Many schools offer online computer forensics degree programs. This article outlines undergraduate and graduate level programs that are available and can introduce you to the requirements you will need to meet to become a computer forensics professional.
How to Select an Online Computer Forensics School
Students considering online computer forensics schools must make their decision based on several key factors. Computer forensics, also called digital forensics, is a relatively new profession, emerging in response to the rise in computer fraud and other crimes in which electronic data is involved. Computer forensics investigators retrieve and process data, such as erased, damaged or encrypted files, for use as evidence in crimes. Online programs in computer forensics are available that lead to bachelor's and master's degrees from select colleges and universities. Students must weigh the award level and program delivery with the technical requirements.
Bachelor's programs are for those entering the profession. Master's programs are intended for professionals working in fields such as engineering, criminal justice or computer science who want to advance their skills and create new career opportunities. It is important to check on prerequisites for master's programs since they vary from school to school.
Completely online and hybrid programs are available. Schools may require some on-campus classes, or give participants the choice. When evaluating a hybrid program, students with work or family obligations will want to consider how much travel time is required and if they can commit to on-site requirements.
Prospective students may also want to investigate the technical needs of various programs. Schools commonly use special software, such as Blackboard, so prospective students should find out what equipment is needed in addition to the basics.
List of Online Computer Forensics Programs
Online Bachelor of Science in Computer Forensics
A bachelor's degree program in computer forensics provides instruction not only in techniques needed to locate and analyze evidence in electronic crimes, but the systems and safeguards to prevent crime from occurring. Students are expected to gain fluency in forensic principals and laws regarding evidence, as well as an understanding of a variety of computer crimes. Coursework includes:
- Computer electronics
- Information systems security
- Networking fundamentals
- Criminal justice
- Network security
Online Master of Science in Computer Forensics
Master's programs in computer forensics are still rare online, but do exist. A master's-level curriculum offers instruction on the ways computers and electronic devices are used for crime. Students learn to gather and interpret data evidence and have the opportunity to practice technical and research skills. Classes are typically available online, although some programs include an elective forensics lab internship. Studies also cover:
- Cyber incident analysis and response
- Criminal law
- Policing in a free society
- Computer ethics
Schools with Online Programs in Computer Forensics
Champlain College offers an online bachelor's degree and an undergraduate certificate program in computer forensics. The certificate can be earned independently or as a portion of the bachelor's degree. Two related certificates, in cybersecurity and forensic accounting, are also options to pursue as a portion of the bachelor's degree program.
The University of Maryland University College offers a master's degree in digital forensics and cyber investigation. The 36-credit program can also prepare professionals for a number certifications, such as AccessData Certified Examiner (ACE). Although there are no prerequisites besides a bachelor's degree, several courses in graduate writing, computing, and programming are recommended for applicants to successfully complete the program. Students must keep a grade of B or higher to pass the courses.
The University of Rhode Island has several online program options: a master's degree, a post-graduate certificate, and a professional certificate. Again, a bachelor's degree is required to enter the master's degree or post-graduate certificate program, but there are no specific tech course prerequisites. There is also a partially online undergraduate minor available, although it might not be possible to complete this program without completing some in-person courses.
Both bachelor's and master's degree programs are available in an online-only format through several universities. Some programs may also offer opportunities to earn relevant certificates or train for recognized certification exams.