Best Online Master’s in Computer Forensics Programs
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The interdisciplinary field of computer forensics explores computer-based crimes, security, and investigations. A master's in computer forensics prepares students to begin or advance their careers in this specialized field. The two-year program usually covers many advanced and in-demand computer topics, including cybersecurity, data analysis, investigative techniques, and cyberoperations.
Not unlike an online computer science degree, the diversified training from a master's in computer forensics prepares graduates for computer and information technology positions, including those in security, analysis, and management. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 13% growth for computer and information technology occupations between 2020 and 2030.
While master's programs cost an annual average of $19,792 in 2019-20, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, they also often lead to higher postgraduate earnings. To help prospective students make the best graduate school choice for them, we look more closely at the admissions process and program considerations. We also highlight the best online master's in computer forensics from the top online schools and the careers they prepare graduates for.
Popular Online Computer Forensics Programs
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Best Accredited Online Master's in Computer Forensics Programs
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What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Computer Forensics Program?
All programs run a little differently, but prospective master's students can expect to study for about two years, completing between 30-45 credits. Interested applicants should have an investigative spirit, problem-solving and critical thinking skills, and a strong technological foundation.
The training in this discipline combines computer systems, information security, and criminal justice. Students learn how and why cybercrimes occur, how to identify and prevent them, and how to investigate them after they happen. Most schools include an internship. Learners may get to choose a thesis- or course-based program.
When preparing for graduate school, prospective students should look at the degree and program types available in this field. While most schools award an analytically focused MS degree, other possibilities include MA or master of criminal justice degrees. These can shift the training emphasis or introduce different postgraduate opportunities.
The biggest difference among the program options comes from the concentrations available. Schools may offer computer forensics as a specialization within a computer science, cybersecurity, or information systems program. Alternatively, computer forensics programs might offer their own concentrations, such as digital forensics, mobile forensics, or cryptography.
|Cybersecurity||A cybersecurity concentration requires students to take courses in ethical hacking, network security and cryptography, and intrusion detection. They learn to develop and defend secure software systems.||Information security analyst, cybersecurity expert, forensic science technician|
|Data Analytics||In a data analytics concentration, you learn to collect and analyze data for organizations. Information systems management and systems analysis both feature heavily in the concentration. Students take courses in data mining, geographic information systems, and data warehousing.||Computer and information research scientist|
|Cyberinvestigation||Students who select a cyberinvestigation concentration explore evidence collection from digital sources and cyberattacks. They learn to access and analyze digital evidence on smartphones, tablets, and computers. They also become proficient in digital analysis of network and computer technologies to help solve cybercrimes.||Forensic science technician, digital investigator|
|Information Systems Management||An information systems management concentration teaches students to successfully design, implement, and manage secure information systems. They take required courses like information systems project management, decision support system analysis, and impact of new technology. The concentration focuses on new and emerging technologies.||Computer and information systems manager, computer and information research scientist|
|Information Technology Project Management||Students take courses like strategic planning for IT management, quality issues for IT project management, and leadership skills for IT project management when they select an information technology project management concentration. They learn the practical skills necessary to manage IT projects in a wide variety of organizations.||IT project manager|
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What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Computer Forensics Program?
In this course, students learn how professionals gather and process evidence from crime scenes. They study crime scene ethics and professionalism, report writing, and courtroom procedures.
This course explores the various causes and effects of crime. Learners study sociological, biological, and psychological perspectives and theories. They also look at the social issues in the legal world.
Students in this course learn how to protect wireless networks and devices. They examine the leading types of attacks, threat detection methods, and practices for identifying vulnerabilities.
In this course, students look at the development of intelligence analysis. They learn about the methods and tools for extracting insight from information and how this process can be applied to investigations
This course explores cybercrime and cybercrime investigations. Students look at the reasons and methods for cybercrime and its repercussions. They also learn to use preventative and protective measures and tools.
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What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Master's in Computer Forensics Program?
The admission requirements for graduate programs vary, but most online master's in computer forensics programs require prospective students to hold a bachelor's in computer science or a related discipline. Schools may also require that candidates have specific prerequisite courses and GPA minimums.
Online learners typically must meet the same admission standards as in-person learners. However, they must also meet the school's technological requirements.
College applications can differ, but they require the applicant's personal information and program of interest. While students typically apply directly to their desired school at the graduate level, college application systems may help streamline the process, particularly for those applying to many schools at once.
Graduate programs may require either GRE scores or GMAT scores from prospective students, depending on the program type. While test scores are not always mandatory, candidates can usually submit them for consideration.
Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation are usually included in a graduate program application. Prospective students need to find 2-3 professionals, such as former teachers, mentors, or employers, who can speak to their skills and strengths. The more relevant the references are to the computer forensics field, the more useful they will be.
Resume and Work Experience
College applications often include a resume requirement. The standard college application resume provides information on a prospective student's professional experience and skills. Some programs may even require a minimum amount of professional experience.
While many college applications feature college essays, they may look different depending on the school and program. Grad school essays, for example, might allow prospective students to discuss their personal histories, their academic goals and interests, or answer a specific discipline-related question.
Prospective students often must include official transcripts in their college applications. Transcripts cover all previous undergraduate and graduate studies. These records help schools make admission decisions, award transfer credits, and identify what prerequisites the applicant has or needs.
What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Computer Forensics Degree?
Thanks to their cybersecurity expertise and advanced training, computer forensics graduates can access some of the fastest-growing positions within the already booming information technology industry. The BLS projects 16% growth for forensic science technicians between 2020 and 2030.
The BLS also projects 33% growth for information security analysts and 22% growth for computer and information research scientists. These fields also earn competitive wages. In fact, people working in the computer and information technology sector made median annual wages more than $50,000 higher than the median annual wages for all occupations in May 2021.
