What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Computer Forensics Program?

Earning your master’s in computer forensics degree online offers a flexible alternative to on-campus programs. It allows you to complete coursework around your personal and professional schedules at your convenience. When selecting your online program, compare the curriculum, program delivery, and admission requirements to find the best option for your educational and career goals.

Available concentrations

Another factor to consider when selecting your online master’s in computer forensics program is the concentration options. If you’re interested in a particular aspect of computer forensics, you should look for a program that allows you to focus your studies on that subject area. Some of the most popular concentration options for this degree include:

  • Forensic Accounting: This concentration focuses on finding and gathering digital information to help investigate issues such as embezzlement, money laundering, and other white-collar crimes.
  • Cybercrime: Learn how to investigate crimes perpetrated over the internet or other telecommunications networks, such as hacking, phishing, email scams, and auction fraud.
  • Telecommunications Technology: With this concentration, you’ll gain the technical knowledge and skills needed for forensic examinations, including the rules of evidence, computer crime laws, and digital forensic investigative techniques.

Common degree curriculum

Online master’s degree programs in computer forensics vary. Some programs are offered entirely online, while others are hybrid programs requiring some coursework on campus. Also, the exact curriculum in your program will depend on the school you select and whether you decide to pursue a concentration in a specific area.

That said, there are a few core courses included in just about every online master’s in computer forensics program, such as:

  • Forensic Information Technology: Covers modern computer forensics science, including tools for evidence collection, file system analysis, and data recovery.
  • Digital Forensic Investigation Techniques: Examines digital forensic evidence collection, including securing, processing, and examining evidence and how to report and present such evidence in civil or criminal court.
  • Mobile Forensics: Reviews how to correctly identify, preserve, examine, and analyze mobile device data to conduct effective investigations.
  • Windows Forensics Examination: Focuses on performing a forensic examination of computers running the Microsoft Windows operating system, including disk-level forensic tools and techniques.
  • Network and Cloud Forensics: Explores forensic examination of shared cloud-based resources, including networks, servers, and services.

Certification and license preparation

After completing your master’s in computer forensics program, you should consider continuing your education and earning professional certifications — this will allow you to expand your skill set and become qualified for a broader range of job opportunities. Some of the most valuable certification programs in this field include:

  • Certified Computer Examiner: Your online master’s in computer forensics can help prepare you to take the required examinations to earn your Certified Computer Examiner credential, which the International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners offers.
  • Certified Forensic Computer Examiner: An advanced degree in computer forensics may count toward the 72 hours of continuing professional education needed to become a Certified Forensic Computer Examiner. This certification is offered through the International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists. It also requires you to complete a series of core computer/digital forensics competencies, including passing a written examination.

Program accreditation

Only apply to schools approved by a DOE-recognized regional accrediting organization, such as the New England Commission of Higher Education or Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. If your school doesn’t have regional accreditation, you may be unable to access financial aid or transfer credits to another institution if needed. Ideally, the program you attend will also be approved by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission, as this organization maintains high standards for forensic science education.

Program completion timeframe

While some programs can be completed in just one year, most typically take two years (longer if you only attend school part-time).

Programs that require you to compile a research portfolio to present as your final project or those that require an on-campus research or capstone project will likely require more time to complete. The number of credits needed to graduate also impacts the time it takes to finish your online master’s in computer forensics degree. Many programs require 30 to 36 hours, but some require 40 or more. If you want to earn your degree as quickly as possible, look for a self-paced program with options for accelerated courses.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Computer Forensics Graduates

Computer forensics is an excellent choice of major for those who prioritize job security. While the total number of jobs in the country is projected to grow by just 3% over the next decade, most computer forensics occupations are expected to grow at a double-digit rate.

You’ll need a master’s degree to access the most lucrative opportunities in this field. For example, even entry-level computer/information research scientist positions typically require a master’s degree, and the average salary for this occupation is well above $100,000.

Your salary will also depend on where you work. In general, areas with a higher cost of living offer higher wages.

Job Title Job Description Median Yearly Salary Projected Growth Rate (2022 – 2032)
Forensic Science Technician Some forensic science technicians specialize in technology-based crimes, collecting and analyzing data to uncover scams, fraud, identity theft, and other violations committed with a computer or mobile device. $63,740 13%
Computer/Information Research Scientist Computer and information research scientists invent and design new approaches to computing technology. In this role, you would help develop the next generation of computer forensics tools and techniques. $136,620 23%

Professional organizations

Joining professional organizations is an excellent way to continue your education and stay on top of new developments in the industry. Whether you’re at the beginning of your career or have been in the field for some time, these organizations offer many benefits, including networking opportunities, certification programs, job boards, and industry updates you can’t afford to miss. Some highly respected professional organizations in the computer forensics domain include:

  • American Academy of Forensic Sciences: A multidisciplinary professional organization, AAFS strives to advance forensic science and its implementation in the legal system. AAFS members include professionals from all areas of forensic science, including digital evidence experts. Membership benefits include annual conferences, an extensive reference library, numerous educational opportunities, expert witness referrals, job opportunity listings, and valuable updates in this ever-expanding field.
  • High Technology Crime Investigation Association: HTCIA is a global organization providing numerous resources for technology crime professionals to assist them in their career goals. A few membership benefits are professional development, networking, educational and collaboration opportunities, annual conferences and training expos, job bulletins, and a newsfeed on the latest technology and trends.
  • International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists: IACIS provides forensic computer training and facilitates a robust network of computer forensic professionals with various levels of expertise. Members receive direct access to experts and a broad community of professional peers. They also provide one-on-one training opportunities and free annual certification tests.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Computer Forensics Degree

Earning your computer forensics master’s degree online often costs less than enrolling in a traditional on-campus program. However, many online graduate students still need financial assistance to pay for their education. Exploring your funding possibilities should always begin with submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which opens opportunities for all types of aid from the federal government for those with financial needs. Many educational institutions also use this form to determine your eligibility for financial assistance.

You can also find financial aid through state government programs and private scholarships from various nonprofits and corporations. While many students rely on loans to fund their education, there are numerous financing options you don’t have to repay as well.

Student Finance Resources and Guides

As mentioned above, many organizations can help you pay for your master’s degree in computer forensics. You can use the following resources to research your options and identify all the opportunities you may qualify for.

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