If you enjoy using cutting-edge technology to work through complex problems, or if you are interested in criminal investigation and cybercrime, a master's degree in computer forensics would be a great fit. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 27% increase in forensics positions by 2024, a growth rate well exceeding the national average.
Online computer forensics master's programs teach students to be effective investigators. Students learn methods to safeguard important information from cyberattacks and skills to aid criminal investigations at the local, state, and federal levels. Graduates with a master's degree in computer forensics often specialize within the field and are competitive applicants for upper-level positions.
What are the best computer forensics programs? Here are our top 10:
|1||University of San Diego||San Diego, CA|
|2||University of Central Florida||Orlando, FL|
|3||Mississippi College||Clinton, MS|
|4||Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University||Daytona Beach, FL|
|5||DeSales University||Center Valley, PA|
|6||University of Arizona||Tucson, AZ|
|7||Robert Morris University||Moon Township, PA|
|8||University of the Cumberlands||Williamsburg, KY|
|9||Eastern Illinois University||Charleston, IL|
|10||Champlain College||Burlington, VT|
2020 Best Accredited Online Master's in Computer Forensics Programs
University of San Diego
|San Diego, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 80%||
USD's online master's in cybersecurity engineering program is a 20-month pathway that features courses in applied cryptography, security test engineering, and cybersecurity domains. In their final semester, learners complete a two-part cyber engineering research project.
Online learners can access USD's Career Toolkit — a free service that includes a resume guide and career fair preparation tips. These resources have helped recent graduates find jobs at Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, among other top employers in the public and private sectors.
Prospective students should hold a bachelor's degree in computer science with a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Additional requirements include a recommendation letter and a 500-word statement of purpose. USD offers institutional scholarships to cybersecurity engineering students.
University of Central Florida
|Orlando, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 73%||
UCF's online master's degree in digital forensics includes a 30-credit curriculum with coursework in topics like forensic science, the practice of digital forensics, and wireless security. Students personalize the degree by selecting three electives from over a dozen options. Degree-seekers can choose between thesis and nonthesis tracks.
On UCF's career services website, students can explore career paths, attend a virtual workshop, and set up an appointment for a virtual advising session. Learners can also use Big Interview software to practice.
This program does not require standardized test scores or recommendation letters for admission. Florida residents pay significantly lower tuition. The university's Access to Opportunities website lists available scholarships.
|Clinton, MS||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 53%||
MC's master's in cybersecurity and information assurance program helps students develop skills related to computer security, operating systems, and computer networking. Participants also select two electives with an advisor's help, and participants can graduate in five semesters.
Degree-seekers can research jobs and doctoral programs through MC's career services office. The college also provides learners with guides that cover best practices for interviewing and writing resumes.
Admission requirements include a bachelor's in computer science and a minimum 2.75 undergraduate GPA. Applicants do not need to submit standardized test scores or recommendation letters. Institutional financial aid opportunities require a separate application.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
|Daytona Beach, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 19%||
Aspiring cybercrime experts often pursue ERAU's online master's degree in information security and assurance. The program teaches learners skills related to assured business systems, cyberlaw, and quality management for information assurance. Students choose one of three specializations: protecting business intelligence, information systems security, or information assurance in a global context.
Recent graduates from this program report a 100% placement rate. The university provides students with career development best practices, access to Handshake software, and resume tips. Additional resources include a guide that teaches learners how to create a digital academic portfolio.
Prospective students must submit undergraduate transcripts. Active-duty military personnel and their dependents receive a significant tuition discount. Prospective students can apply for institutional aid after submitting FAFSA results.
|Center Valley, PA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 71%||
DeSales offers an online master's in criminal justice with a digital forensics concentration. Required coursework covers topics like issues in criminal law, policing in America, and network and cloud forensics. Students complete 30 credits by taking a total of 10 classes. The degree offers full-time and part-time tracks.
The university's career development website offers career success tools like a job and internship board and a career development plan. Online learners can also access resume critiques and interest assessments.
Admission requirements include a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA and three recommendation letters. Incoming students who already work in the criminal justice field receive an automatic 20% tuition discount.
