The field of computer forensics is rising to meet digital security needs. As the amount of digital information entered, shared, and stored online increases, so too does the need for information security professionals to protect privacy. By illustration, Intel shows that “smart devices,” which wirelessly connect consumers and companies, are projected to be worth $6.2 trillion by 2025.
This rapid expansion means time-saving enhanced services between consumers and manufacturers in healthcare, retail, and transportation but also leaves individuals and corporations vulnerable to digital information breaches.
Also known as information security analysts, this career field is poised for growth in the coming decade. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts information security analyst careers will grow by 35 percent from 2021 to 2031 (BLS 2022). This rate is much faster than the national average for all occupations (5 percent) and equates to 56,500 new computer forensics positions.
Befitting the digital nature of this job, there are several online computer forensics programs, including undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs. Computer forensics programs also have titles such as digital forensics and cybersecurity. The computer forensics programs listed here teach students how to prevent theft and corruption of personal data, extract information from computers and mobile devices, and how to safely preserve and document digital evidence to be presented in a court of law if needed.
Why are computer forensics programs important? The answer is simple: as information technology policies and practices continue to involve day-by-day, more than ever, it is critical for law enforcement and digital security teams to stay ahead of criminals trying to steal and misuse private information.
Here are 15 online degree and continuing education programs for those getting started or wanting to enhance their skills and expand their career opportunities in computer forensics and information security.
The University of Arizona Online, located in Tucson, Arizona, offers an online undergraduate certificate in digital forensics. Ranked #1 in “best value among Arizona’s public universities” by Payscale (2022), this 18-credit program teaches students to conduct digital investigations of crimes committed in the public and private sectors.
Courses include host and file system forensics (Windows); enterprise and file system forensics (Linux); advanced computer forensics; mobile device forensics; network forensics; and incident response to digital forensics. This certificate is designed to complement the University of Arizona’s technical or non-technical degree programs to give students a broad base in digital forensics and the ability to pursue careers as computer forensic investigators, information security analysts, and incident response operations specialists.
Strayer University offers an online bachelor of science program in criminal justice with a concentration in computer forensics, equipping students with the knowledge and skills to support criminal investigations. They learn to leverage data and computer forensics for collecting, analyzing, and preserving digital evidence. Graduates will learn the basics for investigating computer-based crime. They will dig into the methods used by criminals for identifying and exploiting network vulnerabilities and developing countermeasures to prevent data and information breaches from criminals.
This 40-course program includes classes in networking security fundamentals; information technology in criminal justice; introduction to networking; computer forensic technology; crime and criminal behavior; criminal justice report writing; criminal investigation; and criminal procedure, among others.
The University of Central Florida, located in Orlando, offers a master’s degree in digital forensics that is nearly all online. Students defend their thesis on-campus or pursue one of the non-thesis options: enrolling in an internship or taking two elective courses.
Courses include the practice of digital forensics; wireless security and forensics; and operating system and file systems forensics. In addition, the 30-credit program includes courses such as incident response technologies, digital forensics practice, and malware and software vulnerability analysis.
Southern New Hampshire University offers an online bachelor of science in cyber security degree. This 120-credit program provides students with didactic coursework, hands-on experience in online cybersecurity labs, and the opportunity to transfer credits and earn certifications such as CompTIA Network+ and others.
In addition, students in this program can choose from two concentrations in data analytics and project management, and the curriculum is aligned with nationally-recognized standards such as NIST’s NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework and CSEC Cyber Security Education Consortium.
Some of the courses in the curriculum include fundamentals of information technology; computer operating systems; introduction to computer networks; cybersecurity foundations; computer networking; network security; operating system security; cyber defense; and network defense.
The Division for Enterprise Development at the University of Texas at Arlington offers an online program to become a certified forensic computer examiner. Students in this program earn ten continuing education units and take live online classes. Courses are offered standalone or as part of a program, including CompTIA Security+ Certification Prep courses.
Students in this program learn about digital media and recovering and analyzing data. They also learn how to document and prepare their evidence to stand up in a court of law.
Pace University offers an online bachelor’s degree in professional technology studies with a concentration in computer forensics. Students take 20 credits in core IT classes and 20 credits in their career focus emphasis. Core IT classes include computer security overview; crime and public policy; and mobile device forensics. Another 16 to 24 credits are taken in general education liberal arts studies.
The Seidenberg School at Pace University is designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. In 2022, Pace University ranked #29 in the U.S. News & World Report’s list of best online bachelor’s programs.
Champlain College offers a 100 percent online bachelor’s degree in computer forensics and digital investigation. In this 120-credit program, students take courses such as criminal law and operating systems in seven-week sessions and expand their knowledge further through classes like cybercrime and mobile forensic analysis at the upper levels.
The program is offered in partnership with the Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center (DC3), enabling students to access industry credentials and reducing degree completion requirements by five courses. In addition, students can choose to earn the Department of Defense Digital Media Collector and the Digital Forensic Examiner certificates to access jobs in the federal government and private sectors.
Stevenson University, with campuses in both Stevenson and Owings Mills, Maryland, offers an online master of science degree in cybersecurity and digital forensics. In addition to courses like Incident Response and Evidence Collection; Windows Forensic Examinations; Network Penetration Testing; Legal Compliance and Ethics; Malware Detection, Analysis, and Prevention; File Systems Forensic Analysis; and Windows Intrusion Forensic Investigations, the program also provides students with an opportunity to hone real-world skills with the Mock Intrusion and Response Capstone.
