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2021's best online forensic accounting degrees

Do you like numbers and investigation? A forensic accounting degree trains you to detect, prevent, and investigate financial fraud and crime.

As the watchdogs of accounting, financial accountants ensure safety and ethics in the field. A degree in forensic accounting introduces you to the fundamentals of accounting, finance, and economics. It also trains you to assess, analyze, and investigate fraud and financial crimes.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects nearly 100,000 new accountant and auditor jobs by 2030. This growth bodes well for individuals with an accounting degree. Degree-holders work in business and government settings or as private contractors across many industries.

To find out more about forensic accounting degrees, what they include, and how to find one that meets your needs, check out the rankings below. 

The best online bachelor's in forensic accounting degrees

ZDNet's ranking methodology assesses forensic accounting degrees with a proprietary formula driven by data and curated by industry experts. By weighing cost, curricula, and accessibility, ZDNet breaks down vital information about 2021's top online forensic accounting degrees.

Unless otherwise indicated, data is drawn from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, College Scorecard, and each program's website.

1. University of Northwestern Ohio

Lima, Ohio

About the program: UNOH's online bachelor's degree in accounting with a forensic accounting concentration explores white-collar crime, document examination, corporate governance, and internal controls. 

  • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
  • Graduation rate: 42%
  • Avg. annual net price: $19,055
  • Time to completion: Four years
  • SAT Range: Not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
  • Enrollment periods per year: One
  • Course delivery methods: Online, partially sequential

Accreditation: The University of Northwestern Ohio is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

2. Indiana State University

Terre Haute, Indiana

About the program: ISU's online forensic accounting minor supplements a bachelor's degree in any field. It offers accounting, criminology, and business coursework.

  • Acceptance rate: 90%
  • Graduation rate: 43%
  • Avg. annual net price: $13,896
  • Time to completion: Four years (accompany's a bachelor's degree)
  • SAT Range: Not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: 2.4
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery methods: Online, asynchronous

Accreditation: Indiana State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

3. Southern New Hampshire University

Manchester, New Hampshire

About the program: SNHU's online accounting bachelor's degree with a concentration in forensic accounting includes coursework in auditing principles, fraud detection and prevention, and financial statement analysis.

  • Acceptance rate: 88%
  • Graduation rate: 47%
  • Avg. annual net price: $41,095
  • Time to completion: Four years
  • SAT Range: Not required
  • Minimum GPA: Not required
  • Enrollment periods per year: Six
  • Course delivery methods: Online, asynchronous

Accreditation: Southern New Hampshire University is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

4. Franklin University

Columbus, Ohio

About the program: Franklin's 124-credit online forensic accounting bachelor's degree and is designed to meet the needs of adult learners.

  • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
  • Graduation rate: 34%
  • Avg. annual net price: $12,895
  • Time to completion: Four years
  • SAT Range: Not required
  • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery methods: Online, asynchronous

Accreditation: Franklin University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

What to expect in an online bachelor's in forensic accounting degree program

An online bachelor's degree in forensic accounting includes four years of coursework. Students complete general education classes and major courses in accounting, finance, and economics. 

Advanced and elective courses such as fraud investigation, accounting ethics, and financial statement analysis precede a capstone or internship requirement.

A forensic accounting degree blends theoretical classes with practical learning labs and exercises. As students study the foundations of forensics accounting, projects and hands-on learning allow for the direct application of degree knowledge and skills to real-world scenarios. 

Students should stay engaged in classes and maintain relationships with peers and instructors alike. If you do this, you'll benefit from course content while building communication and teamwork skills.

Forensic accounting courses

In most forensic accounting curricula, coursework in fraud examination, accounting information systems, and accounting ethics accompany classes in auditing principles and legal aspects of fraud. 

Additionally, learners commonly complete a capstone requirement. This involves a thesis or project. Internship opportunities allow students to work alongside practicing forensic accounting professionals in business and government environments.

Here are a few courses you're likely to encounter.

Introduction to fraud investigation

This class teaches students how to identify fraud, plan an investigation, and analyze data. Students learn the lifecycle of a fraud investigation from start to finish, relevant regulations, and how to report their findings. 

Accounting ethics

Coursework looks at the duties of accountants around professional standards, legal regulations, and moral responsibilities. Topics include causes of ethical violations, whistleblowing, and implementing compliance and ethics programs.

Accounting information systems

This class surveys the systems and software used to record accounting information. Students study transaction processing, systems-related fraud and theft, expenditure and production cycles, and financial reporting.

Auditing principles

Auditing principles gives a comprehensive overview of confidentiality, integrity, objectivity, and compliance in accounting. Students master the Generally Accepted Auditing Standards through case studies and practical exercises.

Forensic accounting degree levels

Certificates in forensic accounting build on existing accounting knowledge, while undergraduate degrees prepare learners to enter the field of accounting. 

Graduate programs help professionals advance to leadership and managerial roles in forensic accounting.

Certificate in forensic accounting

Length: One year

Cost: $3,000-$8,000

Post-grad careers: Forensic accountant, fraud examiner, financial analyst

While not a degree, a certificate in forensic accounting includes specialized classes for individuals with accounting experience. Students become experts in fields like fraud investigation, forensic accounting practices, orlegal and ethical aspects of accounting.

Certificate-holders can specialize and increase their marketability. A forensic accounting certificate allows current financial professionals to pursue new roles in fraud investigation, data analysis, risk management, and compliance.

Associate in forensic accounting

Length: Two years

Cost: $10,000-$25,000

Post-grad careers: Accounting clerk, assistant financial analyst, financial statement preparer

This degree introduces students to principles and practices of accounting and related fields. Learners build communication, analytical, and problem-solving skills while gaining insight into types of financial statements and how to prepare them. 

Classes in computer information systems, business writing, and tax preparation prepare students for entry-level careers in accounting and finance. With an associate degree in forensic accounting, learners continue onto a bachelor's degree in the field.

Bachelor's in forensic accounting

Length: Four years

Cost: $16,000-$80,000

Post-grad careers: Forensic accountant, fraud investigator, financial statement analyst

A bachelor's degree in forensic accounting integrates general education, accounting, and forensic investigation coursework. A forensic accounting program may be a stand-alone degree or a concentration within a bachelor's degree in accounting

With a bachelor's in forensic accounting, individuals can prepare for certification as public accountants, work in the private sector, or a graduate program.

Master's in forensic accounting

Length: Two years

Cost: $30,000-$90-000

Post-grad careers: Forensic accountant, chief fraud investigator, senior auditor

Master's degrees in forensic accounting emphasize advanced techniques and tools to detect, investigate, and prevent fraud and financial crime. 

Courses in accounting information systems, accounting law, and corporate governance train practicing accountants to specialize in the field. Graduates may see upward mobility and increased marketability in the workforce. 

Some master's in forensic accounting emphasize research and require students to produce a thesis, while others require an independent or collaborative project at the end of the program.

Doctorate in forensic accounting

Length: Three to five years

Cost: $35,000-$100,000

Post-grad careers: Chief financial officer, senior forensic accountant, university professor

Doctoral programs in forensic accounting serve as a pathway to academia or executive and leadership roles in the field. 

During a doctoral program, students complete core coursework in financial cybercrime, data management, and ethics in forensic accounting. 

After learners complete a series of comprehensive examinations, they advance to an in-depth research project and produce a dissertation. Many doctorates in forensic accounting also require an internship or practicum.

In conclusion

Degrees in forensic accounting train you to thwart crime and detect threats to financial data's security.

If you're interested in a forensic accounting degree, check out our rankings and explore what the top online programs in 2021 have to offer. 

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