U.S. software company Symantec found in a recent security insights report that cybercrime affected 143 million Americans, costing them $19.4 billion in 2017 alone. Information security, a branch of computer forensics, deals with cybercrime involving computers and other digital storage media. Today, employment for these professionals continues to increase; the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 28% growth in the field between 2016 and 2026. As a computer forensics examiner, you will be at the forefront of investigations and court cases involving the recovery, collection, analysis, and presentation of digital evidence.
What are the best computer forensics programs? Here are our top 5:
|1||Champlain College||Burlington, VT|
|2||Robert Morris University||Moon Township, PA|
|3||University of Charleston||Charleston, WV|
|4||Excelsior College||Albany, NY|
|5||Keiser University||Fort Lauderdale, FL|
Choosing a Program
Computer forensic science blends technology, scientific testing, and criminal justice. It falls under the broader scope of digital forensics, most often associated with the investigation of computer crimes. Computer forensics examiners or specialists respond to criminal cyber activity, such as fraud or espionage.
Professionals in the field typically have a background in computer science. A bachelor's degree in computer forensics is a common way to gain skills and knowledge. Students earning a computer forensics degree online typically learn about both the technical and legal aspects of the field.
While a computer forensics curriculum shares similarities with that of a cybersecurity program, there are important differences. Whereas cybersecurity focuses on prevention, computer forensics concentrates on what to do after crimes occur. Typical courses in a computer forensics program include cybercrime, cyber criminology, database design, and network security. A computer forensics degree online curriculum also explores cyber threats such as malware, investigative techniques, computer ethics, and cyber law.
Best Accredited Online Bachelor's in Computer Forensics Programs
|Burlington, VT||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 64%||
Champlain's bachelor's in computer forensics and digital investigations program features major courses like the foundations of cybersecurity, malware forensics, and white-collar crime. Students also complete a 15-week practicum to gain on-the-job experience.
Nearly 95% of Champlain alumni find a job or join a master's program within six months of graduating. The college provides specialized resources to computer forensics undergraduates, including cover letter examples and a graduate school application guide.
Champlain prefers applicants who graduated high school with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Additional requirements include a short essay and a resume. Active-duty service members benefit from a significant tuition discount.
Robert Morris University
|Moon Township, PA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 64%||
RMU's online bachelor's in cyberforensics and information security program covers topics like COBOL programming, operating systems concepts, and computer and network security. Additionally, students work with an advisor to create a personalized concentration.
RMU provides online learners with career tips sheets and resource guides. These services help nearly 95% of alumni obtain a positive career outcome soon after graduation.
Admission requirements include GED scores or high school transcripts. The university accepts up to 81 transfer credits earned with a minimum 2.0 GPA. Institutional scholarships for first-year students award up to full tuition, and transfer students may qualify for significant financial aid.
RMU's computer forensics program is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
University of Charleston
|Charleston, WV||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 47%||
UC's bachelor's in cybersecurity program operates as a degree completion pathway and focuses on cybersecurity issues and best practices. The curriculum takes two years to complete and includes courses like cybersecurity strategy, advanced security trends, and ethical hacking. The program concludes with a capstone.
UC's career advisors help students apply for graduate school and provide personalized career coaching. These resources help almost 85% of undergraduate alumni start a career or join a master's program within six months graduation.
Prospective students must hold an associate degree. First responders and law enforcement and military personnel receive a 40% tuition discount. The university awards merit-based scholarships to outstanding applicants.
|Albany, NY||Graduation Rate: N/A||
Aspiring National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security professionals may be interested in Excelsior's online bachelor's degree in cybersecurity. Core courses include an introduction to microprocessors, security-focused risk management, and system administration. Students can also complete an optional concentration in cyberoperations that emphasizes secure software development.
On Excelsior's website, degree-seekers can take a self-assessment, research graduate programs, and review career articles. The university also offers presentations that cover topics like salary negotiation tips and cybersecurity careers.
Applicants must submit transcripts, and the college waives the application fee for active-duty service members. Financial aid opportunities include multiple institutional scholarships.
|Fort Lauderdale, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 69%||
Keiser's bachelor's in cyberforensics and information security program may interest prospective learners who already hold an associate degree. During the program, students examine digital media forensics, system analysis, and organization and technology of information systems. The 60-credit curriculum does not require a capstone project.
The university provides degree-seekers with interview preparation, virtual workshops, and knowledgeable advisors. Keiser also maintains a private job board that lists openings not found on other websites.
Applicants should hold an associate of science degree in computer-related field and have a minimum 2.0 undergraduate GPA. Part-time and full-time students may qualify for one of many institutional aid programs, and the university's financial services website hosts links to top scholarship search resources.
What Else Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor's in Computer Forensics Program?
While curriculum details differ by program, all computer forensics programs offer a strong foundation in cybersecurity and teach students how to respond to threats. Students earning a computer forensics degree online may also need to complete an internship or practicum that gives them hands-on experience applying the skills they learn in the classroom.
Curriculum for an Online Bachelor's in Computer Forensics
Core courses and electives normally differ between programs. Whereas one program may include a course on white-collar crime, another may offer an elective on incident response management. Most programs tend to cover criminal law and procedure. Below is a sample curriculum students are likely to encounter when earning a computer forensics degree online.
