Fraud and other financial crimes cost businesses in the US billions of dollars annually. These crimes include everything from cases of employee theft and consumer fraud, to investment scams, income tax evasion, and corporate tax fraud. Investigating financial crimes requires specialized business knowledge, analytics skills, and other proficiencies that are encompassed by the field of forensic accounting. Forensic accounting professionals engage in this type of work for businesses, independent auditing firms, banks and other financial institutions, and government agencies, as well as in the criminal justice system. The procedures and methods of forensic accountancy and financial fraud investigations are taught in various types of specialized degree programs, including at the bachelor’s degree level. Some bachelor’s programs offer a major in forensic accounting and financial fraud, often as a concentration within a business or accounting major. A bachelor’s in forensic accounting and financial fraud is one pathway to a career in this specialized field.
A bachelor’s in forensic accounting and financial fraud is a four-year Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts (BS or BA) degree that includes required and elective coursework in accounting, auditing, financial law, and other topics relevant to the detection, prevention, and investigation of financial crimes. Like other undergraduates, students in a forensic accounting and financial fraud program complete a range of general education requirements in subjects like history, science, mathematics, and the humanities. In addition, they take general business and accounting courses that cover topics in financial and managerial accountancy, business law, business IT systems, strategic management, operations and logistics, and professional communication. Finally, they are provided with specialized instruction in forensic accounting, the auditing process, financial statement analysis, and the legal procedures for investigating cases of fraud and other financial malfeasance.
An online bachelor’s degree program is a bachelor’s program that offers all or most of its coursework through distance learning technologies. These programs provide what is often a more convenient and flexible alternative to traditional, campus-based programs, especially for students who work full-time and for others who cannot relocate or commute to a college or university campus in order to earn their degree. Online bachelor’s in forensic accounting and financial fraud programs offer a designated major in forensic accounting and financial fraud, or a concentration of forensic accounting and financial fraud courses as part of a larger business or accounting major. Students in these programs access lectures and other course materials through learning management systems (LMSs), which typically support online discussion groups, interactions with faculty and administrators, and various types of instructional activities.
Forensic accounting and financial fraud is a specialized major that is offered by a select number of undergraduate programs. OnlineEducation.com conducts independent research into online bachelor’s degree programs and identifies programs that provide a major in forensic accounting and financial fraud. Programs listed on the site must be offered by regionally accredited, non-profit schools. In addition, they must offer all or most of their instruction online. While online undergraduate degree program commonly do not require students to attend campus visits, some program may hold on-campus orientation sessions or other campus-based instructional activities. OnlineEducation.com does not list programs that require more than two such campus sessions per year.
While curricula vary by program, a forensic accounting and financial fraud program generally includes a range of business courses and several specialized classes in the methods, tools, and processes of forensic accounting. Students in these programs learn about economics, finance, marketing, logistics, and other business functions, and cultivate professional communication skills. Forensic accounting and financial fraud courses focus on reading and interpreting the information contained in financial reports, conducting audits, navigating financial IT systems, and following the proper legal procedures for the conduct of financial investigations. In addition, students in these programs must complete general education credits by taking courses in social science, natural science, mathematics, as well the humanities (i.e., history, literature, and English composition). General education requirements vary by program, and students transferring into an online bachelor’s degree program are often eligible to receive credit for prior college-level coursework.
The table below provides an overview of the types of courses that are typically offered as part of an undergraduate major in forensic accounting and financial fraud. The course names and descriptions are adapted from actual online bachelor’s in forensic accounting and financial fraud degree programs.
|Course Title||Course Description|
|Forensic Accounting||Foundational areas of importance to the forensic accountant, including basic forensic accounting tools and practice areas relevant to forensic accounting.|
|Emerging Auditing Technologies||An overview of independent auditing processes, with a focus on traditional procedures and newer innovations in auditing software and financial databases.|
|Fraud Prevention & Detection||Tools and techniques for evaluating fraud risk in various environments and for detecting potential fraud through financial analyses.|
|Auditing & Forensic Accounting||The application of accountancy tools to investigating, detecting, documenting, and preventing financial fraud, stock fraud, and employee theft and embezzlement.|
|Detection & Prevention of Fraudulent Financial Statements||An overview of various types of fraud and how these crimes are detected through the analysis of financial statements.|
|Interview Techniques & Legal Aspects of Fraud||The legal framework for investigating fraud and conducting formal interviews with persons associated with potential fraud.|
|Investigating with Computers||The fundamentals of working with data systems and computer networks to investigate identity theft and insider threats, and how to locate, preserve, and present digital evidence.|
The primary requirement for admissions to an online bachelor’s degree program is a high school diploma or the equivalent. In addition to high school transcripts, students may be asked to provide standardized test scores (usually the SAT), a written essay or personal goals statement, and one or more letters of recommendation. Some of the factors that admissions departments may weigh in assessing applicants include high school class ranking, overall grade point average (GPA), and/or GPA in relevant courses, which might include mathematics and English. Specific admissions criteria vary by program so prospective applicants should check with a program administrator prior to formally submitting an application. It is important to note that transfer students may be subject to admissions criteria that differ from those for applicants who have no prior college experience.
Not all online bachelor’s degree programs are the same. There are several variations in program formats and in the delivery of online courses that may be important to consider, especially for students who are working full-time or who have other significant commitments outside of school. The three areas of variation are detailed below:
Online Instruction Methods: There are two modes of online instruction: synchronous instruction and asynchronous instruction. When a course utilizes synchronous instruction, students must be prepared to log on to the school’s LMS at designated times in order to view lectures and participate in course activities. Courses that utilize asynchronous instruction do not have set meeting times. Instead, students can view lectures and other course materials at their convenience. Some programs use a mix of synchronous and asynchronous instruction, while others rely exclusively on asynchronous instruction.
Enrollment Options: Online programs may be structured to accommodate part-time students, full-time students, or both, and it is not uncommon for online bachelor’s degree programs to offer some amount of flexibility in this regard. Students who are able to enroll full time can typically graduate in four years or less depending on how many courses they take per term and whether or not they enroll in summer courses. Students who enroll part time take longer to graduate, but carry a lighter course load – usually two or three courses per semester instead of four or five. There are also programs that do not adhere to the traditional semester or quarter system and allow full-time students to take one or two courses at a time during shorter terms that last between six and ten weeks.
Campus Visits: Online bachelor’s degree programs are less likely to require students to attend on-campus sessions than online master’s and doctoral programs. However, some online bachelor’s degree programs may hold mandatory orientations sessions or other on-campus instructional activities that students must attend. Prospective applicants who do not want to have to travel in order to earn their degree should research programs carefully to determine whether or not a program requires the attendance of on-campus sessions.