Bachelor's degrees and graduate certificate programs are available to prepare individuals for a forensic accounting career in the private and government sectors. Students can pursue a specialized bachelor's degree in forensic accounting or a more generalized business bachelor's degree in accounting. Both types of programs cover general accounting principles, auditing and business ethics, although students in a business administration program take general business courses in economics, management and statistics. Bachelor's programs typically take four years to complete. Prerequisites include a high school diploma and prior coursework in math and statistics, and submission of standardized test scores.
A graduate certificate program in forensic accounting is a specialized program that includes case studies and hands-on training in fraud investigation, financial statement analysis and accounting law. If they meet all the requirements, graduates of forensic accounting certificate and degree programs may pursue accounting certifications, such as the Certified Public Account (CPA) and Certified Forensic Accountant (CrFA) credentials. Students seeking to enroll in a graduate certificate program should have a bachelor's degree, submit GRE scores, and have previous coursework in beginning and intermediate accounting principles and auditing or accounting systems.
Bachelor of Science in Forensic Accounting
The undergraduate Forensic Accounting degree program is designed to establish a solid working foundation for understanding all aspects of forensic accounting. Students are exposed to accounting principles and practices, investigative procedures and business law. Many of these programs exceed the minimum bachelor's degree credit requirements. The additional credit hours and education prepare students for eligibility to prepare for the Certified Fraud Examiners (CFE), Certified Forensic Accountant (CrFA) or Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exams.
Students are introduced to the foundations of accounting as well as investigative procedures. Below is a list of courses undergraduate students might encounter:
- Accounting principles
- Ethics in business
- Computer and database systems
- Investigation techniques and criminal procedures
Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting
A Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting provides students with a foundation for beginning a career in entry-level positions. Since this is a business administration degree, students are introduced to business principles, structures and practices along with accounting coursework. Students who complete 150-credit hours, usually in a dual-degree program, are eligible for taking the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam.
In addition to the general education credits required of any bachelor's degree program, students might encounter courses related to both business and accounting principles. Listed are a few courses students might be required to take:
- Analytic processes
- Management in operations
- Business finance
Graduate Certificate in Forensic Accounting
Typically, graduate certificate programs in forensic accounting are geared towards working professionals wishing to gain additional skills sets or make a move in their career. Graduate certificate programs can take one to two years to complete and offer hands-on training. Some programs provide real-life cases for students to study. It's common to find individuals enrolled in a forensic accounting certificate program also enrolled in law school.
- Forensic accounting fundamentals
- Investigating fraud
- Forensic accounting legal issues
- Analyzing data and statements
- Detecting financial reporting fraud
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
With the rising attention to financial crimes, the demand for accountants and auditors, including forensic accountants, will increase by 11% between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The May 2015 BLS salary data reported that the median national salary for an accountant or auditor was around $67,190, although salaries varied from below $41,400 for the bottom 10 percent to over $118,930 for the top 10 percent.
By earning a bachelor's degree or graduate certificate program in forensic accounting, prospective students will enter a career field growing by 11% over the next decade, with the top 10% of earners making nearly $120,000.