University of Arizona
|Tucson, AZ||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 64%||
Arizona's online master's in cybersecurity program is delivered through eight-week courses, making it a good fit for students seeking an accelerated program. The 33-credit curriculum features courses in information security, data mining for business intelligence, and business data communications. Students can specialize in information systems or physical systems.
Arizona's career counselors use Virtual LifeLab to provide online students with resume assistance and mock interviews. The university also provides access to Handshake, counseling appointments over Zoom, and videos that cover networking tips.
Prospective students must submit undergraduate transcripts. However, the program does not require recommendation letters. Out-of-state online learners pay in-state tuition. Incoming students can research financial aid opportunities on the university's Scholarship Universe website.
Robert Morris University
|Moon Township, PA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 64%||
Students at RMU can earn a master's in cybersecurity and information assurance degree. This online program features 30 credits, including courses in information technology governance, microcomputing technology, and network technology and management. Graduates have gone on to work for companies like Alcoa, Bayer, and PPG Industries.
Almost 95% of RMU alumni achieve a positive career or education outcome within 12 months of graduation. The university's Career and Professional Develop Center website offers dozens of resources, including career resource guides and tip sheets.
Prospective students must meet undergraduate course prerequisites and have a minimum 3.0 GPA. Additional requirements include passing a criminal background check.
University of the Cumberlands
|Williamsburg, KY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 33%||
Prospective students with and without computer science experience can apply to UC's online master's in digital forensics program. Participants can choose a specialization in cybersecurity or criminal justice, and core courses cover topics like investigation and triage, wireless security, and web browser forensics. The program culminates in an applied learning practicum.
UC provides distance learners with access to four software suites: Handshake, Big Interview, USA Careers, and GoinGlobal. GoinGlobal features job opportunities in foreign countries. Students can also access articles that cover career transitions, transferable skills, and salary negotiation.
Admission requirements include a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA. International applicants complete additional steps, such as a foreign transcript evaluation. UC offers competitive tuition rates to all learners, and students may qualify for federal grants and loans.
Eastern Illinois University
|Charleston, IL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 58%||
EIU's master's in cybersecurity features a 32-credit curriculum and includes courses in systems security, biometric security, and the management of IT. All students complete a capstone course in which they hone skills related to IT risk assessment and security policies. The program requires two short on-campus residencies.
Over 90% of EIU graduates start a career or a new academic program within 180 days of earning their degree. To help individuals find success, EIU provides learners with free workshops, career exploration guides, and interviewing tips.
All applicants must hold an undergraduate degree in a technology field and submit two recommendation letters, a statement of purpose, and a resume. The university awards many institutional scholarships, including awards that target international students.
|Burlington, VT||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 64%||
Students who earn Champlain's online master's degree in digital forensic science complete all of their coursework asynchronously. Core courses include mobile device analysis, digital investigation for civil investigation, and operating systems analysis. The program culminates in a master's thesis.
Champlain's digital forensics alumni work at major organizations like AT&T, Chevron, and General Electric. The university's Career Collaborative organization helps students find appealing jobs by providing experiential learning opportunities and networking events.
Prospective students without a background in IT can apply if they take foundation courses before starting the digital forensics curriculum. Active-duty service members enjoy an automatic 50% tuition discount. Vermont residents can apply for state grants.
What Else Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Computer Forensics Program?
Online computer forensics master's degree curricula vary by program. Examine each prospective school's course offerings and faculty to choose the best program to help you reach your academic and professional goals.
Curriculum For an Online Master's Degree in Computer Forensics
Course offerings vary depending on the school's faculty, departmental history, specialties, strengths, and geographic location. These factors are important to consider, as some programs prepare graduates for certain types of work in the field. Below are core courses that are common to most forensics master's programs.
- Digital Crime, Evidence, and Procedure These courses cover basic legal concepts that help students navigate investigatory situations and crime research. Students explore the practical application of laws in the age of digital criminal activity.
- Foundations of Computing and Security This introductory course explores online network analysis, routing protocols, and software and hardware risks. Students examine the complex nature of online data and security protocols.
- Electrical and Computer Engineering This course covers electric circuit theory's function within digital forensics. Students learn about basic electronic components of field equipment and conduct lab experiments.
