This article will provide you with a list of well-researched programs offering an affordable online master's in computer forensics. Earning a degree in computer forensics can help you to enter a career in the field, including working as a security consultant, computer forensics examiner, computer crime investigator, and cryptanalyst. An online program gives you the flexibility you need to complete your education in computer forensics.
Ranking Low-cost Online Computer Forensics Master's
We compiled this list of online computer forensics master's programs using data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). We located an initial group of 18 colleges and universities offering online computer forensics master's programs and narrowed the field to the ten most-affordable based on the school's in-state graduate tuition. The ten colleges and universities offering affordable online master's in computer forensics programs are all accredited programs. They offer the most affordable master's in computer forensics online.Methodology
10. Stevenson University
Online Master's in Digital Forensics
Founded in 1947, Stevenson University offers an online master's degree in digital forensics and an online master's in cyber forensics. Currently-employed digital forensic experts teach Stevenson University's courses. The program emphasizes how to acquire, preserve, and analyze digital evidence. Master's degree candidates will learn to integrate auditing, investigative analysis, and computer forensics to help prepare professionals to communicate their findings effectively, particularly as expert trial witnesses. A Mock Trial Capstone is a hallmark of Stevenson University's online forensic graduate programs, including the digital forensics master's degree and cyber forensics master's degree. Stevenson's online master of science in cyber forensics degree focuses on expertise necessary to present findings in legal and computer security proceedings.
9. University of Maryland University College
Digital Forensics and Cyber Investigation Master's Degree
The University of Maryland University College offers a 36-unit master's degree in digital forensics and cyber investigation. The degree is designed to provide experience and knowledge in investigating information system security breaches and recovering data. UMUC's program offers hands-on experiences using the same evidence that has been found in real cyber-crimes. All of UMUC's courses are available online, but students may select an all-online or hybrid online/in-person degree format. UMUC also offers certificate programs in digital forensics and cyber investigation, and related degree and certificate programs in IT Information Assurance and Cybersecurity Management and Policy.
8. University of Central Florida
Digital Forensics M.S.
The University of Central Florida hosts the National Center for Forensic Science (NCFS) and offers a master's degree in Digital Forensics which benefits from a collaboration between the NCFS, other UCF academic departments, including Criminal Justice and Legal Studies and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. The program may be completed completely online, although some elective classes or prerequisites may not be offered via online education. The program's goal is to prepare students for employment or advanced studies in digital forensics. A focus on oral and written communications skills prepares degree candidates for work as forensic examiners or expert witnesses.
7. Stratford University
Master of Science in Digital Forensics
Falls Church, VA
Stratford University's Master of Science degree in Digital Forensics provides education in cyber security prevention and protection, cyber conflict strategies, cyber crime, and data collection procedures. The program is designed to meet the needs of graduate students in the rapidly changing digital forensics environment. Graduate students are also prepared to complete exams certifying them in digital forensics skills. Key focus areas include management, administration, reporting, critical thinking, and presentation of evidence. Stratford University also offers master's degree programs in cyber security and cyber security leadership and policy.
6. Champlain College
Master's (MS) in Digital Forensics Online
Champlain College was founded in 1878 in Burlington, Vermont, and the historic campus overlooks Lake Champlain. The college offers many online programs, including a Master's (MS) in Digital Forensics Online. The college's digital forensics department has been designated as an academically excellent national center by the Department of Defense's Cyber Crime Center, along with other national awards for excellence. The digital forensics program is designed to benefit current digital/information technology employees and forensic specialists in their places of work. Coursework is designed and delivered by experts in the field of digital forensics, primarily veteran professionals including state officials, corporate officers, and FBI agents. Champlain College also offers an online master's degree in computer security operations.
5. Capella University
Master of Science in Information Assurance and Cybersecurity – Digital Forensics Specialization
Offered online through Capella University's School of Business and Technology, the MS degree in Information Assurance and Cybersecurity with a specialization in Digital Forensics prepares candidates to be cybersecurity professionals. Capella's program focuses on graduates who are able to provide computer forensics and who also understand the legal challenges in complex cyber investigations. The program also prepares graduates to have the knowledge and skills they need to take and pass the CCFP (Certified Cyber Forensics Professional) and CHFI (Certified Hacking Forensics Investigator) exams. Capella University's graduate programs are offered on the quarter system, and Ph.D. and doctoral programs are available for advanced studies in information technology.
