2021 Best Online Computer Forensics Degrees [Digital Forensics Guide]
If you love computer science, have analytical thinking skills, and are intrigued by crime investigations, you may want to consider earning a computer forensics degree online.
The word “forensic” relates to the detection of criminal evidence and investigation of criminal activity. So, in a computer forensics bachelor’s degree program, you’ll take specialized courses in computer science while also learning about sleuthing, courts, and criminology.
With your degree in hand, you might be able to help catch criminals or combat cybercrime.
Online Bachelor’s in Computer Forensics Degrees
Most computer forensics degree programs help you develop technical computer skills while also teaching you about criminology, crime scene analysis, and evidence processing.
Computer forensics programs will usually teach you about:
- The detection, recovery, and collection of usable digital evidence
- Types of cybercrime
- Hunting down digital evidence and recreating digital timelines
- Cybersecurity tools and computer network vulnerabilities
- Procedures and safeguards for evidence handling
- Crime scene analysis
- Handling, securing, and documenting evidence for court proceedings
Types of cybercrime include:
- Cyber terrorism
- Data theft and fraud
- Identity theft
In the field of computer forensics, it’s beneficial to become part computer science expert, part sleuth, and part criminal justice expert. It helps to have a dash of all these aptitudes and interests when pursuing a degree in the fascinating arena of investigative cybersecurity work.
Computer Forensics Careers & Salaries
Computer forensics specialists work at the intersection of multiple career sectors, including computer science, information security, criminal justice, and criminology. While this makes it a bit difficult to align computer forensics with data for more traditional sectors, this also means a computer forensics career might offer you a unique job niche.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, positions in these fields can offer above average salaries too.
|Careers||Annual Median Salaries|
|Computer and Information Systems Managers||$151,150|
|Computer Network Architects||$116,780|
|Information Security Analysts||$103,590|
|Computer Systems Analysts||$93,730|
|Network and Computer Systems Administrators||$84,810|
|Police and Detectives||$67,290|
|Forensic Science Technicians||$60,590|
Cybercrime is becoming more prevalent, and white-collar crimes are becoming more intermingled with computer networks, digital data, and digital communications.
With this increased need for computer forensics experts, this field can offer new opportunities to professionals with the right experience, technical savvy, and industry credentials.
Getting an online degree in this field, whether it’s an online bachelors in computer forensics or an online masters in forensic psychology, can open doors to many job possibilities. Many graduates pursue police and detective work, criminal forensics work, and computer science jobs—especially those related to the fast-growing field of information security or cybersecurity.
Computer Forensics Curriculum & Courses
As a computer forensics major, you’ll likely take courses similar to these:
- Introduction to Criminal Law: You’ll learn about various laws, defensive rights, and legal processes related to criminal investigations, search and seizure procedures, and legal uses of evidence.
- Crime Scene Management: This course ensures that students have a general understanding of standard and reliable crime scene management methods and procedures before learning more about cybercrime and computer forensics.
- Criminology and Cyber Criminology: This course provides an overview of core topics in the study of criminology, criminal behavior, and criminal profiling with an emphasis on cybercrimes.
- Cybercrime: This course provides a thorough overview of specific types of cybercrime, such as system hacking, cyber terrorism, ransomware, malware, and white-collar fraud.
- Information Security: You’ll learn about information security policies, software, and best practices, and you’ll receive training in vulnerability testing and threat assessment reporting.
- Forensic Methods: You’ll learn about a range of methods and technical concepts related to gathering digital evidence, including working with forensic software, dealing with encryption, and recovering data or evidence.
- Law Enforcement Operations: This course covers a range of law enforcement operations, with a focus on investigative methods, laws governing enforcement operations, and methods related to the seizure of criminal evidence.
- Evidentiary Procedures and Documentation: You’ll learn proper procedures for storing and securing evidence and for providing courtroom documentation related to evidence and its processing.
