Finding the right computer forensics online degree program requires research, including finding out the type of accreditation a college or university holds. Accreditation can help determine if the school will support students' long-term career plans. Students can use this guide to review what course topics they might encounter in their computer forensics program, job possibilities and salary potentials, professional organizations to consider joining, what skills they will learn, and the benefits of pursuing an advanced degree in the field.
Overview of Computer Forensics Degrees
Earning a bachelor's degree in computer forensics opens up a variety of career opportunities to graduates. With this degree, students can find work as computer and network security administrators, cybersecurity analysts, forensic computer analysts, information security managers, and security consultants. In an online computer forensics program, students learn and develop the skills and knowledge they need to thrive in the field.
Online programs benefit students from all walks of life but are specifically beneficial for students with full-time jobs. The online format allows students to continue in their current career and pursue an education while they work, ultimately advancing their career opportunities. With little to no in-person requirements, online computer forensics students enjoy maximum flexibility with their education schedule.
One of the most common professions for graduates of these programs, information security analysts enjoy a rapidly growing job rate of 28%, higher than the average for all occupations in the United States. Due to the steadily increasing job growth and the constant demand for internet and network security, the computer forensics field is a viable option for students.
Every college or university has their own unique application process. Students can expect to complete an admissions application with their general contact information and educational background. Most programs also require students to pay an application fee when they submit their admissions materials, usually ranging around $50-$75. In special circumstances, applicants may qualify for fee waivers.
Almost every college or university requires applicants to submit their high school and any applicable college transcripts. Some programs require a minimum cumulative GPA before they consider someone for admission, usually around a 2.75 GPA. Supplemental admissions materials may include an essay or a personal statement. Essay requirements including topic, tone, length, and format should all be addressed during the application process.
Students might also need to submit letters of recommendation when they apply. These letters should come from an educational or professional contacts rather than a friend or family member and should address the applicant's strengths and preparedness for a bachelor's in computer forensics program. Students also might need to submit their professional resume when applying, outlining any relevant experience they might have that further qualifies them for admission. Students should review admissions requirements on program websites or call the college or university's admissions department to clarify any additional questions before submitting an application.
What Will I Learn?
Students attending online computer forensics programs may experience different credit requirements. Course topics also vary depending on the program, but typically cover similar foundational topics. Regardless of the program students enroll in, they usually must complete a certain amount of general education and degree-specific credits. In general, students must complete around 120 total credits to earn their bachelor's degree in computer forensics. Of those credits, around 63 of them cover degree-specific course materials. The 57 remaining credits encompass general education courses and electives, including subjects like communication, ethics, statistics, and writing.
Criminal LawIn the criminal law course, students learn about the fundamentals of substantive criminal law. They discover the main elements of crimes and the rationale behind criminal law. Topics in the course include the criminal state of mind, the criminal act, the nature of jurisdiction, and criminal conduct.
Networking FundamentalsStudents in the networking fundamentals course examine topics related to networking, including web servers and services, network security, and the Internet. In the course, topics focus on relevant issues while also providing a historical background and a look at emerging technologies.
Computer SystemsIn the computer systems course, students focus on topics such as the organization of hardware, social issues in computing, algorithms, important applications, and object-oriented programming using Python.
Operating SystemsThe operating systems course introduces students to different operating systems, addressing the fundamental principles of what an operating system is and how it functions. Classes discuss standard functions of operating systems, such as file system, input/output, memory, process/thread, and storage and device management. Students learn the three most popular operating systems used on personal computers: Windows, Linux, and OSX.
Mobile ForensicsIn the mobile forensics course, students learn how to effectively preserve, analyze, identify, and examine mobile device data. They learn how to conduct forensic investigations involving mobile devices. Topics in the course include digital telephone technologies and off the chip analysis and extraction.
CybercrimeCybercrime courses focus on economic, internet, and telecommunication crimes. Students discuss crimes ranging from social engineering and auction fraud to email scams and phishing attempts. They also learn about investigative techniques and network forensics used to prevent and solve cybercrimes.
What Can I Do with an Online Bachelor's Degree in Computer Forensics?
In the following sections, students can review what their future might look like as an online bachelor's degree in computer forensics graduate. The sections below cover skills developed in a computer forensics program, the types of jobs graduates qualify for, and what the salaries and job descriptions look like for those positions. Students can also read about advanced programs in the field, accreditation, and computer forensics professional organizations they can consider joining once they graduate.
