The massive volume of electronic data produced and stored has created new and exciting career opportunities in emerging fields like cyber security and computer forensics. Electronic Discovery (E-Discovery) is a means of combatting cybercrime, and more specifically a specialization of computer forensics that deals with collecting, producing and recovering Electronically Stored Information (ESI) as part of a lawsuit or ongoing investigation. E-Discovery technicians pull ESI from unique places like cell phones, digital cameras and video recorders, all while ensuring that the data is not altered or destroyed.
While E-Discovery professionals primarily focus on collecting data and metadata from multiple hard drives and other storage units, Computer Forensic experts dig even deeper to recover inaccessible files. Companies are increasingly employing more and more professionals to help prevent data breaches. A degree or certificate from an excellent E-Discovery program is a fantastic career choice, as graduates with industry certifications in cybercrime & cyber security are in high demand.
1. Bryan University – As one of the top 25 Southern Regional Colleges, as ranked by the U.S. News and World Report, this school offers one of the most notable and flexible online graduate certificate programs in E-Discovery. The classes are live, interactive and cutting edge and enable students to participate in online collaborative learning with other students, view multimedia presentations and engage in ongoing discussions with instructors and students.
For a more hands-on experience, the University has a state of the art E-Discovery lab, for software simulations and applications (ELSSA). Students get to work on and solve real-world cases with instructors and other classmates. Students also benefit from a staff of talented attorneys and litigators, including Joel Wuesthoff, who has presented before the New York Supreme Court on E-Discovery best practices a number of times. The university also offers refresher courses to its graduates at no cost along with a lifetime job placement assistance and accessible alumni network after graduation.
2. Hamline University – Hamline offers a short, two semester, E-Discovery certificate program specifically designed for working professionals. The school offers evening classes that can easily be completed in nine months. The course is ideal for professionals who are already providing legal and computer-related client services like paralegals, IT professionals and project managers. The faculty is one of the most professionally connected in the U.S., with 90% of their professors currently working in E-Discovery capacities at high-profile organizations. One of these, Paul Luehr, is the current assistant U.S. Attorney for Minnesota as well as the Assistant Director for the Federal Trade Commission.
3. Chestnut Hill College – CHC is a small, private school with a very good teacher to student ratio that recently was named the top school for lowest student debt post-graduation by the Institute of College Access and Success. This school offers an eight-week Professional Certificate in Computer Forensics and E-Discovery, which touts evening courses designed for working professionals in mind. Faculty members are highly qualified and trained experts in the field of surveillance, who have worked with the FBI and Homeland Security Departments. The program helps students understand the field of forensics, cyber crime and cyber security, and teaches students how evidence is collected and stored and how to search a computer’s memory for hidden and deleted files. Although the acceptance rate into the school is around 60%, according to the U.S. News and World Report, once admitted, this certificate is one of the most accessible and least time-intensive.
4. American Public University – The Graduate Certificate in Cybercrime at APU focuses on teaching students on how to investigate and prevent cybercrime and takes 12 months to complete. Of the 6 required courses, E-Discovery is the culminating (and most emphasized) course. Once completed, students will understand contemporary investigative methods in relation to preservation of digital evidence, metadata forensics, cost containment and data collection. Students must possess a Bachelor’s degree in IT or related fields like Computer Science or Information Systems. They are also required to complete the university’s undergraduate IT Certificate Program.
The program partners with Dover Air Force Base, regional law enforcement agencies and others to help students explore in greater depth skills such as analyzing crime scenes, conducting cause-of-death investigations and writing up reports and findings. Students should be prepared to pursue an advanced degree in biology or another field or to enter medical school upon completion.
5. John Jay College of Criminal Justice – CUNY – John Jay at CUNY boasts the John Jay College of Criminal Justice Center for Cybercrime Research. Each year, it brings on a select few research students to work as Digital Forensics and Cyber Security Fellows while pursuing the M.S. in Digital Forensics and Cyber Security. This is an incredibly elite program with faculty such as Douglas Salane, who is the current director of the Cybercrime Research Center, as well as a former cybercrime analyst for the Exxon Corp.
6. University of South Florida – USF offers two brand new interdisciplinary programs: a Master’s of Science in Cyber Security and a Graduate Certificate in Cyber Security. The University also offers specialized training and industry certifications for cyber security professionals in Florida. In addition, the school will offer a specialized cyber security certification program for both in-service veterans and those transitioning back to civilian careers.
7. Armstrong Atlantic State University – AASU offers a Graduate Certificate in Cybercrime, geared primarily towards law enforcement professionals, non-profit agencies and private industries. One of the key elements that sets this program apart is the “state of the science” cyber security infrastructure that was designed by the in-house Cyber Security Research Institute (CSRI). This 18-hour course does not require an on-campus visit, which makes it one of the few 100% online cybercrime programs. Due to collaboration with local law enforcement offices, many post-graduate students from this program find easy employment in law enforcement and public safety agencies throughout Southeastern Georgia.
The following criteria were used in compiling this list. Although the criteria may not apply to all schools, all of the schools meet at least 3 of the 4 criteria.
1. Programs in E-Discovery, Cybercrime or Cyber Security:
All schools offer Graduate Certificate Programs in E-Discovery, Cybercrime and Cyber Security. Some schools also offer further specialization and industry certification.
2. Notable Faculty:
Faculty is highly qualified in their respective fields. They range from well-published scholars to well known industry experts, and come from diverse backgrounds like Litigation, Technology, Business and Law Enforcement.
3. Learning Experiences and Support:
These schools provide hands-on learning experiences with labs, externships, clinics and research opportunities. In addition, many offer job placement opportunities and post-graduate support for job-seekers.
4. Accessibility and Ease of Learning:
Many of the schools offer programs geared towards working professionals offering evening classes and virtual learning options. Some schools also offer special scholarships and programs geared towards diverse learners, such as veterans, low-income students or racial minorities.
Barry is Managing Editor of ForensicsColleges.com, operated by educational web publisher Sechel Ventures Partners LLC, which he co-founded. Barry was previously VP for a financial software company, and currently sits on the board of a K-8 school and lives with his wife and daughters in the San Francisco Bay Area.