Master’s in Computer Forensics Career Guide

What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Computer Forensics?

Computer forensics technicians investigate digital data and may work
in criminal investigation or cybercrime on the local, state and federal
levels. Computer forensics graduate students follow career-focused
programs that provide specialized skills for a specialized industry.
Online master’s programs in computer forensics teach you the skills you
need to safeguard information from cyberattacks or aid criminal
investigations by processing information stored on computers that belong
to suspects or victims. Your advanced degree makes you a competitive
job candidate for entry-level and upper-level positions. Earning your
degree online offers a flexible alternative to on-campus programs and
allows you to complete coursework at your convenience, around your
personal and professional schedules. Compare curriculum, concentrations,
program delivery and admission requirements to find the best online
master’s in computer forensics program to meet your educational and
career goals.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Computer Forensics

Database management is often a concentration within an online
computer science, data science, information management or information
systems master’s degree program. When database management is offered as
its own master’s program, some programs offer concentrations similar to
those offered in other computer science programs.

CONCENTRATION DESCRIPTION POTENTIAL CAREERS FOR THIS CONCENTRATION
Forensic Accounting Combines forensic knowledge and accounting expertise, find and gather digital information in the accounting arena to use in a criminal investigation, such as embezzlement, money laundering or other fraudulent white-collar crimes. Forensic accountant, data analyst
Cybercrime Focuses on finding and investigating crimes perpetrated over the internet or other digital or telecommunications networks, including hacking, phishing, email scams, auction fraud, distribution of child exploitation materials and other cybercrimes. Criminal investigator, cyberinvestigator, computer forensics specialist, law enforcement
Telecommunications Technology Covers a combination of knowledge and skills needed in forensic examinations, including the rules of evidence, computer crime laws, digital forensic investigative techniques and civil and criminal forensic crime reporting abilities. Digital forensics analyst, digital forensics examiner, digital forensics consultant, computer forensics analyst

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Computer Forensics

Online master’s degree programs in computer forensics vary, including
delivery methods. Some programs are offered completely online, while
others are hybrid programs that require some coursework to be completed
on-campus. Most programs allow you to choose a concentration, which lets
you specialize in a specific computer forensics area. Your
concentration may change the focus of your curriculum and the classes
required. Many programs culminate with a thesis, capstone or research
project. Before selecting an online master’s degree program in computer
forensics, ensure the curriculum aligns with your professional
objections. Below are some core courses common in computer forensics
graduate programs.

COURSES DESCRIPTION
Forensic Information Technology Covers modern computer forensics science, including techniques used to investigate and solve computer crimes, tools for evidence collection, file system analysis, data recovery, and social, legal and ethical aspects of computer crimes.
Digital Forensic Investigation Techniques Examines digital forensic evidence collection, including securing, processing and examining evidence and how to report and present this evidence in civil or criminal court.
Mobile Forensics Learn to properly identify, preserve, examine and analyze mobile device data to conduct effective investigations.
Windows Forensics Examination Focuses on essential information to perform a forensic examination of computers running the Microsoft Windows operating system, including disk-level forensic tools and techniques.
Network and Cloud Forensics Explores forensic examination of shared cloud-based resources, including networks, servers and services.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s in Computer Forensics?

While some programs can be completed in as little as one year, most
programs typically take two years, longer if you’re only pursuing your
studies part-time. Programs that require you to compile a research
portfolio to present as your final project or those that require an
on-campus research or capstone project will likely require more time to
complete. The number of credits required for graduation also impacts the
time it takes to finish your online master’s in computer forensics
degree. Many programs require 30 to 36 hours, but some require 40 or
more. If you want to earn your degree as quickly as possible, look for
an individually paced program offered at an accelerated rate.

Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in Computer Forensics Prepares For

CERTIFICATION DESCRIPTION
Certified Computer Examiner Your online master’s in computer forensics may help qualify and prepare you for taking the required examinations to earn your Certified Computer Examiner credential offered by the International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners.
Certified Forensic Computer Examiner An advanced degree in computer forensics may count towards the 72 hours of continuing professional education in computer/digital forensics prerequisite for applying to become a Certified Forensic Computer Examiner. Certification is offered through the International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists and also requires you to complete a series of core competencies in computer/digital forensics, which includes passing a written examination.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Computer Forensics

The school you choose should be nationally or regionally accredited through a credentialing agency recognized by the Department of Education or Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Career-focused vocational or technical schools typically have national
accreditation, while four-year universities usually have regional
accreditation. An accredited school meets or exceeds applicable
educational standards, and enrollment into a program offered by these
schools ensures your eligibility for financial aid from the federal
government and other sources. Some schools may also have programmatic
accreditation from third-party agencies that accredit programs in the
forensic sciences. This might include the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission, which provides specialized accreditation to help you identify high-quality programs.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Computer Forensics Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

Society’s dependency on computers and mobile devices increases the
demand for competent computer forensics experts educated in the
investigation of digital crimes and presentation of the collected
evidence in a court of law. Jobs in computer forensics are rapidly
evolving and competitive. Your online master’s in computer forensics
helps you stand out from your peers and could also help you earn a
higher salary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics
compiled data of all workers in every job field in 2018, and the
results indicated that workers with a master’s degree had median weekly
earnings of $1,521, while those with a bachelor’s degree earned $1,198
weekly.

