Often nestled in university criminal justice departments, forensic accountants are like financial detectives: they predict, analyze, and respond to financial fraud and mismanagement. They hunt down criminal plots like Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme; autopsy and diagnose financial crises like the reverse-mortgage collapse in 2009; and audit institutions’ finances to keep them healthy and in line with various governmental regulations.
Top talent is needed to aid in fraud detection and prevention because of the growing economy and its corresponding regulatory legislation. The number of jobs for auditors is expected to increase faster than the average career in the coming decade, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Moreover, with the financial landscape becoming almost entirely digital and increasingly complex, forensic accountants need a forward-thinking skill set that keeps pace with the evolving fraud, compliance, and risk-based landscape.
While forensic accountants eventually pursue rigorous certifications and often go on to graduate level study, the journey to landing one of these jobs begins at the undergraduate level. People who pursue a bachelor’s degree in forensic accounting are preparing to work in accounting firms, insurance companies, law offices, consultancies, and nonprofit or governmental agencies, where they will combat fraud both before and after it happens.
A bachelor’s degree in forensic accounting prepares students a hands-on career in the field and for the Certified Fraud Examiners (CFE) exam. The programs typically incorporate simulated investigations with group exercises designed by experienced industry professionals. Students learn how to track down money laundering and corruption, as well as how to implement corporate governance and due diligence programs so that they can go on to become integral elements of public and private institutions alike.
Read on to discover six online bachelor’s programs in forensic accounting, as well as three exceptional educators leading courses at these universities.
Suzanne Lynch is the director of the financial crime and compliance management program at Utica College, where she teaches economic crime programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. With 20 years of experience in the field, she has managed several complex fraud investigations—from terrorist financing to data breaches—and conducted numerous training sessions on fraud detection for global law enforcement groups and financial institutions. She was previously the vice president for security and risk management at MasterCard Worldwide and served in fraud management positions for Comerica Bank and Goldman Sachs. Professor Lynch received her bachelor’s in criminal justice from Wayne State University and her master’s degree in economic crime management from Utica College.
Dr. Charles Saunders is the program chair of forensic accounting and business forensics at Franklin University. As a certified internal auditor and a certified fraud examiner, Dr. Saunders holds certificates in control self-assessment, risk management assurance, and executive business communication. He is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and previously worked as an internal auditor with American Electric Power for over 25 years before joining academia. Dr. Saunders received his master’s of business administration (MBA); his master’s of education, physical activity, and education services; and his doctorate from the Ohio State University. He holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Wittenberg University.
Dr. Todd Weaver is the business department chair and a professor of business at Point University, where he teaches courses like principles of microeconomics and principles of macroeconomics. His research mostly centers on network effects, and how personal, social, and material agency interacts to shape individual and collective behavior. Dr. Weaver has published articles in the Journal of Business Ethics, and the Journal of Business Research. He has presented his research at national conferences and regularly makes short-term faith-based mission trips in the summer months. Dr. Weaver received his MBA from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and his doctorate from Georgia Tech.
SNHU’s bachelor’s of science in accounting, with a concentration in forensic accounting, offers a flexible curriculum at a flexible schedule, in addition to a generous credit-transfer policy. After completing the general portion of the education and some business core requirements, students take forensic fraud-specific courses in federal taxation, cost accounting, financial statement analysis, and auditing principles. Upper division courses explore forensic accounting, detection, and prevention of fraud, investigating with computers, interview techniques, and legal aspects of fraud.
The forensic accounting program consists of 120 credits—in addition to the 30-credit business core and 45-credit general education requirements, some of which may be transferred over from other institutions. The program may be completed entirely online.
Utica’s online bachelor’s program in fraud and financial crime investigation was the first of its kind. This program is a baccalaureate completion program, meaning that it is designed for students who have already earned an associate’s degree or completed 57 credits from a regionally-accredited institution.
Developed in conjunction with the board of advisors for the school’s Economic Crime and Cybersecurity Institute, it prepares students for professional certification and to work in the field as an anti-fraud professional. Classes cover information privacy, cybercrime law and investigation, economic crime theory, and justice studies. The fraud prevention and detection concentration includes courses in fraud prevention techniques, payment systems and fraud, fraud and compliance operation, and advanced issues in economic crime. The program consists of 68 to 76 credits and may be completed entirely online.
Franklin University’s bachelor’s of science in forensic accounting implements a hands-on curriculum, complete with real-world assignments like simulated investigations, to prepare graduates for professional certification.
After completing general education requirements, students take business core classes which cover fundamentals such as financial accounting, business law, microeconomics, and the principles of management. Major-focused courses explore topics like fraud examination, corporate governance, auditing, accounting information systems, and legal elements of fraud. Electives are available in subjects like federal income tax, cost management, and government and not for profit accounting. The program consists of 124 credits and may be completed entirely online.
UNOH’s forensic accounting program blends lecture-based instruction, applied skills development, and personal attention to prepare students for the CFE accreditation—all while boasting some of the lowest tuition rates in the nation. The program focuses on catching white-collar criminals, obtaining documents for examination, testing internal controls related to corporate assets, and adhering to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in corporate governance.
After completing general education courses, students take technical classes that cover a wide variety of topics, such as personal taxes, managerial accounting, corporate governance, contract law, litigation and digital forensics. The program consists of 180 credits, many of which can be transferred from another regionally accredited institution.
Point University is a faith-based institution. The school’s bachelor’s program in accounting with a concentration in forensics and fraud boasts small class sizes, an active mentorship program, and a curriculum designed and driven by industry standards.
In addition to the general education core and biblical studies classes, students take electives such as microeconomics, macroeconomics, management, marketing, and business statistics. The forensics track contains classes in topics like financial accounting, managing information systems, income tax accounting, fraud examination and fraud schemes, and forensic and investigative accounting. The program consists of 120 units and may be completed entirely online.
Independence University’s accounting program with a forensic accounting emphasis is a career-focused, flexibly-scheduled program that does away with non-relevant elective requirements.
Students begin their education with classes on payroll accounting, spreadsheets, the principles of auditing, computerized accounting, and business law. General education covers economic principles, public speaking, critical thinking, and statistics. The forensic accounting portion of the program explores topics such as fraud examination, interviewing techniques, legal elements of fraud, corporate governance and internal control assessment, and accounting analysis and research. The program consists of 181 units, and may be completed entirely online.