- Malware Forensics: This course addresses the threat of malicious software and the task of the forensic expert to identify the source. Students learn detection techniques and how to use analysis tools, such as reverse engineering, to understand what malware does and how it works. Topics covered include infection vectors, timeline construction, and volatile memory.
- Cyber Criminology: This course examines illegal activity in cyberspace and the individuals behind it, as well as the role of computers. Both social and behavioral sciences are applied to understand criminal motivations. Students study traditional and contemporary digital crimes, including system hacking, insider threats, cyber terrorism, ransomware, and white-collar crimes such as embezzlement and Ponzi schemes.
- Introduction to Cybercrime: This class presents concepts for conducting investigations in digital crime, particularly how to identify and preserve digital evidence. Topics cover how to provide testimony and how to detect criminal cyber activity such as fraud and identity theft, use of the hexadecimal, and hashing.
How Long Does it Take to get an Online Bachelor's in Computer Forensics?
A computer forensics degree online program typically requires the completion of 120 credits, which full-time students can complete in four years.
Depending on the program and school, it is possible to transfer up to three-fourths of the required credits, reducing the program length to just a year of full-time study. Other factors that affect the length of a program include credit for prior learning, when classes are offered, and term length.
Some programs allow you to complete the coursework at your own pace, while others place groups of students into a cohort. Cohort learning provides continuous peer support, but may take longer for some students since cohorts progress through courses as a group.
Accreditation for Online Bachelor's in Computer Forensics Degrees
When choosing a college or university, it is important to confirm its accreditation. For a school to gain accreditation, an accrediting body evaluated the school and found it met or exceeded quality standards. For prospective students, accreditation is assurance. The two types of accreditation in the U.S. are regional and national.
Due to its history, as well as the types of schools that earn it, regional accreditation is regarded as the more prestigious institutional accreditation. Nationally accredited schools are often career-focused, for-profit schools with less demanding admissions requirements.
Many regionally accredited institutions only accept transfer credits earned at another regionally accredited college or university, so transfer students should determine the accreditation status of their university before applying to another program.
The U.S. Department of Education maintains a database of all accredited postsecondary institutions, and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation database includes over 7,600 learning institutions accredited by recognized U.S. accrediting agencies.
Employment Outlook for Bachelor's in Computer Forensics Graduates
According to the BLS, starting salaries for information security professionals are comparatively high for this in-demand field, and experts who also bring industry experience will have the best prospects.
The table below features data from PayScale regarding expected salaries for computer forensics graduates at different stages of their careers. Note that bonuses range from $1,000 to $15,000, and profit-sharing may also affect bonus amounts.
|Job Title||Overall Median Salary||Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years)||Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years)||Median Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ years)|
|Computer Forensics Analyst||$68,730||$60,390||$86,211||$98,661|
|Information Security Engineer||$91,920||$76,790||$95,205||$110,040|
|IT Security Architect||$120,181||$87,753||$113,332||$133,496|
Bachelor's in Computer Forensics Careers
Upon completion of a computer forensics degree online program, new graduates can pursue various career paths in information security, including as cybersecurity consultants and computer network architects. The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team notes that anyone who manages or administers information systems should possess a basic understanding of computer forensics.
A computer forensics degree online program provides graduates with valuable analytical, computer science, and communication skills. Computer forensics and information security specialists can also earn certified information security systems professional (CISSP) certification. Below are a few careers you could pursue with a bachelor's in computer forensics.
- Information Security Analyst
Information security analysts help organizations protect sensitive data from outside attack by devising and implementing security measures such as data encryption, firewalls, and simulating attacks to expose vulnerabilities.
Median Annual Salary: $92,600
Projected Growth Rate: 28%
- Computer and Information Research Scientist
Computer and information research scientists help organizations solve complex computing problems, including improved information security. This level of expertise generally requires a master's degree in computer science or a related field.
Median Annual Salary: $111,840
Projected Growth Rate: 19%
- Computer System Analyst
Also known as systems architects, a computer system analyst helps organizations run more efficiently through the redesign of current computer systems and operations. Systems architects work with IT to understand how changes to an organization affect security. Tests such as data modeling determine the best course of action.
Median Annual Salary: $87,220
Projected Growth Rate: 9%
- Computer Network Architect
Computer network architects design and build data communication networks capable of next-generation networking, with an eye toward security concerns in the cloud.
Median Annual Salary: $101,210
Projected Growth Rate: 6%
- Network and Computer Systems Administrator
Network and computer systems administrators maintain the day-to-day operations of an organization's networks, including any changes made by systems architects or new protocols requested by information security analysts.
Median Annual Salary: $79,700
Projected Growth Rate: 6%
Financing Your Online Bachelor's in Computer Forensics Program
As cybercrime grows, so too does the demand for professionals skilled in computer forensics. Students majoring in this new field find themselves in select company upon graduation. Remember that all scholarships have deadlines for application, so it is imperative that you get all information in on time. Students should also submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to establish eligibility for federal grants, loans, and work-study funds.
Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.
Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.
Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.
Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.