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 US dollars by the year 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. Enter the work of computer forensic investigators.
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 33 percent from 2020 to 2030 (BLS 2021). This rate is much faster than the national average for all occupations (8 percent) and equates to 47,100 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 document and safely preserve 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.
1. The University of Arizona Online, located in Tucson, Arizona, offers an online undergraduate certificate in digital forensics. Ranked #1 University in Arizona and #7 best online bachelor’s programs by U.S. News & World Report in 2021, this 18-credit program teaches students to conduct digital investigations of crimes committed in the public and private sectors.
Courses include host and final system forensics (Windows) and enterprise and file system forensics (Linux). This certificate is designed to complement University of Arizona 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.
2. Purdue University, located in West Lafayette, Indiana, offers a 28-credit post-baccalaureate certificate in computer forensics online through Purdue University Global. With multiple start dates offered throughout the year, students can begin this program at their convenience and take courses in ten-week terms.
Students can expect to spend approximately 15 to 18 hours per week in class, and sample courses include digital forensics, networking concepts, and intrusion detection, and incident response. Upon completing the certificate, students should be prepared to take the CompTIA and EnCase Certified Examiner, or EnCE, exams.
3. 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, operating system and file systems forensics, and the practice of digital forensics.
4. 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.
5. 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 and include CompTIA Security+ Certification Prep courses.
Students in this program learn how to examine different upon completing the certificateStudentsdigital media and recover and analyze data. They also learn how to document and prepare their evidence to stand up in a court of law.
6. 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 2021, Pace University ranked #28 in the U.S. News & World Report’s list of best online bachelor’s programs.
7. 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 Department of Defense Digital medical Collector and the Digital Forensic Examiner certificates to access jobs in the federal government and private sectors.
8. 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.
Other courses include incident response and evidence collection, Windows forensic examinations, and network penetration testing. Stevenson University also offers a fully online 18-credit certificate in digital forensics and an online bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity and digital forensics.
9. 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 cyber security are required in lower-level courses such as cyberlaw, computer forensics, and network security management, while 30 credits in digital forensics are needed for the upper level.
Courses include government and contract law, principles of federal acquisition (FAR and DAR), and purchasing and material management. In addition, students can choose from five concentration areas in government contract management, healthcare management, information management, international business, and management.
10. Sam Houston State University, located in Huntsville, Texas, offers a hybrid online master’s degree in digital forensics that is 36 credits. Students must take six required courses, including cyber law and digital security, for a total of 18 credits and then six 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, and 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.
11. Boston University Metropolitan College in Boston has a graduate certificate in digital forensics that students can complete on-campus, hybrid, or online. However, each course does require attendance at four Saturday sessions each semester. 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 network forensics. This program is certified by the Committee on National Security Systems (CNSS).
12. 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 computer and cyber forensics, network management and security and web security and privacy. In addition, students can choose nine credits in electives and must complete a research paper or capstone 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, including cyberspace and cybersecurity, cyber incident analysis and response, and digital forensics investigation.
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 in Utica, New York, has a master’s degree in cybersecurity with a computer forensics specialization available online. In this program, students learn how to analyze information on handheld devices, such as mobile phones, digital devices, and recover and preserve such digital evidence.
Students complete 18 credits in core required courses and 12 credits in their specialization area. The computer forensics specialization includes courses in advanced topics in cybercrime investigations and advanced telecommunications forensics. A two-day residency experience is required and can be completed virtually.
15. National University, based in La Jolla, California, offers students the opportunity to work on an online master’s degree in cyber security and information assurance specializing in computer forensics. The core requirements comprise eight classes, or 36 units, while the area of specialization is four courses, or 18 units, in length.
In addition, two specialization tracks are offered in ethical hacking and pen testing and information assurance and security policy.
|Featured Cyber & Digital Forensics Programs|
|Purdue University Global||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).