How Long Does it Take to Get an Online Master's in Computer Forensics?
Full-time students typically complete their online computer forensics master's degree in about two years, although it could take longer to complete the required 35 to 40 credits. Some programs require students to compile research portfolios throughout their studies and to present a final project. Alternatively, a master's thesis or capstone project may be required. Some programs allow students to enroll part-time, in which case additional time is typically necessary to complete all degree requirements.
Some online digital forensics master's programs feature a cohort learning style, while others employ an individually paced structure. In cohort-based programs, small groups of students follow the same schedule and adhere to synchronized deadlines. The cohort style fosters a strong sense of community and often includes interaction and collaboration. Students in individually paced programs complete coursework according to their own timelines, as it fits into their personal schedules.
Accreditation for Online Master's in Computer Forensics Degrees
Schools may be nationally or regionally accredited. National accreditation is often awarded to career-focused vocational or technical institutions. Regionally accredited schools are usually four-year institutions that offer associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. While regional accreditation is the more prestigious of the two, both accreditations are significant. Accreditation means the institution has met or exceeded applicable educational standards. While there are six regional accrediting agencies in the United States, various third-party agencies accredit programs in the forensic sciences, including the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission. Specialized accreditation helps students identify high-quality online computer forensic master's degree programs.
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) creates and enforces policies and laws that improve the country's quality of education. While the ED tracks accreditation records and collects data on educational institutions, the department has no control over the accreditation of institutions. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) ensures that accrediting agencies are held to high standards. For more information, visit the ED and CHEA websites.
Employment Outlook for Master's in Computer Forensics Graduates
Professionals with training in computer forensics succeed in a wide variety of fulfilling careers. Graduates of master's programs pursue positions in laboratories and assist crime specialists in the analysis of evidence and data. Others pursue technology-based and securities-based careers with large organizations. Computer forensics professionals have excellent communication skills, are detail-oriented, and possess nuanced problem-solving skills. They must also be sensitive to the graphic and personal scenarios, documents, and evidence they encounter.
- Forensic Science Technicians
These technicians aid in criminal investigations by collecting and analyzing evidence in laboratory settings.
Median Annual Salary
Entry Level: $48,000
Late Career: $69,000
- Computer and Information Research Scientists
These professionals explore and invent new ways to use technology. They work in fields including forensics, business, and medicine. While a PhD is required for some advanced positions, graduates with a master's degree often secure positions in the federal government.
- Computer Systems Analyst
Forensic analysts examine digital information connected to cybercrimes. They protect compromised data, recover files, and handle important evidence. Advanced positions require a master's degree and programming expertise.
Median Annual Salary
Entry Level: $58,000
Late Career: $110,000
- Information Security Analysts
These professionals design and execute security measures to protect computer systems and networks. They monitor networks for security breaches and test networks for weaknesses.
Median Annual Salary
Entry Level: $63,000
Late Career: $91,000
- Computer and information Systems Managers
Often called IT managers, these professionals plan and direct computer-related activity at institutions, laboratories, and businesses. They ensure that all tasks that rely on computer systems are effectively carried out. A master's degree and experience are critical to advancement.
Master's in Computer Forensics Salary
The table below compares the media salaries for four forensics-related careers. All but one of the career paths display steady salary growth over a 20-year career; experience consistently increases the earning potential for forensics professionals.
Median Salary by Experience Level
|Forensic Computer Analyst||$58,000||$89,000||$110,000|
|Information Security Analyst||$63,000||$82,000||$91,000|
|Crime Scene Investigator||$40,000||$55,000||$53,000|
Financing Your Online Master's in Computer Forensics Program
Every student should complete and submit the FAFSA in order to be considered for federal financial aid, including scholarships, grants, work-study programs, and loans. Scholarships are the most desirable type of funding; unlike loans, scholarship funds do not have to be repaid. Work-study programs help students secure part-time work during their studies. Various organizations offer external funding for forensics students, including the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners and the American Society of Crime Lab Directors. Check with your school's financial aid office or forensics department to locate the best options to fund your education.
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.