Forensic Accounting Degrees: Bachelors, Associate & Online Courses

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Associate's and bachelor's degree programs in forensic accounting can lead to jobs with law enforcement agencies, accounting firms and private corporations. Learn about requirements and course options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
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Studying Forensic Accounting: Degrees at a Glance

Forensic accountants combine skills in accounting, law and investigation to combat all types of financial fraud. As a forensic accountant, you would work to identify, prevent and investigate crimes such as identity theft, insurance fraud, embezzlement, money laundering and tax evasion. You also might be involved in financial investigations during bankruptcies and contract disputes. Forensic accountants often work closely with law enforcement and lawyers and might testify in legal proceedings.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of accountants in general was expected to grow 16% from 2010 to 2020, which was about as fast as the average for all occupations. However, the BLS notes that recent corporate scandals, financial crises and stricter regulations likely will create an increased demand for accounting services. Furthermore, technological advances have led to a rise in cyber crimes, identity theft, financial fraud and insurance fraud, creating a need for investigative services. The BLS expects employment to grow 21% for private investigators and 27% for financial examiners from 2010 to 2020, both faster than the average for all occupations.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals looking for an entry-level job in the field and/or to transfer to a 4-year degree program Individuals seeking a career in forensic accounting, auditing, financial examination or fraud investigation
Common Career Paths (with approximate 10th-90th percentile salary ranges) - Loss prevention investigator ($21,000-$52,000)*
- Fraud analyst ($26,000-$57,000)*
- Fraud investigator ($31,000-$79,000)*
- Internal auditor ($33,000-$70,000)*
- Financial examiner ($41,000-$105,000)*
- Forensic accountant ($45,000-$133,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years, full-time 4 years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements Approximately 20-25 courses
Approximately 35-45 courses
Common Prerequisites High school diploma or GED
High school diploma or GED
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *PayScale.com (May 2012 figures for professionals in the 10th-90th percentile).

Associate's in Forensic Accounting

Associate's degree programs in forensic accounting provide students with fundamental knowledge of accounting, business, criminal justice and/or law to prepare them for entry-level jobs in the field. Associate's-level programs also prepare graduates for bachelor's-level programs if they choose to transfer to a 4-year school. Associate's degree programs also are available in related fields, such as financial investigation or accounting with an optional specialization in fraud examination. Opportunities to advance in the field may be difficult without a bachelor's degree.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • An associate's degree can be completed in as little as two years
  • Credits often can be transferred toward a bachelor's degree at a 4-year college
  • An associate's degree in forensic accounting can prepare you for immediate employment in several occupations, including loss prevention investigator and fraud analyst

Cons

  • Associate's degree programs in forensic accounting are not available everywhere
  • Employers in the field may prefer to hire candidates with bachelor's or even master's degrees
  • Employment opportunities may be greater for those with a professional designation, which typically requires a bachelor's degree or higher (although experience sometimes can count for part of the education requirement)

Courses and Requirements

Most associate's degree programs combine general education coursework with a core sequence in forensic accounting. General education classes frequently include mathematics, English, social science, science and humanities. The forensic accounting portion of the program usually involves courses in accounting, law, business and/or finance. Other classes might include computer applications, ethics and economics.

Associate's degree programs in forensic accounting are likely to require courses such as the following:

  • Principles of accounting
  • Introduction to statistics
  • Fraud examination
  • Business law
  • Interviewing techniques

Online Degree Options

Several schools offer associate's degree programs in forensic accounting both on-site and online. In such cases, the online program usually has the same requirements, courses and admissions criteria as the on-site program, but can be completed entirely over the Internet. As with on-campus associate's programs, some programs are offered specifically in forensic accounting while others are offered in accounting with a concentration in fraud examination.

In addition to asking that students be familiar with the basics of online communication and meet certain technical requirements, schools may request that you be proficient in the use of such programs as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint before enrolling in an online accounting course.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

Companies hiring for jobs in the field generally prefer candidates familiar with the specific software programs used in forensic accounting. Students should seek out classes and additional opportunities that help them hone their computer skills and master software programs during their course of study.