4. Utica College
Computer Forensics Specialization|MS in Cybersecurity
Utica College offers an online master's degree program in cybersecurity with a specialization in computer forensics. Computer forensics graduates of Utica's program have followed careers investigating real estate fraud, tax evasion, government impersonation scams, terrorism, social media crimes, and organized crime. The MS in Cybersecurity program can also help graduates prepare for five different certification exams, including as a Computer Forensic Computer Examiner (CFCE), Certified Computer Examiner (CCE), and the CHFI and GCFA exams. Degree candidates can also pursue program tracks in electronic crime, intelligence, and malware analysis. The college also offers an Online MPS (Master of Professional Studies) in Cyber Policy and Risk Analysis. Utica College has been recognized by the NSA and Department of Homeland Security as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense.
3. Norwich University
Master of Science in Information Security & Assurance
Norwich University's master's degree program in information security & assurance offers a concentration in computer forensics and incident response management. The university also offers key program focuses on protection of critical infrastructure protection and cyber crime. Other focuses include international perspectives on cyberspace, vulnerability management, and project management in the cyber defense sector. The NSA and Department of Homeland Security have recognized Norwich as a Center for Excellence in Cyber Defense. Degree candidates will learn theories, technology, and methodology underpinning cybersecurity. Written communications, oral communications, project management, problem-solving and leadership are all key focus areas of the program.
2. DeSales University
MCJ Online: Digital Forensics
Center Valley, PA
DeSales University offers in-person and online master's degree programs in digital forensics. The MACJ Online Digital Forensics program will inform degree candidates in concepts of advanced criminology, research and evaluation, network and cloud forensics, and digital investigation and evidence. The 30-unit program offers a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice degree with a specialization in digital forensics. DeSales University also offers a graduate certificate in digital forensics as part of its graduate criminal justice programs.
1. Penn State World Campus
Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security – Information Security and Forensics Option
University Park, PA
Penn State's World Campus offers an online master's in professional studies degree for information security and forensics specialists seeking to work in Homeland Security and closely related occupations. Penn State is a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education designated by the Department of Homeland Security, also referred to as Cyber Defense. The university's program specializes in cyber and network security, cyber threat defenses and forensics, and in emergency and security management. Candidates may combine work experience and education in computer systems, statistics, math, and related information technologies. The university also offers an MPS degree in Homeland Security, and graduate certificates in cybersecurity and information assurance.
What are my career options for an online computer forensics master's degree?
Symantec, one of the leading international computer security and software companies, maintains one of the most comprehensive collections of cyber crime intelligence in the world. The company's 2017 threat report documented multi-million dollar virtual bank robberies, disruptions of the US electoral process, and a massive DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack through the Mirai botnet. Ransomware, email attacks, and use of IoT devices (routers, security cameras, devices operated through cloud services) are additional threats. All of these rapidly growing and changing threats add up to job opportunities in government and law enforcement, and in private industry. Even nonprofit organizations like colleges and universities or hospitals and medical clinics can have jobs for people with an online master's in computer forensics.
Job opportunities for graduates with a degree, including a master's in computer forensics online are expected to increase by 17 percent by 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job titles working for large and medium-sized corporations include Forensic Computer Administrator, Security Analyst Digital Forensics, and Computer Forensic Security Engineer.
Positions in the justice system include court-based computer forensics examiners and criminal justice examiners. The Department of Homeland Security is a major employer of computer forensics graduates and consistently recruits for Digital Forensics and Forensics Analysts, software assurance professionals, cyber risk and strategic analysis professionals, and cyber intelligence and investigation administrators. Local and state governments and law enforcement agencies also employ computer forensics graduates in a variety of different positions. Working independently or as part of their official positions, computer forensics master's degree professionals can also be expert witnesses in criminal or civil court and even work internationally.
Other career options include working to educate new computer forensics students in undergraduate, certificate, or graduate programs. Computer forensics master's online graduates can also work as corporate trainers or consultants for security firms.
