With the prevalent use of the Internet, virtual crimes are becoming more and more common. Ranging from identity theft and bank fraud to child pornography and cyber terrorism, computer crimes are on the rise. The need for policing the virtual world has led to an increase in the demand for computer forensic investigators across the US. Computer forensics is a new and fast growing field which refers to the recovery of data from digital media for use in criminal investigations. Computer forensic professionals work closely with law enforcement agencies.
Featured Programs and Schools
Computer Forensic Degrees and Programs
Computer forensic professionals recover digital data from storage media in computers, laptops, memory cards and portable media players among others. Some computer forensic investigators learn their skills on the job, while working for law enforcement agencies. Those who wish to specialize in this field can find computer forensic schools that offer both online and traditional campus based programs. Some universities may offer a degree in computer forensics while others offer degrees in areas related to computer forensics such as cyber crime, internet security, cyber security and cyber crime investigations.
You can find qualifications at the certificate, Associate, Bachelor and Master levels at computer forensic schools. An Associate degree can be undertaken at a community college, where you will learn about data recovery methods and procedures, as well as the ways of handling evidence. Computer forensic schools offering Bachelor programs teach the subject more in-depth and therefore graduates can expect to do better in the job market as compared to Associate degree graduates. Those who wish to specialize even further can enroll in a Master’s level program.
Areas of Study in Computer Forensics
The field of computer forensics covers various areas. These are taught as courses in most computer forensic related programs. A computer forensics student will learn about internet crimes, how to handle incidents and evidence, methods of investigation and more. Also taught are intrusion detection systems, criminal law, technical writing and public speaking. Writing skills are important as computer forensic professionals are required to write up reports of their investigations and may be required to present evidence in court. Knowledge of computer operating systems, networks and routing is also taught to computer forensic students. The use of computer based tools is learned and students are required to gain hands on experience through class work and through internships. Students also learn to extract data which has been deleted from storage devices.
Top Computer Forensics Schools
There are reputed Computer Forensics schools in every state. If you intend on entering this field, the following list of schools would be of use to you:
Boston University offers a hybrid graduate certificate in Digital Forensics, with two graduate level courses. The 16-credit hour program is offered by its Department of Computer Science and is ideal for those working in this field. The program combines Saturday classes with convenient online courses to give students the maximum amount of flexibility. Students applying to this program need to have an accredited bachelor’s degree.
Champlain College claims to offer more computer forensics courses than any other college in the US. It has highly focused programs for both beginners and professionals already working in the industry. Online courses are typically only 7 to 8 weeks long, and have six starting dates every year – giving maximum flexibility to students. The college offers multiple undergraduate and graduate level programs for aspiring digital forensics students.
City University of Seattle
The Online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with a Cyber Forensic Investigation specialization offered at the City University of Seattle is a 180-credit hour program. This is the ideal program for military personnel or any other professional occupation which requires comprehensive cyber-based investigative skills. Students will be expected to complete 90 General Education credits, along with 45 credits in Criminal Justice and 45 credits in Cyber Forensic Investigation.
Farleigh Dickinson University
Farleigh Dickinson University offers an Online Graduate Certificate in Computer Security and Forensic Administration. This is an 18-credits program designed especially for law enforcement officers and security executives in the corporate world. The highly customizable program requires applicants to have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institute, with a minimum GPA of 2.7.
Norwich University offers graduate level certificates in Digital Forensics, which are made up of two 11-week long courses. The courses involve case studies and extensive lab work. Students applying to this program need to have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institute, along with a background in networking, operating systems and programming. The two certificate programs offered are: Online Graduate Certificate in Computer Forensic Investigation/Incident Response Team Management and the Online Graduate Certificate in Vulnerability Management.
Careers in Computer Forensics
Graduates from computer forensic schools can be found working in roles such as computer forensics investigator, specialist, consultant and technician. Computer forensics professionals have to recover data from digital devices for use in criminal trials and investigations. Encrypted or deleted files may be found and decoded. Such professionals may also find information about data transmissions and the illegal file uploads.
Computer forensic professionals after retrieving the required data are also responsible for ensuring the digital media is not damaged during the process of investigation. Detailed documentation must be written up on the methods that were used to obtain information from a device. Most computer forensic professionals work with law enforcement agencies. However there are roles for such individuals in various companies, consultancy firms and government offices.
How Long Does It Take to Graduate from a Computer Forensic School?
There are many Computer Forensic Schools in the US, such as the University of Central Florida, the University of South Florida and the Florida State College at Jacksonville. Students can enroll in a Graduate Certificate in Computer Forensics, a Masters in Cyber Security/Computer Information Technology with a concentration in Digital Forensics, or a Ph.D. in Technology with a specialization in Cyber Forensics. The accelerated certificate programs can be completed in 16 months, while the master’s program can be completed in 1-2 years.
What Are the Requirements to Graduate from a Computer Forensic School?
Students enrolled in the Graduate Certificate in Computer Forensics have to complete a minimum of 12 credits beyond the bachelor’s degree. Those enrolled in the Master of Science (M.Sc.) in Cyber Security with a specialization in Computer Forensics have to complete approximately 30 credits. Courses taught include Hardware Configuration, Software Configuration, Data Forensics, Server Configuration, Cybercrime and Criminal Justice, Digital Evidence Recognition and Techniques of Computer Hacking & Incident Handling.
How Much Can I Make after Graduating from a Computer Forensic School?
After graduating from a Computer Forensic School, individuals can choose to work as Forensic Science Technicians or Information Security Analysts. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Forensic Science Technicians earned an annual median pay of $60,590 in May 2020. There were 17,200 jobs in this field in 2020. Also, the employment in this field is projected to grow by 16% from 2020 to 2030, which is much faster that the average for all professions.
Below is a list of the highest paying states for forensic science technicians in the US in 2020 as per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.