If you are good with numbers and investigating financial crimes intrigues you, a bachelor’s in forensic accounting may be a degree program to check out.
Forensic accounting is an investigative branch of accounting used to examine the finances of businesses and individuals and look for red flags (AKA fraudulent activity). Forensic accountants work with law enforcement and criminal prosecutors to uncover and convict financial criminals, and unlike traditional accounting roles, every workday is different, and many are straight-up exciting.
A bachelor’s in forensic accounting may be challenging, but it won’t be boring, and graduates are ready to enter the field, armed with knowledge and skills used to fight criminal financial activity, all the while earning a hefty salary.
What Is a Bachelor’s in Forensic Accounting?
A bachelor’s in forensic accounting is a focused area of accounting that includes finance, investigation, auditing, fraud prevention, and criminal justice. Most programs are either a Bachelor of Science or Business Administration, and some include additional concentrations and minors such as financial analysis or fraud examination.
A forensic accounting program typically requires 120 credit hours, which are divided into general education courses, forensic accounting major requirements, electives, and possibly an internship. A bachelor’s degree in forensic accounting takes four years to complete for full-time students. Sample courses include Introduction to Forensic Accounting, Auditing, and Fraud Investigations. Graduates are ready to take certification exams, such as the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE).
While specific admission requirements depend on the program, most universities require a strong academic background, SAT/ACT scores, recommendation letters, and entrance exams. Applicants should possess strong math and critical thinking skills and a desire to investigate!
Careers for Forensic Accounting Majors
A bachelor’s in forensic accounting prepares students for accounting career paths, such as certified public accountants, forensic accountants, fraud examiners, financial consultants, and more. A certified public accountant (CPA) is a financial professional who can work as an auditor, business advisor, or tax consultant, among other roles. Becoming a CPA is often required before one can specialize in forensic accounting.
A forensic accountant is a financial professional who performs investigations by collecting, analyzing, and evaluating financial fraud while assisting law enforcement. Forensic accountants report findings and aid legal cases, so part of their working environment is spent in courtrooms or other legal settings. Forensic accountants can earn certifications such as a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) or a Certified in Financial Forensic Credential, which is sometimes required for a job position.
Forensic accountants can specialize in other areas such as risk management or research. Forensic accountants may work in a myriad of settings, including insurance companies, financial institutions, law enforcement agencies, public or private accounting firms, or government organizations.
Forensic Accounting Salary Potential
With a forensic accounting bachelor’s, graduates will be starting entry-level jobs earning a good income, and with experience, an even higher income. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that accountants, including forensic accountants, earn a median salary of $71,550 per year. The highest paid accountants earn more than $124,450, while the lowest ten percent earn less than $44,480. Note that this data is with a bachelor’s degree, and a master’s degree will guarantee a higher income.
BLS reports that accountants who work in finance and insurance report the higher salary end with $76,440 median salary, and government jobs average out to be a bit lower at $70,180. The geographical location influences salary potential too, of course. BLS links to Career One Stop, a website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, complete with a salary info tool where you can search salaries by zip code. One thing is for sure: a bachelor’s in forensic accounting proves a strong return on investment and entails job security and great salary potential.
What Are the Best Bachelor’s in Forensic Accounting?
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West Virginia University – Institute of Technology
Montgomery, West Virginia
Average Net Price
WVU Tech is a campus within the West Virginia University system, and while it’s a small campus, it holds a rich history and big opportunities. WVU Tech offers 30 academic programs, 17 varsity sports and serves over 1700 current students. The College of Business, Humanities, and Social Science features a Bachelor of Science in accounting with a certificate in fraud examination.
This program “emphasizes the skills necessary to prevent, detect, investigate, and deter perpetration of fraud.” The bachelor’s programs include courses such as Supply Chain Management, Auditing Theory, and Income Tax Accounting. The fraud examination certificate entails six additional accounting courses (18) hours, and upon graduation, students will be prepared to take the CFE exam and become licensed as a certified fraud examiner. Graduates can pursue careers, such as forensic accounting and fraud investigating in the public accounting sector, federal state, or local government, or private, public, and non-profit businesses and companies. To apply to WV Tech, you need to have a minimum 3.0 GPA from high school or undergraduate transcripts. Check out admission requirements here.
