Online Master’s Programs In Computer Forensics

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According to a University of Maryland study, a hacking attempt occurs every 39 seconds. Cybercrime threatens the digital security of individuals, businesses, and governments worldwide. Examples include identity theft, system-crashing malware, email fraud, and cryptojacking. Systems security experts and computer forensics professionals identify, address, and mitigate cybercrimes’ occurrence and impact.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 14% growth for jobs in this sector, much faster than the projected 4% growth for all occupations. More and more U.S. institutions offer a computer forensics degree online to attract more enrollees and meet the demand for experts in this field.

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Top Online Master’s Programs in Computer Forensics

Rank School Location
1 University of Maryland Global Campus Adelphi, MD
2 Champlain College Burlington, VT
3 Stevenson University Stevenson, MD

Frequently Asked Questions About Computer Forensics


  • Q. What can I do with a degree in computer forensics?

    Computer forensics degree-holders become information systems security professionals, forensic computer analysts, IT auditors, and cryptographers.


  • Q. What do you study in computer forensics?

    Students learn how to conduct digital investigations and to detect and prevent cybercrimes. Topics often include intellectual property laws, evidence preservation, and enterprise security.


  • Q. Is computer forensics in demand?

    Yes. The BLS projects a 14% growth rate for jobs in this sector.


Why Get a Degree in Computer Forensics?



Computer forensics degree-holders can expect to enter a robust professional arena with ample opportunities for career growth and advancement. Forensics practitioners also earn higher median salaries, across the board. The median annual salary for all occupations is $41,950, while forensic science technicians earn $60,590 and information security analysts earn $103,590.

Virtually every type and size of a company or organization can benefit from a digital forensics expert’s services. An accredited computer forensics degree opens career paths in diverse industries including aerospace, healthcare, manufacturing, and telecommunications.

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How Much Does a Computer Forensics Degree Cost?

National Center for Education Statistics data shows postgraduate students at in-state schools paid an average of $12,170 in 2018-2019. Postgraduate enrollees at private nonprofit institutions paid an average of $27,780 for one year of enrollment. The yearly cost of a master’s computer forensics degree will likely approximate these amounts.

Colleges and universities support postgraduate enrollees through various fellowships and grant programs. Some of these opportunities require recipients to take on undergraduate teaching or advanced research duties. Financial assistance for STEM students, including computer forensics degree-seekers, often covers full tuition, fees, and books. Some programs also offer a living stipend.

Financial aid can significantly lower the costs of earning a computer forensics degree online. Students should always inquire about such opportunities from every prospective school.

Additional Online Student Fees for Computer Forensics



Some schools require online enrollees to pay a technology fee that on-campus students do not pay. The fee varies among schools, with some charging a flat fee per semester and others calculating it per credit. The technology fee may result in a higher attendance cost. Students should find out this information before deciding on a school or program.

Some online computer forensics programs require on-campus components, including orientation sessions, lab work, or in-person thesis or capstone project presentations. Online enrollees far from schools with these requirements should consider these expenses when they calculate attendance costs.

How Much Do Computer Forensics Majors Make?


Top Salaries


The top-paying sectors for computer forensics experts include the federal executive branch; general medical and surgical hospitals; and companies offering architectural, engineering, and related services. Computer forensics experts earn salaries of $120,790, $75,720, and $66,040, respectively, in these arenas.

Master's Degree


BLS data shows master’s degree-holders typically earn higher salaries than workers with a bachelor’s or associate degree. Computer forensics experts with a master’s can expect to earn even higher salaries than those above, which reference bachelor’s degree-holder salaries.

States hiring the most professionals in specific arenas often offer better career options in those fields. The following states employ the most computer forensics experts: California with 2,270 positions, Florida with 1,730, and Texas with 1,580.

Courses in Computer Forensics



Colleges and universities usually offer similar foundation coursework for computer forensics degrees. A typical curriculum includes classes in incident response and network forensics, operating systems analysis, legal principles of digital investigations, and the three courses described below.

Students often follow the same curriculum whether they pursue a computer forensics degree online or on campus. Most programs require 30-36 credits and a culminating experience of a thesis, capstone research project, or comprehensive exam. Some computer forensics programs allow specialization in fields including cyber operations, electronic crime, and data analytics.


  • Information Technology and Security

    Students examine security issues that impact different IT components, including operating systems, applications and development, and computer hardware. The course familiarizes enrollees with topics such as topologies, protocols, and various network systems. The knowledge gained helps them analyze fundamental enterprise communications in different workplace settings and diverse industries.


