Online computer and digital forensics programs are available at the bachelor's, master's, and graduate certificate levels. Bachelor's degree programs may require an in-person internship. Online graduate certificate programs require a bachelor's degree, and some schools require the degree to be in a computer science-related field. However, these programs are available in a fully online format. Online master's degree programs in this field are also offered by only a few schools and also require a bachelor's degree. While fully online master's degrees are available, some programs may require a residency, and an internship is usually part of the program.
To enroll in a bachelor's level program, students will generally need to have a high school diploma, while prospective graduate certificate and master's students will need a bachelor's degree in a suitable field.
Bachelor of Science in Computer and Digital Forensics
This science-intensive bachelor's degree program teaches computer science and investigation techniques. Students familiarize with concepts in forensic analysis, computer security and information recovery. They learn to study records for proof of law, gather computer-related forensic evidence and present their finding in a court of law. To be eligible for this degree program, prospective enrollees must have a high school diploma or its equivalent.
Information and Requirements
This bachelor's degree program typically takes four years to complete, and may be completed entirely online; however, schools may require the fulfillment of internships. Students typically log on to a school's Web-based interface to download and complete assignments, watch pre-recorded video lectures, interact with others students and participate in class discussions. Through video demonstrations, they can learn to conduct forensic investigations and gather evidence.
To complete the degree program, students must have plug-ins such as Adobe Flash and Acrobat Reader. Software programs, such as Microsoft Office, and hardware, including a printer and a Webcam, may also be required. A working computer and reliable Internet access are also necessary.
List of Common Computer and Digital Forensics Courses
Through an online degree program, students take courses on a flexible schedule, so they can complete computer and digital forensics courses whenever they're available. Students must complete general education classes as well as major courses.
Students study fraud prevention and the nature of theft in computerized accounting. They learn to investigate and manage fraud, while understanding its prevalence and ways to detect it.
Evidence and Procedure: Digital Crime
Students become familiar with techniques and procedures for investigating computer-based crimes. They study legal procedures and practical applications of law while learning about common illegal digital activities.
This course covers ethical and legal concerns regarding computer software programs and networks. Students study policies for ethical computer use and discuss concerns for information safety.
Through this class, students study cyber-crimes such as embezzlement, mortgage fraud and identify theft. They learn about 21st-century crime and how it affects taxpayers.
Graduate Certificate in Computer and Digital Forensics
To be eligible for this graduate certificate program, applicants must have at least a bachelor's degree--preferably in computer science or computer engineering. Students learn to analyze computer network policies using forensic tools and data recovery techniques. They train to uncover fraud, gather forensic evidence and present it to a court of law through classes in digital communications, network forensics and computer investigations. There are only a few graduate certificate digital forensics programs available online.
Information and Requirements
Computer forensics graduate certificate programs can typically be finished entirely online. Students log in to programs such as Blackboard, where they can watch video lectures, interact with classmates, read professor's notes, download assignments and turn in completed coursework. Requirements include a working computer with a word processing program, certain hardware and reliable access to the Internet.
Sample Graduate Certificate Computer and Digital Forensics Courses
The online graduate certificate program allows participants to complete what typically amounts to 15 credits at their own pace. Common classes are discussed below.
Fundamentals of Computer Science and Forensics
This course familiarizes students with how computer systems work. They analyze potential computer threats and learn to use computer forensics to catch and reduce them.
Investigations in Digital Forensics
This course covers malicious computer software and the threat presented to computer and network systems. They learn to study, analyze and document forensic procedures and digital evidence.
Tools in Forensic Analysis
Students learn to find computer evidence that has been unsuccessfully erased, including deleted files, e-mail messages and documents. They gain practical experience conducting investigations and recovering files that could be necessary for a criminal investigation.
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Master of Science in Computer and Digital Forensics
The online master's degree program in computer and digital forensics is intensive to the sciences and there are only a couple of them available. Through the program, students study computer concepts related to analyzing computer information to use it in the legal system. They acquire skills in identifying fraudulent activities and uncovering information that could solve computer crimes such as identity theft, cyberstalking, terrorism and money laundering. To be eligible for enrollment, potential students must have at least a bachelor's degree, preferably in computer science or a related field. Although there are only a few computer and digital forensic programs available online, related programs that are available include computer science and computer engineering.
Information and Requirements
The average time required to complete the master's degree program is about two years. Although some programs are available entirely online, others are hybrid programs--which means some components, such as residencies, may need to be completed on-campus. An internship is also commonly required, but may be completed online.
To participate, students must log on to a school's distance-learning system through a personal account to watch video lectures, complete assignments and interact with peers. They must be able to get online frequently, preferably through an owned computer. They may also need a word processing program, Adobe Flash and Acrobat Reader. Other specifics vary by program.
List of Common Master-Level Computer and Digital Forensics Courses
Most schools offer asynchronous courses, meaning that students can take lessons and turn in assignments on their own schedules. Some major projects may have fixed due dates.
Students study the history of forensic science, current issues in the field and ways to collect digital evidence. They learn techniques for finding and collecting evidence.
Digital Evidence Examination
This class trains students to collect and preserve digital evidence. They also learn to present it in a courtroom, and they study laws related to presenting forensic evidence.
Cyber-Crime and Criminal Justice
This class covers methods for tracking criminals who commit Internet-based cyber-crimes. Enrollees learn how to investigate those crimes and reduce their recurrence by protecting information.
Career Information for Graduates
Upon completion of a bachelor's degree program in computer forensics, students can seek careers as computer forensics technicians, information analysts or network systems administrators. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for network and computer systems administrators was $77,810 as of May 2015. Forensic science technicians made a median annual salary of $56,320 (www.bls.gov).
With a graduate certificate in computer and digital forensics, students can pursue roles as systems analysts or forensic accountants. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for accountants and auditors in general, including forensic accounts, was $67,190 as of May 2015. Computer systems analysts made $85,800.
A master's degree in computer and digital forensics can lead to a position as a computer systems analyst, network systems analyst or computer forensic investigator. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for detectives and criminal investigators of all kinds was $77,210 as of May 2015.
Continuing Education Information
Students who are interesting in studying further can complete a doctoral program. However, these advanced programs may only be available through hybrid models.
In the field of computer and digital forensics, students will easily be able to find online degree programs at the bachelor's, graduate certificate, and master's level. While bachelor's and master's programs may require an internship, sometimes even these can be completed online.