Graduates holding a master's in computer forensics can perform many roles depending on their interests. The most straightforward path leads them to cybercrime investigation careers. But they can also enter research and development, computer security or management, and data or systems analysis.
Check out what career options are available with a master's in computer forensics.
Forensic Computer Examiner
Forensic computer examiners support computer-based crime investigations. They research cyberattacks, scams, and electronic fraud. They also search for evidence and data that might help organizations, law enforcement, and prosecutors identify the offenders. These workers prepare reports and may need to present their findings in court.
Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $61,930
Information Security Analyst
Information insecurity analysts provide protections for computers and information systems. They analyze an organization's systems to look for issues and vulnerabilities to secure according to industry standards. These professionals may also monitor and investigate cyberattacks.
Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $102,600
Computer and Information Research Scientist
These professionals research, design, and create new computer technology and update existing technology. They may work with specific organizations or industries to make improvements or solve problems. Computer and information research scientists can also specialize in certain types of technology, such as those working in cybersecurity and forensics.
Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $131,490
Computer Systems Analyst
Computer systems analysts work for organizations to improve all areas of their computer systems. They evaluate the current operations and look for inefficiencies, vulnerabilities, and possible upgrades. Analysts may also implement cost-saving measures or research and design enhancements based on the needs and goals of the organization.
Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $99,270
Computer and Information Systems Manager
Computer and information systems managers oversee an organization's information technology department and operations. They coordinate maintenance, manage staff, and report to upper management and stakeholders on all things related to IT. These managers may also specialize in specific IT fields, such as IT security managers who focus on cybersecurity and protection.
Median Annual Salary (May 2021): $159,010
Computer Forensics Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.
Computer forensics graduates who want to advance their education have many options for additional degrees and certifications. They can pursue several doctoral degree paths, including computer forensics, computer science, data analysis, or any other computer-related field. Doctorates can grant them access to more research and academic roles, such as postsecondary teaching positions.
Graduates can also complement their degrees with cybersecurity bootcamps or vendor-specific training programs or certificates.
How Do I Choose an Online Master's in Computer Forensics Program?
Cost plays a large role in college program choice for most prospective students. Applicants can sort through their options by comparing online and on-campus program costs, in-state and out-of-state school costs, and private and public school costs. For even more information, prospective students can evaluate the true program cost, which factors in how studies can impact income.
Prospective students should look at the program format to figure out what type of study schedule and delivery system they want. Online learners can often choose between synchronous and asynchronous learning and full-time and part-time studies, which can make a big difference in when and how often they study.
All prospective students should consider school location, regardless of their choice between online or on-campus programs. Online learners may not need to attend class in person as regularly as on-campus students, but they might need to for lab or practicum requirements. In fact, many online programs have mandatory residency requirements.
Schools need institutional accreditation to offer federal financial aid. Institutional accreditation can also impact a graduate's access to employment, transfer credit, and postgraduate credentials. While not mandatory, programmatic accreditation for a master's in computer forensics may come from the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission.
Prospective students can find out what type of support system they will have at school by looking at the student services and online student services available. Students should research academic or career services provided, wellness service options, and mentorship programs. In-program support, like connections to internships, can help as well.
Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Computer Forensics Programs
Is a master's in computer forensics worth it?
Yes. A master's in computer forensics can be worthwhile for many students. The training provides advanced and specialized training in computer science, cybersecurity, and cybercrime investigations. Graduates can pursue more training and advanced careers in any of these fields.
In addition to the computer science degree value, students can benefit from the online degree value. Online students can access more schools and programs nationwide, which may lead to more suitable schedules and cost savings.
What can I do with a master's in computer forensics?
Graduates with a master's in computer forensics often pursue careers as digital forensics analysts or forensic computer examiners, but many other options exist. They may, for example, enter the cybersecurity or information security analysis fields. They might also take on IT security management roles or pursue general computer systems management.
Computer forensics graduates can also extend their time in school by pursuing a doctoral degree. This degree opens the door for postsecondary teaching and academic careers. Graduates can expand their career options with extra training and credentials as well as with bootcamps and industry certificates.
Are computer forensics graduates in demand?
Yes. The demand for computer forensics graduates continues to grow as the cybersecurity industry expands. According to Fortune Business Insights, the cybersecurity industry is projected to grow from about $156 billion in 2022 to $376 billion in 2029.
As a result, the BLS projects 33% growth for information security analysts between 2020 and 2030, nearly four times the projected growth rate for all occupations. This translates to an addition of more than 47,000 new positions in this specific field, plus over 16,000 annual openings on average.
How much money can I make with a master's in computer forensics?
The money offered to graduates with a master's in computer forensics depends on many factors. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for computer and information technology professionals was $97,430 in May 2021. Forensic science technicians made median annual wages of $61,960, but the top 10% made more than $103,430.
Information security analysts made a median annual salary of $102,600, and computer systems analysts made a median of $99,270 in May 2021, as per the BLS. Professionals with a master's degree may have access to the more desirable positions and salaries in these and other fields. For example, the top 10% of earners in these careers made $165,920 and $158,010, respectively.
What are the highest-paying jobs with a master's in computer forensics?
The highest-paying position for a graduate with a master's in computer forensics is a computer and information systems manager. According to the BLS, professionals in this field earned median annual salaries of $159,010 in May 2021, more than $110,000 higher than the median annual wages for all occupations.
While the lowest 10% of earners in this occupation made less than $95,220, the top 10% earned over $208,000. Computer and information research scientists also earned high wages in May 2021, with median annual salaries of $131,490. The top 10% of these workers made over $208,000 as well.
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