  • Malware Analysis

    The course introduces tools commonly used in detecting and mitigating the presence of malware in a network system: Interactive Disassembler Professional, Pescanner, and Mandiant IOC Editor. Students explore typical malware behavior and characteristics by understanding concepts such as persistence mechanisms and infection vectors and propagation.


  • Forensics Investigation for Civil Litigation

    The course covers computer forensics issues more commonly associated with civil litigation, including data recovery and restoration, electronic discovery, and media erasure. Enrollees become familiar with the same tools and techniques that computer forensics experts often use in public sector criminal investigations. These tools include NetworkMiner, Volatility Framework, and Wireshark.


Certifications and Licensure for Computer Forensics



Some states require digital or computer forensics professionals to possess licensure as a private security services provider. Requirements vary by state, so practitioners should research specific licensure criteria before beginning their practice. An industry-recognized certification presents the holder as a trained and knowledgeable professional with expertise in a specific area.

GIAC Certifications


The Global Information Assurance Certification administers several programs for computer forensics practitioners. GIAC offers certifications for network security analysts, malware specialists, cyberware intelligence experts, and forensic analysts. The educational and professional experience requirements for each certification differ. Candidates must pass an exam on their specific area of expertise.

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Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator Certification


The certification requires a five-day course on analytical strategies, forensic instruments, procedures, and several other topics relevant to computer forensics or cybercrime investigation. At the end of the course, candidates must pass a four-hour, 150-item multiple choice exam to earn the CHFI credential.

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Certified Forensic Computer Examiner


The program consists of two stages, a peer review and an examination. The International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists administers the credential, which enjoys worldwide recognition. During the peer review, candidates complete four problems for which they must submit reports and supporting documentation. The final exam includes a practical exercise and a written test.

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Online Master’s Programs in Computer Forensics



See Our Rankings Methodology
  1. University of Maryland Global Campus
    Location

    Adelphi, MD

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    UMGC's online master's in computer forensics degree allows students to prepare for a career in IT security. The 36-credit curriculum features core courses in digital forensics technology and practices. Other courses include digital forensics response and analysis and advanced forensics. The capstone involves a simulation where learners tackle real-world cybersecurity issues. Graduates use their final product as part of a job application portfolio.

    Virtual resources for online degree-seekers include library services, career and academic advisors, and free tutoring. The UMGC Effective Writing Center offers one-on-one assistance. Students nearing graduation turn to Career Services to access top job-search websites and receive resume feedback.

    UMGC accepts up to six transfer credits and does not require standardized test scores. Applicants should be familiar with computer science fundamentals, such as basic information technology and computer programming. All students pay the same per-credit tuition rate, regardless of residency. New degree-seekers use the Scholarship Finder website to research institutional financial aid.

  2. Champlain College
    Location

    Burlington, VT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Learners researching computer forensics master's programs should explore Champlain's MS in digital forensic science. The 100% online program requires 30-36 credits. The typical student spends 15-20 hours per week on coursework. Required courses include scripting for digital forensics, mobile device analysis, and the practice of digital investigations. Degree-seekers finish the program by writing a master's thesis.

    Online students speak with an advisor to stay on track for graduation. Champlain offers free tutoring through Smarthinking, software connecting degree-seekers to subject experts. Like their on-campus peers, online degree-seekers with a documented disability receive appropriate accommodations and services.

    Champlain prefers applicants with a professional or academic background in computer forensics, computer crime, and evidence handling. Other application materials include a resume and a personal essay. The college does not charge out-of-state tuition. Active-duty service members receive an automatic 50% tuition discount. Other learners may qualify for federal financial aid programs.

  3. Stevenson University
    Location

    Stevenson, MD

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Stevenson's master's in computer forensics prepares students for a career as a cybersecurity engineer or analyst. Required courses include Windows forensic examinations and legal compliance and ethics. Other courses include file systems and forensic analysis. Some degree-seekers supplement their education by earning a certificate in online program design.

    Stevenson's student resources include Handshake, an online platform connecting learners and alumni with employers, interviews, and networking opportunities. Career and academic advisors maintain a blog covering online learning best practices and social media's role in obtaining a job.

    Application requirements include a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, a bachelor's in computer science or relevant work experience, and a personal statement. International applicants submit their transcripts to the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services. Stevenson accepts up to six transfer credits. The school charges all learners the same graduate tuition rate. Students with financial need submit FAFSA results to apply for institutional aid programs.

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