What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Computer Forensics?
Computer forensics technicians investigate digital data and may work in criminal investigation or cybercrime on the local, state and federal levels. Computer forensics graduate students follow career-focused programs that provide specialized skills for a specialized industry. Online master’s programs in computer forensics teach you the skills you need to safeguard information from cyberattacks or aid criminal investigations by processing information stored on computers that belong to suspects or victims. Your advanced degree makes you a competitive job candidate for entry-level and upper-level positions. Earning your degree online offers a flexible alternative to on-campus programs and allows you to complete coursework at your convenience, around your personal and professional schedules. Compare curriculum, concentrations, program delivery and admission requirements to find the best online master’s in computer forensics program to meet your educational and career goals.
Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Computer Forensics
Database management is often a concentration within an online computer science, data science, information management or information systems master’s degree program. When database management is offered as its own master’s program, some programs offer concentrations similar to those offered in other computer science programs.
|CONCENTRATION||DESCRIPTION||POTENTIAL CAREERS FOR THIS CONCENTRATION|
|Forensic Accounting||Combines forensic knowledge and accounting expertise, find and gather digital information in the accounting arena to use in a criminal investigation, such as embezzlement, money laundering or other fraudulent white-collar crimes.||Forensic accountant, data analyst|
|Cybercrime||Focuses on finding and investigating crimes perpetrated over the internet or other digital or telecommunications networks, including hacking, phishing, email scams, auction fraud, distribution of child exploitation materials and other cybercrimes.||Criminal investigator, cyberinvestigator, computer forensics specialist, law enforcement|
|Telecommunications Technology||Covers a combination of knowledge and skills needed in forensic examinations, including the rules of evidence, computer crime laws, digital forensic investigative techniques and civil and criminal forensic crime reporting abilities.||Digital forensics analyst, digital forensics examiner, digital forensics consultant, computer forensics analyst|
Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Computer Forensics
Online master’s degree programs in computer forensics vary, including delivery methods. Some programs are offered completely online, while others are hybrid programs that require some coursework to be completed on-campus. Most programs allow you to choose a concentration, which lets you specialize in a specific computer forensics area. Your concentration may change the focus of your curriculum and the classes required. Many programs culminate with a thesis, capstone or research project. Before selecting an online master’s degree program in computer forensics, ensure the curriculum aligns with your professional objections. Below are some core courses common in computer forensics graduate programs.
|Forensic Information Technology||Covers modern computer forensics science, including techniques used to investigate and solve computer crimes, tools for evidence collection, file system analysis, data recovery, and social, legal and ethical aspects of computer crimes.|
|Digital Forensic Investigation Techniques||Examines digital forensic evidence collection, including securing, processing and examining evidence and how to report and present this evidence in civil or criminal court.|
|Mobile Forensics||Learn to properly identify, preserve, examine and analyze mobile device data to conduct effective investigations.|
|Windows Forensics Examination||Focuses on essential information to perform 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.|
How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s in Computer Forensics?
While some programs can be completed in as little as one year, most programs typically take two years, longer if you’re only pursuing your studies 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 required for graduation 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 an individually paced program offered at an accelerated rate.
Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in Computer Forensics Prepares For
|Certified Computer Examiner||Your online master’s in computer forensics may help qualify and prepare you for taking the required examinations to earn your Certified Computer Examiner credential offered by the International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners.|
|Certified Forensic Computer Examiner||An advanced degree in computer forensics may count towards the 72 hours of continuing professional education in computer/digital forensics prerequisite for applying to become a Certified Forensic Computer Examiner. Certification is offered through the International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists and also requires you to complete a series of core competencies in computer/digital forensics, which includes passing a written examination.|
Accreditation for Online Master’s in Computer Forensics
The school you choose should be nationally or regionally accredited through a credentialing agency recognized by the Department of Education or Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Career-focused vocational or technical schools typically have national accreditation, while four-year universities usually have regional accreditation. An accredited school meets or exceeds applicable educational standards, and enrollment into a program offered by these schools ensures your eligibility for financial aid from the federal government and other sources. Some schools may also have programmatic accreditation from third-party agencies that accredit programs in the forensic sciences. This might include the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission, which provides specialized accreditation to help you identify high-quality programs.
