Computer forensics associate's degree programs train students to recover and decrypt data, protect networks from intrusions, and repair both hardware and software. These programs combine classroom instruction with laboratory-based, hands-on training. Similar to training in other branches of forensics, students are taught investigative procedures and how to preserve the chain of evidence. Students also study laws regarding areas such as cybercrime, intellectual property, and privacy. In-class analysis explores how these topics are relevant to a career in computer forensics. Online programs are available at some schools.
Applicants will need a high school diploma or its equivalent. Computer literacy and a strong mathematics background are recommended.
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Associate's in Computer Forensics Coursework
Computer forensics associate's degree programs cover a wide spectrum of information, including network systems, forensic analysis, and the law. Courses include:
- Introduction to computer forensics and court systems
- Fundamentals of Linux and Unix
- Network security
- Data recovery and analysis
- Legal and ethical issues in computer forensics
- Criminal and constitutional law
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Private detectives and investigators, including those working in computer forensics, held approximately 34,900 jobs in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). Employment for private detectives and investigators is expected to grow 5% between 2014 and 2024. As of May 2015, the mean annual salary for these workers was $52,840, with wages varying significantly by factors including area of specialization, geographic location, and employer (www.bls.gov).
Continuing Education Information
The perpetually evolving world of computer technology requires computer forensics investigators to pursue ongoing development, whether through conferences or formal continuing education programs. Individuals interested in further education can pursue a bachelor's or master's degree program in computer forensics. Alternatively, many choose to train with a local law enforcement agency in order to gain practical experience in the field. While there is no specific computer forensic investigator's license, some states require individuals to earn a private investigator's license. Licensure requirements vary by state, but typically involve completing a relevant training program, obtaining work experience, passing a criminal background check, and successfully passing a competency exam.
Students can begin training for a career in computer forensics through an associate's degree program. Graduates have the option of pursuing more advanced degrees, such as bachelor's and master's degree, if they are interested in continuing their education.