Job requirements may include familiarity and proficiency in a variety of computer applications including databases, spreadsheets, presentation products, data mining tools, investigative IT packages and information management software packages.

Bachelor's in Forensic Accounting

A bachelor's degree program in forensic accounting can provide students with a solid foundation in accounting and business as well as coursework in criminal justice and legal studies. A school might offer a degree specifically in forensic accounting, or it might offer a degree in a field such as accounting or business administration with a forensic accounting emphasis. Some programs specifically prepare students for professional certifications, such as the Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) and/or Certified Forensic Accountant (Cr.FA).

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • A bachelor's degree in forensic accounting can prepare you for a range of occupations, including accountant, auditor, fraud investigator and financial examiner
  • A bachelor's degree may qualify you to enter a career with a high top-end salary, such as forensic accountant, in which the highest paid ten percent of workers earned $133,000 or more*
  • A bachelor's degree gives graduates the education needed to earn a professional certification, which the BLS suggests can improve job prospects

Cons

  • Competition is strong for employment at the most prestigious accounting and business firms
  • Employers may prefer job candidates with a master's degree in accounting or business with an accounting emphasis
  • If you plan to become a CPA, you'll likely need a number of college credits beyond the typical bachelor's degree

Source: *PayScale.com (May 2012 figures).

Courses and Requirements

A bachelor's degree program in forensic accounting combines core courses in accounting and business with classes in fields such as law, information technology, finance and criminal justice. Additional courses may include statistics, quantitative methods or databases and spreadsheets. Courses for a bachelor's degree in forensic accounting are likely to include the following:

  • Introductory and intermediate accounting
  • Legal elements of fraud
  • Principles of auditing
  • Accounting research and analysis
  • Interview techniques for fraud investigation

Some bachelor's degree programs in forensic accounting include an internship or capstone project as an elective or requirement. Most undergraduate programs also require a general education core, which can include a number of credits in subjects such as math, English, science, social science and the humanities.

Online Degree Options

Several bachelor's degree programs in forensic accounting can be completed entirely online. As with on-campus programs, some degrees are awarded specifically in forensic accounting, while others are awarded in accounting with a forensic accounting emphasis. Online programs cover the same topics and courses as on-site programs.

Stand Out with this Degree

Companies often prefer job candidates who are familiar with specialized software programs that are used in the field. Therefore, students should seek out opportunities that help improve their computer knowledge and software skills during their course of study.

Experience in financial data entry, searching public information sources and knowledge of securities trading or other financial records may also be helpful. Graduates with hands-on experience often have an edge in the job hunt. Therefore, forensic accounting students should also take advantage of any opportunities to put their education into practice, such as an internship, during their bachelor's program.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Accounting
      • Bachelor: Managerial Accountancy
      • Bachelor: Tax Accountancy
      • Bachelor: Auditing-Forensic Accountancy
      • BSBA - Investment
      • Bachelor: Public-General Accountancy
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Accounting
      • B.S. - Business Management With No Concentration
  • Campus and Online Programs
    3. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Music Business
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Baker College Online

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Accounting - Bachelor
      • Finance - Bachelor
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS - Accounting
      • BS - Business Management
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Accounting
      • B.A. - Business Admin: Finance
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Argosy University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor - Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    9. City University of Seattle

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Utica College

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation
      • Online Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation - Financial Investigation
      • Online Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation - Fraud Prevention and Detection

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Bachelor: Accounting
  • Bachelor: Managerial Accountancy
  • Bachelor: Tax Accountancy

Which subject are you interested in?

Herzing University

  • Bachelor: Accounting
  • B.S. - Business Management With No Concentration

What is your highest level of education?

Full Sail University

  • B.S. - Music Business

What is your highest level of education?

Baker College Online

  • Accounting - Bachelor
  • Finance - Bachelor

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado State University Global

  • BS - Accounting
  • BS - Business Management

What is your highest level of education?

Keiser University

  • B.A. - Accounting
  • B.A. - Business Admin: Finance

What is your highest level of education?

Argosy University

  • Bachelor - Business Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?