- Malware Forensics: You’ll learn techniques for detecting malware sources, for reverse engineering methods, and for tracing malware intrusion sequences.
- Courts and Investigative Agencies: This course provides knowledge of federal and local investigative agencies and examines different ways investigative bodies and the courts may interact in complex investigative scenarios and evidence gathering efforts.
Courses can vary significantly by program, but this list illustrates the kinds of courses and topics you might encounter in an online computer forensics program.
How to Choose an Online Computer Forensics Degree
As you compare online computer forensics bachelor’s degree programs, you may notice that some programs offer and require different kinds of courses emphasizing different skills.
It’s helpful to compare programs to see what kind of curriculum design best fits your learning needs, goals, and interests. Many online forensic science degree programs, including computer forensics, also offer various scheduling options.
Here are some questions to consider when choosing a bachelors program:
- Skill set training. What technical topics are covered?
- Coursework. Does the program offer a balance of technical and criminal justice coursework that’s right for my goals and interests?
- Study options. Does the program offer the full-time, part-time, or accelerated study options I’m interested in?
- Type of program. Is this program fully online or a hybrid study program?
Since course concentrations can vary significantly, it’s beneficial to check out many options before choosing. You can also look at each program’s curriculum to see which one best fits your own professional goals.
Admissions requirements for an accredited online computer forensics bachelors program will vary from school to school. Here are common requirements you may come across:
- High school diploma or equivalent
- Satisfactory GPA
- SAT or ACT scores (if required)
- Letters of recommendation
Some schools may have other requirements or require specific prerequisite coursework in math or computer science.
When a school has regional accreditation, it means an independent organization has verified that the school meets an appropriate standard of academic quality and academic services.
So, it can be strategic to only consider accredited schools and programs. Attending an accredited school allows you to feel confident about the quality of your education. An accredited degree is also honored by other schools and prospective employers.
Accreditation can also be a precondition for some forms of financial aid and professional certification. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) provides more information about accreditation and finding accredited schools.
Computer Forensics Certifications
When relevant, holding an industry certification can show off your qualifications. Being certified might also make it easier to demonstrate specific skill sets to prospective employers.
As soon as you know what kind of jobs you want to apply for, you may consider checking with prospective employers to see if they have preferred certifications. Here are some of the organizations that offer certifications for the field of computer forensics:
- International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists (IACIS)
- Information Assurance Certification Review Board (IACRB)
- Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA)
Being a member in organizations like these can also help you learn more about the industry, pursue useful certification, and build your professional network.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
Getting a bachelors degree online can be convenient, but the cost of completing a bachelors program, whether online or on campus, can add up.
If you’ll need assistance managing upfront costs, you can apply for financial aid to see if you qualify. Common forms of financial aid include state and federal education grants, need-based and merit-based scholarships, work study programs, and student loans.
If you happen to be working in a related field already, you can also see if you qualify for employer-based tuition assistance. If you plan to apply for aid, you can start by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
What Is Computer Forensics?
A computer forensics is work related to collecting digital evidence for use in law enforcement investigations. Computer forensics may also deal with various types of cybercrime, malware, and hacking.
Computer forensics involves information security skills, cybersecurity methods, criminal justice procedures, and proper investigative and evidence handling practices.
Professionals may specialize in digital forensics skills and methods related to tracing malware sources, assessing cybercrime intrusions and threats, and recovering digital evidence.
Others in this field may specialize in criminal justice procedures. This focus relates to investigative powers and practices and the handling, securing, and documentation of digital evidence for court proceedings.
Is Computer Forensics a Good Career?
Yes, computer forensics is a good career for many professionals. The need for computer forensics specialists is growing as cybercrime threatens the digital software and networks that are being increasingly utilized.
Jobs for information security analysts are forecast to grow at an amazing 31% over the next ten years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment for forensic scientists is expected to grow at 14%, much faster than the average for all occupations.
Computer forensics specialists have a unique blend of training in both information security methods and criminal justice practices. These specialized skills can prove useful in both computer science and law enforcement professions.
