Online computer forensics programs focus on the computer science technical skills and criminal justice knowledge needed to analyze illegal activities that occur through computers and mobile devices. Internet-based courses in computer forensics are common, given the nature of study. Prospective distance learners can find fully online bachelor's degrees, certificates and master's degrees. Programs may be specifically in computer forensics, or the field of study may be offered as a specialization within a degree program related to criminal justice or computer science, such as computer forensics, digital investigations or digital forensics and cyber investigation.
For those seeking an undergraduate degree or certificate, a high school diploma or GED may be the primary admission factor. Graduate admissions, however, could require students to have a bachelor's degree in criminal justice or computer science.
Students enrolled in an online undergraduate degree program in computer forensics will complete general education classes along with the major coursework. Distance learning master's degree programs usually contain a core set of required courses and then may give students elective options to round out the curriculum. A culminating research project is also common in graduate-level programs. Courses that students could come across in an online computer forensics program include the following:
- Intro to Computer Forensics
- Computer Networking
- Computer Programming
- Intro to Criminal Justice
- Evidence Gathering
Online studies offer more flexibility, a big plus considering that many computer forensics classes can be difficult. Most distance learning degree programs in this field can be pursued totally online. Students access their school's virtual classroom environment to get lectures, assignments and other class materials. Web conferencing, chat rooms and message boards can all be used to facilitate class discussions. Though coursework can be completed online, some schools offer distance learners the option to complete an internship to get computer forensics experience.
Students who have studied computer forensics can find work in both the public and private sectors. Many jobs are available in law enforcement; however, private companies also employ people to help with Internet security issues. Possible careers include the following:
- Criminal Investigator
- Data Miner
- Computer Programmer
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 30,460 jobs existed for private investigators and detectives in 2015, a growing number of which specialized in computer forensics (www.bls.gov). Job growth for all private investigators and detectives is expected to be 5% from 2014 to 2024. As of May 2015, the median salary for private investigators and detectives was $45,610, the BLS reports. The top ten percent of earners made $85,190 of more.
Online bachelor's degree, master's degree and certificate programs provide students with the technological skills and legal expertise to prevent cyber hacks and to respond to security breaches when they do happen.