Students pursuing their bachelor's degree in computer forensics develop a variety of skills throughout their courses that carry over into their career after graduation. Strong analytical skills and meticulous attention to detail allow graduates to analyze an organization's computer networks and systems and identify potential or actual threats. Along with their ability to analyze, students must also have quick reflexes. If a computer forensics professional identifies an attack or a threat, they must provide protection and damage control for their organization without delay or hesitation.
In a bachelor's in computer forensics program, students also develop their communication skills. Computer forensics professionals should know how to effectively communicate threats and protection procedures. In their career, students may need to train coworkers on security measures and protocols. They also might need to install different protection software for employees within their organization and explain software clearly to laypersons.
Potential Careers and Salaries
Computer forensics professionals can find work across a variety of careers. They can work as computer and network security administrators, performing security-related tasks for their organization to protect against cyber attacks. Forensic computer analysts analyze computer-based information to use as forensic evidence. Cybersecurity analysts capitalize on the electronic and computer knowledge of a computer forensics degree online to analyze security system data. Professionals in the field share a focus of maintaining internet and system security for their employers, operating at a variety of job levels and functions.
Computer and Network Security Administrator
Annual Median Salary: $65,057
Also known as computer security specialists, computer and network security administrators perform a range of security-related tasks for their organization, including checking for security violations, installing protective software, and protecting against cyber attacks.
Forensic Computer Analyst
Annual Median Salary: $70,958
Forensic computer analysts collect and analyze computer-based information for forensic evidence. These professionals often have strict deadlines and must effectively and efficiently prioritize their tasks. Forensic computer analysts must carefully handle evidence and maintain effective logs and records.
Annual Median Salary: $76,339
Cybersecurity analysts monitor and analyze data from different security systems to propose improvements or solutions for preventing malicious activity. They also effectively communicate security information to customers and fellow security analysts.
Information Security Manager
Annual Median Salary: $95,510
In charge of monitoring their company's networks for security breaches and investigating any violations that occur, information security managers also help computer users install and learn about new security procedures and products. These professionals create security standards and best practices for their organization to follow.
Computing, Networking, or IT Security Consultant
Annual Median Salary: $83,114
Security consultants tend to work in educational institutions and large organizations with digitized databases. They design and improve computer systems within their organization to prevent cyber attacks and breaches.
Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Computer Forensics?
Graduates who earned their computer forensics degree online can also pursue advanced degrees if they want to increase their earning potential and expand their career opportunities. Many jobs in the field only require professionals to hold a bachelor's degree, but employers often pay individuals a higher salary if they hold an advanced degree. Additionally, many specialized career opportunities become available to candidates who have advanced degree credentials. Professionals with a bachelor's degree alone do not necessarily get excluded from specialized career opportunities, though an advanced degree can often give them a leg up when applying for certain jobs. Individuals can still experience high salary opportunities with a bachelor's degree, especially as they gain more experience in the field.
Accreditation for Computer Forensics Bachelor's Programs
When looking for the best computer forensics degree online, students should research their college's or university's accreditation status. Potential students should note the differences between national and regional accreditation.
Nationally accredited institutions focus primarily on technical and career aspects of coursework, preparing students for a specific career with a particular skill set. At these institutions, students often experience lower tuition rates than they do at regionally accredited colleges or universities. However, nationally accredited institutions are often excluded from tuition reimbursement plans. These programs can be more difficult to transfer credits from, many other higher learning institutions and employers do not accept credits from nationally accredited universities.
Regionally accredited institutions focus primarily on liberal arts-based coursework. At these institutions, students can take advantage of tuition reimbursement programs and easy transference of their credits to more advanced programs and higher learning institutions.
Computer Forensics Professional Organizations
Graduates who earned their computer forensics degree online can explore a variety of membership possibilities at professional organizations across the computer forensics field. Members enjoy a variety of benefits, including events, publications, and certifications.
Professional organizations often host events to network with other professionals in the computer forensics field, establishing and cultivating important professional relationships that might lead to job opportunities and referrals. Many organizations also offer training and certification opportunities for continued professional development.
The SANS Institute
Established in 1989 as a cooperative education and research organization, the SANS Institute programs serve more than 165,000 security professionals internationally. The organization provides security certification and information security training as well as a variety of research materials for members.
High Technology Crime Investigation Association
Created to provide collaboration and education to global members in an effort to investigate and prevent high tech crimes, the HTCIA provides members with extensive information, collective partnerships, education, astute board leadership, mutual member benefits, and professional management.
International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists
A nonprofit volunteer organization committed to training, certifying, and granting membership services to computer forensic professionals around the world, the IACIS boasts members from 60 different countries. The membership base includes state, federal, and municipal law enforcement professionals and computer forensic practitioners.