How much can I earn with an online computer forensics master's?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that information security analysts with a bachelor's degree earned a median pay of $92,600 per year in 2016. The highest 10 percent earned more than $147,290 a year, with the majority of high earners possessing a graduate certificate or master's degree according to the BLS. More than 11,500 information security analysts worked in Virginia in 2016, according to the BLS, with an annual mean salary of $105,440. California employed the second-highest number of information security analysts (7,990), with an annual mean wage of $108,780. More than 1,210 information security analysts worked in the Silicon Valley area in California in 2016, the BLS reported, earning more than $123,750 a year on average. In contrast, forensic science technicians working for law enforcement agencies earned an average of $56,750 per year, according to the BLS, but the majority of them do not have a master's degree and do not have skills in digital forensics.
What are specialties in computer forensics?
Computer forensics specialists work to obtain information from computers that have been damaged or internally corrupted. Digital forensics professionals don't just work on computers. They require expertise in mobile and IoT devices. Computer forensics certification exams identify different specialties, including Certified Forensic Computer Examiner (CFCE), Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI), EnCase Certified Examiner (EnCe), AccessData Certified Examiner, and many additional specialty certifications.
Technical investigation specialties include network forensics, mobile device forensics (from text messages to calls, access, and videos), and forensic data analysis. A multilingual candidate who obtained a cheap online master's in computer forensics could work for the Department of Homeland Security analyzing international cyber threats or crimes in various world locations. Some cyber forensics experts serve as expert witnesses in criminal cases. Other specialties focus on the type of data involved in criminal activity, including video analysis, audio analysis, and work analyzing "big data" collected across digital networks.
What are my opportunities for advancement in computer forensics?
Many online computer forensics master's college and university programs provide training and education in written communication and analysis, oral communication, principles of management, and leadership skills. A master's degree could prepare computer forensics degree candidates for advancement into the management of a law enforcement investigative unit. Higher levels of public policy positions in government will also require a master's in computer forensics. Obtaining an online degree gives you the ability to continue working as an analyst as you gain skills, experience, and knowledge that will prepare you to manage investigative teams.
Corporations that employ computer forensics professionals may have wide-ranging opportunities for candidates with a master's in computer forensics online to lead corporate security divisions or to assume C-level or VP-level positions within the corporation. Private security firms also offer opportunities for C-level or VP-level employees who will head up divisions or develop products to meet the ever-growing array of cyber-threats against individuals, businesses, and government organizations.
Can I work for the FBI or Homeland Security with an online master's in computer forensics?
Many current experts teaching in online master's in computer forensics programs got their jobs with no formal education, only "on the job experience." The FBI has several teams specializing in different types of computer and digital forensics, including the Computer Analysis Response Team. The Department of Homeland Security actively recruits recent graduates for a variety of positions as cryptanalysts, or in digital forensics, computer security, investigations, threat response, analysis, and assessment.
Is a job as a digital or computer forensics expert stressful?
Like many other jobs, you can control the amount of stress you have on the job working in computer forensics, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics and industry insiders report that computer and digital forensics professionals work more than 40 hours a week on average. The nature of the field also means that you could be on-call 24 hours a day. If you are already working in law enforcement, you know that few jobs in any kind of forensics are regular "9 to 5" jobs.
A Michigan State University study found that digital forensic examiners working in law enforcement experienced a backlog of evidence and increasing demands on their time to meet ever-growing needs to process evidence, make reports, and testify in legal proceedings. Another concern leading to on-the-job stress is the nature of some cybercrimes and evidence. Investigating international cybercrime can include terrorist threats and activity. Other investigators may be confronted with evidence in child pornography or human trafficking cases. The disturbing nature of such evidence is part of on-the-job stress for computer forensics experts and master's degree programs frequently include education and training in how to work with this type of evidence, achieve the desired results, and maintain personal health and well-being.
Computer forensic experts also work with non-technical colleagues, whether they are in law enforcement, Homeland Security, or working in a bank or financial environment. Computer forensics professionals report that trying to communicate complex technical ideas to a non-technical team can be challenging and stressful.
Many online master's in computer forensics programs recognize these stressful challenges and offer courses in oral and written communications and interpersonal relations. Leadership components of the programs can help graduates to understand stress, form appropriate professional boundaries, and excel at their work without suffering from burnout.
Computer forensics, digital forensics, and related fields constantly change, with new threats emerging daily. Strong online master's in computer forensics programs are designed to prepare graduates for responsible positions in law enforcement, state and local governments, Homeland Security, large non-profit organizations such as colleges and universities, corporations, and private industry.