Embry-Riddle University – Prescott
Average Net Price
Known for its cutting-edge aviation and aerospace programs, ERAU-Prescott is nationally recognized in U.S. News & World Report’s 2021 Best Colleges guidebook. The Bachelor of Science in forensic accounting and fraud examination partners with the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and also meets federal government requirements, so graduates can be hired by the FBI or CIA.
ERAU-Prescott is one of the only universities in the nation to offer this degree program and is full of opportunities. The program entails 38 credits of general education courses classes, 73 credits of core classes, and nine elective credits. The major core courses include topics in financial transactions and fraud schemes, law, investigation, and fraud prevention and deterrence. Graduates are ready to take the CFE exam, earn certification and be able to work as forensic accountants in public, private, and government sectors. To apply, submit your official transcripts, two letters of recommendation, an essay or resume, and optional SAT/ACT scores. ERAU-Prescott offers perks for veterans and active military, including tuition assistance.
Average Net Price
A Christian, liberal arts academic institution, Waynesburg University was founded in 1849 and holds a long history of strong academics through hands-on educational experiences. Waynesburg is known for its educational value and affordability, which is a huge plus for a private school. You can earn a Bachelor of Science in forensic accounting that prepares you for an exciting career in this field.
This forensic accounting program trains students to “identify and investigate fraudulent financial activities, develop evidence, and give expert evidence at the eventual trial” (WU website). You will take a combination of core business and accounting classes, along with a plethora of criminal justice courses. You will have access to a specialized laboratory to learn and practice hands-on skills. Waynesburg University also offers an integrated BSBA/MSA program that can be completed in five years. Applicants are admitted holistically and evaluated based on past academics, SAT or ACT scores, and participation in extracurricular activities and community service. If you’re interested in checking out this program, you can schedule a virtual, group, or personal visit.
Pittsburg State University
Average Net Price
Become a Pitt State Gorilla when you choose more than 200 academic programs from this notable university in Pittsburg, Kansas (not to be confused with Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). Pitt State offers flat-rate tuition, meaning you can take extra classes and pay the same rate. Pitt State’s Kelce College of Business features a bachelor’s of business administration in accounting with a fraud examination minor.
You will take core classes, such as Management Information Systems and Legal and Social Environment of Business, along with 21 credits of fraud examination courses like Internal Auditing, Basic Interviewing and Counseling Skills, and White Collar Crime. This program provides a strong business and accounting background to prepare graduates for the CPA, CMA, CIA, and CFE exams. Graduates are qualified for careers in accounting, auditing, analysts, financial examiners, and revenue agents. Pitt State details “qualified admission” requirements here, but the school also states that if you do not meet these requirements, you should still apply, and your application will be reviewed individually. You can apply to Pitt State online here.
Indiana State University
Terre Haute, Indiana
Average Net Price
Indiana State University bleeds not red, but blue, and the power of the color blue is seen in their top awards for quality, value, and social mobility (CollegeNet, Forbes, and Princeton Review) as well as their broad and diverse campus. At Indiana State, you can choose from over 100 undergraduate majors, and one of those is a Bachelor of Science in accounting with a minor in forensic accounting.
In this program, you will gain a comprehensive accounting and business background and learn how to investigate issues like financial fraud, embezzlement, money laundering. Courses include Fraud Accounting, Fraud Examination, and Criminal Investigation. The program combines academics, hands-on learning, and extracurricular activities to ensure students have a well-rounded knowledge base in accounting.
Beta Alpha Psi, the national professional fraternity for accounting, is an active part of this program, as well. You will be able to attend conferences and networking opportunities locally, regionally, and nationally to enhance academics. Graduates are eligible to take the CPA exam and find careers in public, corporate, government, and non-profit accounting fields.