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Online Graduate Certificate Programs in Computer & Digital Forensics

Cybercrime is prevalent all around the world. According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), in 2014, there were 269,422 complaints filed for a total reported a total loss of $800,492,073. In addition to financial crimes, other offenses include child pornography, cyberattacks, insider threats, terrorism, and espionage. To investigate these crimes, detectives and their staff must have specialized training and education in digital forensics.

An online graduate certificate in digital forensics provides professionals with the tools and training to investigate digital crimes. Skills learned include how to analyze network systems, incident response strategies, proficiency in software programs used to perform analyses, and how to gather digital evidence. Online certificate programs can be completed while still employed to help advance careers or obtain an entry-level job.

Many certificate programs prepare graduates to sit for national certification exams. Certification in this field is voluntary, although it is highly recommended. Earning a certification demonstrates competency as well as the ability to work within a given framework or with specific software. There are numerous certifying agencies and they can be vendor-neutral, meaning it is not specific to one software program or can be vendor-specific.

Continue reading to learn about some of the top online graduate certificates in digital forensics in the country.

Online Graduate Certificates in Digital Forensics Admission Prerequisites and Courses

An online graduate certificate can provide a foundation for a career as a computer forensics investigator, information security analyst, forensic computer analyst, or security consultant. These certificates can be completed in nine months or more and provide students with a strong background in digital investigation, network forensics, access methods, and cybercrime and criminal justice.

Admission requirements for these online certificate programs typically include:

  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose
  • Complete application
  • Application fee
  • Competitive GPA
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores for non-native English speakers

While coursework will vary from program to program, classes required may include:

  • Forensic acquisition and analysis
  • Advanced topics in network and systems security
  • Digital evidence recognition
  • Network security concepts
  • Malware analysis
  • The practice of digital investigations

Featured Online Graduate Certificates in Digital Forensics

Completing an online graduate certificate in digital forensics can help aspiring professionals entre this growing field or help those already in this career advance to senior positions. Here are some top programs across the country to consider.

At Utica College, students can pursue an online certificate in advanced studies in computer forensics. In as little as a year, students can complete this 18-credit certificate. Students will learn tactics and how to use state-of-the-art tools to identify the cause of digital crimes.

Upon completion of the program, students are prepared to sit for the EC-Council Certified Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI) certification exam. Credits earned in this program can be transferred seamlessly to complete a master’s in cybersecurity, should further education be desired.

DeSales University in Center Valley, Pennsylvania, offers an entirely online graduate certificate in digital forensics. This four-course certificate provides aspiring professionals in the field with the necessary tools and methods to handle digital evidence. One class focuses exclusively on the new trends in digital forensics to keep students up to date as well as teach them how to research new techniques.

The total cost to complete this certificate is $9,300, and criminal justice professionals receive a 20 percent discount. Admission requirements are straightforward, and applicants only need to have already completed a bachelor’s degree, provide a personal statement, have an interest in the field, and have three letters of recommendation.

The University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida, offers an online graduate certificate in digital forensics. Topics covered in this certificate program include legal and ethical principles, digital forensics tradecraft, standards of practice, and how to assure that digital evidence is accurate, complete, and reliable. Only five courses and 15 credits are required to earn this certificate.

There is no prerequisite coursework for enrolling in this certificate program. However, students should already have training in technology and have some knowledge of how to securely collect data and digital evidence. It costs $772.43 per credit-hour for this certificate. Scholarships, financial aid, and veteran’s discounts are available.

The online graduate certificate in digital forensics at Capella University is designed to allow those who already work in cybersecurity to gain the education and tools to investigate digital crimes. Students who have completed this certificate will be prepared to sit for the Certified Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI) exam through the EC-Council.

Required courses include classroom sessions to discuss theory and hands-on labs to apply the ideas learned. Graduates gain valuable experience using the tools that are standard in this industry. The total cost for this program is $13,553; however, transfer credits, military discounts, scholarships, and financial aid can all help offset this expense.

Students also can earn an online computer forensics certificate from Purdue University Global. This intensive 28-credit program helps students develop a working knowledge of digital forensic techniques, as well as become proficient in industry-standard software.

Coursework is designed to prepare students to sit for industry certification. Classes include instruction in network security concepts, computer forensics, intrusion detection, incidence response, and digital forensics. Because this program is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), students can transfer the credits earned for this certificate to a master’s degree program. The cost for this program is $371 per credit-hour.

The digital forensic science online graduate certificate program at Champlain College emphasizes network forensics and operating system and mobile device analysis. This 12-credit program is self-paced so students can complete it on their schedule.

Notably, Champlain is nationally recognized as being a leader in cybersecurity and digital forensics. This certificate program is housed in the Senator Patrick Leahy Center for Digital Investigation & Cybersecurity. Required coursework includes malware analysis, the practice of digital investigations, and operating system analysis. Tuition is $795 per credit-hour.

Finally, the online graduate certificate in digital forensics from the University of Rhode Island is designed for professionals who need additional education but cannot commit to a master’s degree.

No prior formal training in digital forensics is required to complete this certificate as there is an optional summer course in computers that students may complete before they begin the program. Courses taken in this program may be applied towards a future master’s or doctorate. This program can be completed in as little as nine months. Students must complete 36 credits to earn this certificate. Tuition is $955 per credit-hour.

Digital Forensics Professional Credentialing

Credentials are essential for professionals working in digital forensics. Most people in this field have earned either a vendor-specific or vendor-neutral certification demonstrating competency in digital forensics. While earning a certification is voluntary, most professionals have one as many employers require it.

Some of the most popular certifications earned are:

  • Certified Forensic Computer Examiner (CFCE) through the International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists (IACIS)
  • Certified Computer Examiner (CCE) through the International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners (ISFCE)
  • One of five Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC) including GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst (GCFA), GIAC Advanced Smartphone Forensics (GASF), GIAC Certified Forensic Examiner (GCFE), GIAC Network Forensic Analyst (GNFA), or GIAC Reverse Engineering Malware (GREM) through the SysAdmin, Audit, Network, Security (SANS) Institute.
  • EnCase Certified Engineer (EnCE) through Guidance Software
  • Certified Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI) through the EC-Council
  • AccessData Certified Examiner (ACE) through AccessData

The certification process varies based on the credential earned. Candidates are evaluated in either a problem or exam format. For credentials following the problem format, candidates are given a set number of digital forensic problems that must be completed within a given timeframe. Exam format credentials are traditional multiple-choice exams. Sometimes exams are offered open-book to test candidates’ analytical and reasoning skills instead of memorization skills.

Accreditation & State Authorization for Digital Forensics Programs

Students should ensure that the program they have enrolled in is accredited. Regional or programmatic accreditation ensures that a program has met minimum standards of quality of facilities, curriculum, faculty, and student outcomes.

Currently, there are no programmatic accrediting agencies for digital forensic certificate programs. However, regional accreditation is available to all digital forensic programs. The six predominant regional accrediting authorities that are recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) are:

  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
  • Commission on Colleges for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)

Students should also verify their school’s “state authorization” status, which dictates whether or not a school can provide distance education in a given state. This information can be found on the program’s websites or by calling the admissions office.

Writer

Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson is a freelance writer and researcher with a passion for sharing stories of bravery. Her love for world-traveling began when her family moved to Spain when she was six and since then, she has lived overseas extensively, visited six continents, and traveled to over 25 countries. She is fluent in Spanish and conversational in French. When not writing or parenting she can be found kiteboarding, hiking, or cooking.