Employment Outlook for Master’s in Computer Forensics Graduates
Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s
Society’s dependency on computers and mobile devices increases the demand for competent computer forensics experts educated in the investigation of digital crimes and presentation of the collected evidence in a court of law. Jobs in computer forensics are rapidly evolving and competitive. Your online master’s in computer forensics helps you stand out from your peers and could also help you earn a higher salary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics compiled data of all workers in every job field in 2018, and the results indicated that workers with a master’s degree had median weekly earnings of $1,521, while those with a bachelor’s degree earned $1,198 weekly.
Computer forensics is a specialized field and pursuing a specific career path can affect your salary. Below is a chart of average salaries for various computer forensics careers.
Your computer forensics skills are transferable and valued in numerous sectors, but some sectors offer higher salaries than others. Forensic technicians earn more when working for a federal agency compared to those working for state or local governments, who earn about 40 percent less. However, employment rates are much higher in state and local governments, with thousands of positions filled in 2017 compared to the scant 130 employed by the federal government.
|INDUSTRY||NUMBER EMPLOYED||ANNUAL MEAN WAGE|
|Federal Executive Branch||130||$105,650|
|Scientific Research and Development Services||170||$71,240|
|Architectural, Engineering and Related Services||220||$64,990|
|Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories||670||$43,260|
Your online computer forensics graduate degree prepares you for highly coveted positions, often in leadership roles. An advanced education in computer crime may lead you to a lucrative and rewarding career in government organizations, law enforcement agencies, scientific laboratories, businesses in the private sector or other technology-based careers. While some computer forensics experts work freelance, many pursue careers with large organizations in various capacities.
|JOB TITLE||JOB DESCRIPTION||MEDIAN SALARY||PROJECTED GROWTH RATE|
|Forensic Science Technician||Some Forensic Science Technicians specialize in computer-based crimes, collecting and analyzing data to uncover scams, fraud, identify theft and other violations committed with a computer or mobile device. Computer forensic technicians must adhere to the same strict standards as other forensic scientists to ensure the integrity of the evidence gathered, which is vital in legal cases.||$57,850 per year||17%|
|Computer and Information Research Scientist||Computer and Information Research Scientists invent and design new approaches to computing technology, which is often helpful in computer forensics. Most positions in computer and information research require a master’s degree and involve solving complex computer problems in various fields, including business, science, medical, legal and other sectors.||$114,520 per year||19%|
Computer forensics technicians are continually challenged to keep current on emerging and evolving technology. 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, professional organizations offer many benefits, including networking opportunities, certification programs, job boards and industry updates you can’t afford to miss. Some highly respected organizations in the computer forensics domain include the following.
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. Some of the many benefits of membership include annual conferences, an extensive reference library, numerous educational opportunities, expert witness referrals, job opportunity listings and valuable updates in an 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, which includes the prevention and investigation of high-tech crimes. A few of the many benefits of membership are professional development, networking, educational and collaboration opportunities, plus annual conferences and training expos, job bulletins and a newsfeed to keep current 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. It also provides numerous training opportunities and a certification program with members receiving one-on-one training opportunities with experts in the field and free annual certification proficiency tests and recertification exams every three years.
Financing Your Online Master’s in Computer Forensics
Earning your computer forensics master’s degree online often costs less than enrolling in traditional on-campus programs. However, many online graduate students still need financial assistance to pay for their higher education. Exploring your funding possibilities should always begin with submission of 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 programs and scholarships offered directly through the school or department you’re enrolled in. You can also find financial assistance through the state government and private scholarships offered by various organizations, nonprofits and corporations. While many students rely on loans to fund their educations, there are numerous financing options you don’t have to repay that help you reduce your student debt. Start your search for financial aid options with the following resources.
|Financial Aid for Graduate Students|
|Knowing Your Options|
|State Financial Aid Programs|
|Jan S. Bashinski Criminalistics Graduate Thesis Assistance Grant||Award: $1,700
Eligibility: Full-time or part-time graduate students in criminalistic/forensic sciences who require financial assistance to complete a thesis or an independent research project to fulfill their degree program’s graduation requirements.
|Alumni Winter Term Scholarship||Award: Up to $1,000
Eligibility: Alumni of the University of Maryland University College pursuing a master’s of science degree in digital forensics and cyberinvestigation.