In most cases, students enrolled in a capstone course must compose a thesis, project, presentation, or a research paper.

How to Choose the Best Online Forensic Accounting Program

There are many variables to consider before you decide on a forensic accounting program. Along with your personal learning style and career goals, it is important to account for factors such as student outcomes, tuition costs, accreditation, available concentrations, and graduation requirements. The following section answers some common questions for prospective students as they explore program options.

What accreditations does my forensic accounting program need?

A quality forensic accounting program holds both institutional and programmatic accreditation. Regionally accredited colleges and universities are typically viewed more favorably than nationally accredited institutions, and many employers prefer to hire graduates of regionally accredited schools. Programmatic accreditation may also influence future employment and funding opportunities. Some third-party scholarships are reserved for candidates enrolled in programs accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.

How will earning a forensic accounting degree online help my career?

An online bachelor's degree in forensic accounting opens up many entry-level positions in the field and presents current professionals with new job advancement opportunities. Earning a forensic accounting degree online can also be a great way of transitioning to a new career without quitting your current job or cutting back on work hours to study full time.

Can I pursue a different accounting position even if I earn a forensic accounting degree?

Yes. A typical online bachelor's degree in forensic accounting introduces foundational business and accounting topics. Over the course of their studies, distance learners explore many broadly-applicable concepts and skills that are relevant to a variety of business and finance-related occupations. While graduates acquire the specialized knowledge needed to work in forensic accounting areas, such as claims adjusting, auditing, and financial investigation, many succeed in different but related fields.

Will I need to complete an internship or practicum during my program?

Internship, practicum, and direct experience requirements vary by program and school, and some curricula omit them entirely. Internships often present valuable opportunities to build and strengthen industry relationships, work alongside seasoned professionals, and learn about nearby job openings. Typically, hands-on experiences are arranged at a location close to the student's residence.

How well does the forensic accounting field work with distance learning?

While most on-campus accounting courses are presented on strict schedules, web-based programs are often asynchronous, allowing students to review class materials and complete assignments at their convenience. Asynchronous programs typically include features such as message boards and discussion forums to connect peers and professors.

Scholarships & Financial Aid for Forensic Accounting Programs

Students pursuing a forensic accounting degree online fund their studies in a variety of ways, from federal and private loans to work-study programs. Unlike student loans, however, grants and scholarships do not need to be paid back, making them an ideal choice for learners who wish to avoid debt. Below are five of the many scholarship opportunities created with forensic accounting students in mind.

Association of Certified Fraud Examiners Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship Program

The Ritchie-Jennings Memorial Scholarship Program awards 23 individual $1,000 scholarships, four $2,500 scholarships, two $5,000 scholarships, and one $10,000 scholarship to candidates studying accounting or finance with a criminal justice focus. Applicants should submit an application form, a transcript, and two letters of recommendation. Qualifying students must be enrolled in at least nine credit hours at a four-year university.

American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Scholarship for Minority Students

This AICPA initiative has awarded more than $14 million to around 8,000 minority accounting scholars over the past 40 years. Students must fill out an application form to apply for the $5,000 renewable scholarship. Candidates are judged according to academic performance, leadership skills, volunteerism, and intent to pursue the CPA credential. Qualifying students must possess a minimum 3.0 GPA and U.S. citizenship.

AICPA John L. Carey Scholarship

AICPA also awards the John L. Carey Scholarship to liberal arts students transitioning to a graduate-level accounting program. Eligible applicants must possess U.S. citizen or permanent resident status, enroll in an AACSB-accredited program, and commit to earning CPA certification. Every year, up to five candidates are chosen by a selection committee to receive the $5,000, non-renewable award.

AICPA Two-Year Transfer Scholarship

This $5,000, non-renewable scholarship is intended for students at two-year universities who intend to transfer to a four-year accounting program. Applicants must hold a minimum 3.0 GPA, demonstrate financial need, and plan to enroll in an AACSB or ACBSP-accredited accounting program. Candidates must also commit to pursuing CPA licensure. The organization awards 25 individual two-year transfer scholarships each year.

The Educational Foundation for Women in Accounting Scholarships

The EFWA provides several different scholarships for women pursuing undergraduate accounting studies. The $16,000 Women in Transition and the $4,000 Women in Need Scholarships are both intended for female students earning a bachelor's in accounting who serve as their family's primary source of income. The organization also awards the $4,000 Moss Adams Foundation Scholarship to minority women, the $4,000 Michele L. McDonald Memorial Scholarship to women returning to the workforce after raising children, and the $2,000 Rhonda J.B. O'Leary Memorial Scholarship to women in Washington state.