Stevenson University also offers a fully online 18-credit graduate certificate in digital forensics and an online bachelor’s degree in criminal justice; cybersecurity and digital forensics; and legal studies. Other programs offered by Stevenson include master’s degrees in crime scene investigation; forensic accounting; forensic investigation; forensic science; and forensic studies; and post-baccalaureate certificates in crime scene investigation; digital forensics; forensic accounting; and forensic investigation.
The University of the Potomac, with campuses in Washington, D.C. and Falls Church, Virginia, has a fully online bachelor of science degree in cyber security and policy, offered in-person and online. A total of 18 credits in cybersecurity are required in lower-level courses such as cyber law; computer systems technology, and network security management, while 30 credits in cybersecurity and computer courses are needed for the upper level.
Courses include an introduction to digital forensics; network defense and countermeasures; and evaluating emerging technologies. In addition, students can choose from five concentration areas in government contract management; healthcare management; information management; international business; and management.
Sam Houston State University, located in Huntsville, Texas, offers a hybrid online master’s degree in digital forensics that is 30 credits. Students must take six required courses, including cyber law and digital security, for a total of 18 credits and then four additional elective courses.
In addition, the campus features a network security lab to prepare students for training in data, network, and cyber security intrusion detection, prevention, and tracing. This program is ideal for students with major or minor degrees in computer science and criminal justice or professional experience who want to expand their knowledge and skills.
Boston University Metropolitan College in Boston has a graduate certificate in digital forensics that students can complete on-campus, hybrid, or online. Students take four classes in this 16-credit program, and if desired, students can apply these classes toward a master’s degree in computer information systems at the school.
Required courses include business data communication and networks; digital forensics and investigations; and mobile forensics and security. This program is certified by the Committee on National Security Systems (CNSS).
Penn State Online in University Park, Pennsylvania, offers an online master of professional studies degree in homeland security with an information security and forensics option. This 33-credit program is ideal for bachelor’s degree holders in technical or scientific fields such as applied mathematics, computer information systems, and statistics.
Required courses include homeland security administration: policies and programs; homeland security: social and ethical issues; and violence, threats, terror, and insurgency. Courses in the information security and forensics option include computer and cyber forensics; network management and security; information security management; and foundations of information security and assurance. In addition, students can choose nine credits in electives and must complete a research paper or capstone project.
The University of Maryland Global Campus, with a campus in Adelphi, Maryland, has an online master’s degree in digital forensics and cyber investigation that is 36 credits long and includes a six-credit final capstone project. Six courses comprise the program: cyberspace and cybersecurity; digital forensics technology and practices; digital forensic response and analysis; and advanced forensics.
Students learn skills such as creating navigation plans for digital forensic incidents and identifying malicious software, network activity, suspect traffic, and intrusion artifacts through review and analysis. Graduates from this program are prepared to take industry-level standard certifications such as GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst (GCFA) and EnCase Certified Examiner (EnCE).
14. Utica College
Utica College in Utica, New York, has a master’s degree in cybersecurity with a digital forensics specialization available online. In this program, students learn how to analyze information on handheld devices like mobile phones and digital devices and recover and preserve such digital evidence.
Students complete 18 credits in core required courses, nine credits in their specialization area, and a three-credit capstone course. The core courses of the program include principles of cybersecurity; programming applications for cybersecurity; cloud infrastructure; defending critical national infrastructures and national security; threat hunting and incident response; and securing and defending networks. The digital forensics specialization includes courses in computer forensics and investigation methods; intrusion forensics and network analysis; and a malware practicum.
Capella University offers an online master of science program in information assurance and cybersecurity with a concentration in digital forensics. The program positions students as cybersecurity leaders, providing them with the knowledge and skill needed for performing advanced computer forensics, including an in-depth understanding of the legal challenges associated with digital investigations. Graduates will be able to elevate their IT expertise and help make communities safer.
This 48-credit program includes courses such as information technology security fundamentals; network security fundamentals and cryptography; information security regulatory and legal environment; operating system defense; and identifying and managing risk. Specialization courses include data engineering; digital forensics processes; digital forensics tools; programming for security professionals; and network architecture and cyber operations.
|Featured Cyber & Digital Forensics Programs|
|Grand Canyon University||BS - Cybersecurity||Visit Site|
|Arizona State University||Emergency Management and Homeland Security - Cybersecurity Policy and Management (MA)||Visit Site|
|Arizona State University||Global Security - Cybersecurity (Graduate Certificate)||Visit Site|
|Michigan State University||Online MS - Cybercrime & Digital Investigation||Visit Site|
|Southern New Hampshire University||BS - Cybersecurity||Visit Site|
|Southern New Hampshire University||MS - Cybersecurity||Visit Site|
|Stevenson University Online||Digital Forensics Grad Certificate||Visit Site|
|Stevenson University Online||Online Master's in Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics||Visit Site|
Rachel Drummond is a freelance writer, educator, and yogini from Oregon. She’s taught English to international university students in the United States and Japan for more than a decade and has a master’s degree in education from the University of Oregon. Rachel writes about meditation, yoga, coaching, and more on her blog (Instagram: @racheldrummondyoga).