Students looking to learn about computer forensics online will find a variety of options from the undergraduate to graduate level and from full degrees to certificates. Computer forensics programs may also be known as digital forensics, and below we list 15 programs, mostly available through universities, which are offered online. The majority of these instruct students on how to extract information from computers and mobile devices, such as phones and tablets, but students also learn how to document and safely store information so that it can be presented, if necessary, in a court of law.
Why are these programs so important? The answer is simple: as technology continues to change by the day, it becomes more critical than ever for law enforcement to stay ahead of criminals that can take advantage of that technology. We share and store virtually every piece of personal data online and it has become a target for theft and corruption. That’s a driving reason that so many programs are available and that we list 15 options that can be found online.
1. Ryerson University, with a campus in Toronto, Ontario, offers an undergraduate certificate in computer security and digital forensics that can be completed entirely online. Six classes are required as part of the program, of which several include computer network security, digital forensics systems, and security architecture and design. Students must complete the certificate within six years of starting.
2. The University of Texas at Arlington offers a 100-hour course online to become a certified forensic computer examiner. Students learn how to examine different kinds of digital media and how to recover and analyze data. They also learn how to document and prepare their evidence so that it will stand up in a court of law. The program, which is also available entirely online, is an authorized Certified Computer Examiner program and should prepare students to take their CCE exam.
3. Pace University offers a bachelor’s degree in professional technology studies with a computer forensics concentration completely online. Students take 20 credits in core IT classes and then 20 credits in their career focus emphasis. 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. Students can view a course schedule online and may be interested to know the school is ranked number 11 in the nation for online bachelor’s degrees, according to U.S. News & World Report (2016).
4. Champlain College offers a bachelor’s degree in computer forensics and digital investigation that is 100 percent online. 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 was a 2018 finalist for Best Cyber Security Higher Education Program in SC Magazine and has been recognized by the National Institute of Justice.
5. Stevenson University, with campuses in both Stevenson and Owings Mills, Maryland, offers an online master of science degree in cyber forensics. In addition to courses like e-systems security, network and cloud forensics, and cyber warfare and cyber terrorism, the program also provides students with an opportunity to hone real-world skills with the Mock Intrusion and Response Capstone. In the capstone experience, students “apply the forensic techniques they have learned in a practical, time-sensitive setting.”
6. The University of the Potomac, with campuses in Washington, D.C. and Vienna, Virginina, has a bachelor of science degree in cyber security and policy that can be pursued online. A total of 18 credits in cyber security are required in lower-level courses such as cyber law, computer forensics and network security management, while 30 credits in digital forensics are required at the upper level. Additionally, students need to take 30 elective credits, 12 at the lower level and 18 at the upper level. They can also complete requirements for one of five concentration areas while taking their electives or just take a variety of electives to their liking.
7. The University of Advancing Technology, with a campus in Tempe, Arizona, offers a bachelor’s degree in technology forensics online. The program requires 120 credits and includes courses such as computer forensic essentials, handheld forensics and security essentials. Students may learn how to use tools such as Chat Examiner, EnCase Forensic, Ghost, Stego Hunter, Passware Kit Forensic, and many others in their learning. Ongoing enrollment is available, offering students the opportunity to start instruction at a time convenient to them.
8. Purdue University, which has its campus in West Lafayette, Indiana, offers a 28-credit post baccalaureate certificate in computer forensics that is available online through Purdue Global. Multiple start dates are offered to provide flexibility in education. Sample courses include digital forensics, networking concepts, and intrusion detection and incident response. Upon completion of the certificate, students should be prepared to take the CompTIA and EnCase Certified Examiner, or EnCE, exams.
9. The University of Central Florida, located in Orlando, offers a master’s degree in digital forensics that is nearly all online. Students do either need to show up on campus to defend their thesis, or if they choose the non-thesis option, to obtain an internship. All classes can be taken online, but not all elective courses are offered in this format. The 30-credit program includes courses such as incident response technologies, OS and file systems forensics, and the practice of digital forensics.
10. Sam Houston State University, located in Huntsville, Texas offers a hybrid online master’s degree in digital forensics that is 36 credit hours. Students must take six required courses, including cyber law and digital security for a total of 18 credits, and then six additional elective courses for the other 18. Students may find that campus-based or online options are available for their classes.
11. Boston University Metropolitan College in Boston has a graduate certificate in digital forensics that can be taken mostly online. However, each course does require attendance at four Saturday sessions each semester. Students need to take 16 credits, or four courses total, to complete the certificate, but these classes can then be used 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 network forensics.
12. Penn State Online, the online offshoot of the Penn State in University Park, Pennsylvania, has a master of professional studies degree in homeland security with an information security and forensics option. A total of 33 credits are required for the program. Required online courses include computer and cyber forensics, network management and security and web security and privacy. Students can choose nine credits in electives and must complete a capstone research project.
13. The University of Maryland Global Campus, with a campus in Largo, Maryland, has an online master’s degree in digital forensics and cyber investigation that is 36 credits in length and includes a six-credit final capstone project. Six courses comprise the program with each course worth six credits each. There are no electives. Several of the required courses are cyberspace and cyber security, cyber incident analysis and response, and digital forensics investigation. Students can work on a dual degree program, resulting in an MBA as well.
14. Utica College in New York has a master’s degree in cybersecurity with a computer forensics specialization that is available online. In this program, students learn how to analyze information on handheld devices, such as mobile phones, and on other digital devices and to recover and preserve such digital evidence. Students complete 18 credits hours in core required courses and 12 credit hours in their specialization area. For the computer forensics specialization, class options include advanced topics in cybercrime investigations and advanced telecommunications forensics.
15. National University, based in San Diego, California, offers students the opportunity to work on an online master’s degree in cyber security and information assurance with a specialization in computer forensics. The core requirements comprise eight classes, or 36 quarter units, while the area of specialization is four courses, or 18 quarter units, in length. The classes in the computer forensics specialization track include computer forensics principles, computer forensics technology, database forensics principles and ethical hacking.