How Much Does a Computer Forensics Specialist Make?
Many factors affect how much you can make as a computer forensics specialist. Given the widespread use of computers in business, finance, and communications, it’s likely that there will be steady demand in this field.
In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that careers such as information security analyst, database administrator, and forensic science technician will all grow at a rate that’s well above average over the next ten years.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for forensic science technicians is $60,590, and information security analysts make a median salary of $103,590. Developing investigative skills and highly specialized technical skills as well as earning certifications can help you qualify for an above average salary.
Professionals in this field may also apply their skills to the computer science field. Computer and information systems managers, for example, earn a median salary of $151,150 (Bureau of Labor Statistics).
What Can I Do with a Computer Forensics Degree?
A computer forensics degree, along with the right experience and certifications, can open the doors to various opportunities in this lucrative field.
Professionals can collect and process digital evidence in any number of local or federal law enforcement agencies. Many large federal agencies, such as the CIA, FBI, and Homeland Security, may also need computer forensics specialists on their investigative teams.
Jobs are needed not only in government law enforcement agencies but also in businesses and corporations. Since many business computer networks and databases may be at risk for cybercrimes from external threats, they may seek expert support or advisement.
Can You Study Forensic Science Online?
Yes, you can take classes and earn a degree in forensic science, computer forensics, or criminology online.
There are programs that offer fully online learning as well as programs that offer hybrid models. A fully online option may allow you to have more programs to choose from, regardless of where you live.
Some online programs can offer you more flexible study schedules as well. Whether you’re looking for part-time options you can fit around your work schedule or accelerated studies that make it easier to finish sooner, there a variety of formats to choose from.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Degree in Computer Forensics?
Getting an undergraduate online computer forensics degree generally takes 4 years if you study full-time on a traditional 16 week semester schedule.
If you choose a program that offers 8 week semesters with continuous enrollment year-round, you might be able to finish in less time. If you already have some accredited college credits or have completed relevant coursework, you may be able to get transfer credit for some courses and finish in less time.
What’s the Difference Between Digital Forensics vs. Cyber Security?
Digital forensics specialists and cyber security specialists both know how to analyze computer data related to information security, cybercrimes, cyber threats, malware, and cyberattacks.
|Digital Forensics Specialist||Cyber Security Specialist|
A digital or computer forensics expert has specialized knowledge and skills related to collecting digital evidence for law enforcement investigations and court proceedings. Cyber security specialists are more likely to work as part of larger IT teams, protecting, monitoring, and improving network and data security measures and policies.
Is a Computer Forensics Degree Worth It?
Yes, a computer forensics degree is worth it for many students. With experience and the right training, this degree can open doors to a number of job opportunities.
Computer forensic specialists might gather evidence and work with crime investigations. There may also be opportunities later in your career for consulting or advising roles. Computer forensic consultants might assist law enforcement, attorneys, or court officials by providing expert testimony or assessing digital evidence.
A cyber forensics program can also equip you with cyber detection and cyber security skills. These skills may open doors to more information security and cyber security career opportunities.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects jobs for information security analysts to grow 31% over the next ten years, and jobs for forensic science technicians are expected to grow 14%.
Universities Offering Online Bachelor’s in Computer Forensics Degree Programs
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.
Champlain College is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Dakota State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
DeVry University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.
ECPI University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
National American University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Norwich University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Pace University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Robert Morris University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Strayer University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Utica College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Getting Your Computer Forensics Degree Online
With cyber crimes making headlines as much as ever these days, now could be the time to get intensive training in the growing sector of digital forensics and criminology. A digital forensics degree is worth it for many students. Likewise, a degree in computer forensics can allow you to develop even more specialized forensics skills.
If this seems like the right career move for you, you can start your educational journey by exploring computer forensics online degree programs offered by accredited colleges. You can compare different course programs and study options to find the online degree that’s the best fit for your personal interests and professional aspirations.