Expected Salary

Computer forensics is a specialized field and pursuing a specific career path can affect your salary. Below is a chart of average salaries for various computer forensics careers.

Your computer forensics skills are transferable and valued in
numerous sectors, but some sectors offer higher salaries than others.
Forensic technicians earn more when working for a federal agency
compared to those working for state or local governments, who earn about
40 percent less. However, employment rates are much higher in state and
local governments, with thousands of positions filled in 2017 compared
to the scant 130 employed by the federal government.

Industry Number Employed Annual Mean Wage
Federal Executive Branch 130 $105,650
Scientific Research and Development Services 170 $71,240
Architectural, Engineering and Related Services 220 $64,990
Local Government 8,790 $62,040
State Government 4,330 $60,910
Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories 670 $43,260

Career Opportunities

Your online computer forensics graduate degree prepares you for
highly coveted positions, often in leadership roles. An advanced
education in computer crime may lead you to a lucrative and rewarding
career in government organizations, law enforcement agencies, scientific
laboratories, businesses in the private sector or other
technology-based careers. While some computer forensics experts work
freelance, many pursue careers with large organizations in various
capacities.

JOB TITLE JOB DESCRIPTION MEDIAN SALARY PROJECTED GROWTH RATE
Forensic Science Technician Some Forensic Science Technicians specialize in computer-based crimes, collecting and analyzing data to uncover scams, fraud, identify theft and other violations committed with a computer or mobile device. Computer forensic technicians must adhere to the same strict standards as other forensic scientists to ensure the integrity of the evidence gathered, which is vital in legal cases. $57,850 per year 17%
Computer and Information Research Scientist Computer and Information Research Scientists invent and design new approaches to computing technology, which is often helpful in computer forensics. Most positions in computer and information research require a master’s degree and involve solving complex computer problems in various fields, including business, science, medical, legal and other sectors. $114,520 per year 19%

Professional Organizations

Computer forensics technicians are continually challenged to keep
current on emerging and evolving technology. Joining professional
organizations is an excellent way to continue your education and stay on
top of new developments in the industry. Whether you’re at the
beginning of your career or have been in the field for some time,
professional organizations offer many benefits, including networking
opportunities, certification programs, job boards and industry updates
you can’t afford to miss. Some highly respected organizations in the
computer forensics domain include the following.

American Academy of Forensic Sciences:
A multidisciplinary professional organization, AAFS strives to advance
forensic science and its implementation in the legal system. AAFS
members include professionals from all areas of forensic science,
including digital evidence experts. Some of the many benefits of
membership include annual conferences, an extensive reference library,
numerous educational opportunities, expert witness referrals, job
opportunity listings and valuable updates in an ever-expanding field.

High Technology Crime Investigation Association:
HTCIA is a global organization providing numerous resources for
technology crime professionals to assist them in their career goals,
which includes the prevention and investigation of high-tech crimes. A
few of the many benefits of membership are professional development,
networking, educational and collaboration opportunities, plus annual
conferences and training expos, job bulletins and a newsfeed to keep
current on the latest technology and trends.

International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists:
IACIS provides forensic computer training and facilitates a robust
network of computer forensic professionals with various levels of
expertise. Members receive direct access to experts and a broad
community of professional peers. It also provides numerous training
opportunities and a certification program with members receiving
one-on-one training opportunities with experts in the field and free
annual certification proficiency tests and recertification exams every
three years.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Computer Forensics

Earning your computer forensics master’s degree online often costs
less than enrolling in traditional on-campus programs. However, many
online graduate students still need financial assistance to pay for
their higher education. Exploring your funding possibilities should
always begin with submission of the Free Application for Federal Student
Aid (FAFSA), which opens opportunities for all types of aid from the
federal government for those with financial needs. Many educational
institutions also use this form to determine your eligibility for
financial assistance programs and scholarships offered directly through
the school or department you’re enrolled in. You can also find financial
assistance through the state government and private scholarships
offered by various organizations, nonprofits and corporations. While
many students rely on loans to fund their educations, there are numerous
financing options you don’t have to repay that help you reduce your
student debt. Start your search for financial aid options with the
following resources.

Resources

Scholarships

Scholarships

Details

Jan S. Bashinski Criminalistics Graduate Thesis Assistance Grant

Award: $1,700

Deadline: July

Eligibility: Full-time or part-time graduate students in criminalistic/forensic sciences who require financial assistance to complete a thesis or an independent research project to fulfill their degree program’s graduation requirements.

Alumni Winter Term Scholarship

Award: Up to $1,000

Deadline: July

Eligibility: Alumni of the University of Maryland University College pursuing a master’s of science degree in digital forensics and cyberinvestigation.