Online Computer Forensics Degree Programs

A degree in computer forensics can prepare students for the complex world of computer crime and electronic investigation. However, choosing the right academic program is the first step towards a successful career in the field. This guide makes the process easier for prospective computer forensics students by outlining the different degree levels and providing tools to search for programs that fit a student's unique criteria.

Online programs require that students have specific equipment, as a minimum, to be successful. At the very least, students need to have a quality working computer with an Internet connection, an up-to-date web browser, access to a word processing program, and the ability to view videos. However, in an online computer forensics degree, students typically need access to much more advanced technology. For instance, students should have a powerful computer with specialized computer programs and hardware that will allow them to complete all assignments. Enrollment counselors and academic advisors at the student’s college of choice can help determine the specific program requirements.

Student Profile -- Barbara:

Barbara comes from a family of law enforcement officers but isn’t interested in becoming an officer herself. She has always been interested in computers and computer networking, and after an introductory class in forensic science, she decided to pursue an associate’s degree in computer forensics and then continue on with a bachelor’s degree in the field.

Online Associate Degree in Computer Forensics

An online associate degree in computer forensics is a two-year degree that allows the graduate entry into the field. The first year includes basic English and mathematics requirements for an associate’s degree and introduces students to criminal law and basic computing. The second year of the program delves further into network security and various methods for legally searching for cybercrimes. While requirements vary from school to school, the table below represents a typical curriculum path for an associate’s degree in computer forensics.

First Semester (Freshman) Credits Overview
English 3 Develops students’ ability to write for learning, thinking, and communicating.
Intro. to Forensic Science 4 Students learn about the science behind forensic investigation.
Criminal Law 3 A comprehensive analysis of the fundamentals of criminal law.
Networking Fundamentals 3 An introduction to the many topics related to networking.
Mathematics 3 This is a basic requirement for all associate degrees.
Second Semester (Freshman) Credits Overview
English 3 Building on the skills from the first semester, this class focuses on research and reporting skills for college.
Criminal Procedure 3 Focuses on the rules and procedures governing how the American criminal justice system processes individuals suspected of a crime.
Introduction to Computer Systems 3 An introduction to the broad discipline of computer science and software engineering.
Introduction to Statistics 3 Students learn a statistical approach to decision-making.
Third Semester (Sophomore) Credits Overview
Financial Accounting 3 Students learn accounting as the language of business.
Operating Systems 3 A comparative study of popular PC-class operating systems and environments.
Law of Searching & Seizing Digital Evidence 3 Provides an understanding of digital evidence that submitted as evidence for prosecution.
Criminal Investigation 3 Includes the history, theory, and fundamentals of criminal investigation.
Fourth Semester (Sophomore) Credits Overview
Computer and Network Security 3 An exploration of back-end security and networks.
Digital Forensics 3 Discusses best practices in securing, processing, acquiring, examining, and reporting on digital evidence.
Ethics in Professions 3 Students apply principles of ethics, deontology, and utilitarianism.
Computer Science Elective 3 This is an optional course for students.

Student Profile – Savannah

Savannah earned an associate’s degree in computer science and, because of her interest in digital security, continued on to earn a bachelor’s in computer forensics. She scored an internship with her local police department, gaining hands-on experience that allowed her to find a full-time job upon graduation.

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Forensics

A bachelor’s degree in computer forensics generally takes four to five years to complete. A typical program focuses on international crime and in-depth computer networking and readies students for careers at major corporations or local law enforcement departments. The third and fourth years of a typical bachelor’s degree in computer forensics might look similar to the program below.

Fifth Semester (Junior) Credits Overview
Anti-Forensics and Network Forensics 3 A study of specialized areas in digital forensics, such as information hiding, anti-forensics, and network forensics.
Linux/UNIX Systems Admin 3 Students learn the key components of the Linus/UNIX operating system as well as its history and evolution
Economics 3 Discusses the nature and method of economics with a focus on microeconomics or macroeconomics.
General Elective 3 This is an optional class for students.
Sixth Semester (Junior) Credits Overview
Digital Forensics Analysis 3 Explores advanced methodologies for examining digital evidence.
Windows Server Systems Admin 3 A lab-based course that investigates current Windows server systems.
Cybercrime 3 Students investigate economic and other crimes perpetrated online.
Interpersonal Communication 3 A study of the theories and concepts of communication and apply this knowledge to everyday life.
Seventh Semester (Senior) Credits Overview
White Collar Crime 3 Students learn about the various types of white-collar crime and methods used by white-collar criminals.
Forensic Accounting 3 An introduction to fraud accounting, including examination and interview techniques.
Forensics Elective 3 This is an optional class for students, relating to their major.
General Elective 3 This is an optional class for students.
Eighth Semester (Senior) Credits Overview
Senior Seminar in Digital Forensics 3 A research-based course. Students prepare projects based on discussions and learnings from previous coursework.
Mobile Forensic Analysis 3 Students learn how to analyze and examine data from mobile devices.
File Forensics 3 Students explore how to analyze information as it relates to file system structures and use.
Forensics Internship or Elective 3 Students choose between an internship in the field or a forensics-based elective.

Student Profile – Juan:

After earning a bachelor’s degree in computer forensics, Juan wanted to learn more about the law and policy behind cyber security. Eventually, he wished to pursue a career within the Department of Justice, helping to track and prosecute criminals that threatened national security. He opted to earn his master’s degree and to focus on law to make that dream a reality.

Online Master’s in Computer Forensics

Earning a master’s degree in computer forensics usually consists of an additional two years of study in the field. Students choose between academic-based or career-focused programs, depending on their individual needs. Students looking to affect research and academia within the field should work toward a thesis-based program, where they prepare a paper or project and present it to a board of experts to earn their degree. Career-minded students might consider a more hands-on program that involves a comprehensive assessment throughout the program.

Many different “tracks” or specializations are available for master’s programs. While computer forensics is already quite specialized, there are still options for concentration. Opportunities are available for students to study criminal law, investigations, national security, and other areas. Because of this variety, it’s difficult to list program requirements for a master’s in computer forensics. However, the table below shows the requirements for just one possible course sequence:

Master’s Program Courses Overview
Academic Writing for Graduate Students Focuses on the research and reporting for master’s-level coursework.
Introduction to Cybersecurity Discusses the history of information security, including governments, businesses, and individuals.
Cyber Warfare Addresses the current and emerging policies and operational requirements of cyber warfare and multiple levels.
Trends in Cybersecurity An overview and investigation into challenges facing the nation and individuals.
Law and Policy in Computer Forensics Students study national and international policy and legal considerations related to computer forensics and investigation.
Managing Computer Operations A look at the operations behind security in highly networked enterprises.
Cybersecurity Capstone A project-based class that allows students to conduct a research project on a digital forensics topic of choice.
Cryptography and Data Security Students learn about various cryptosystems, including DES and RSA, among other topics.

Schools with Computer Forensics Programs

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SCHOOL NAME CITY, STATE STUDENT POPULATION SCHOOL TYPE TUITION PROGRAM TYPE PROGRAMS
University of Phoenix-Online CampusPhoenix, AZ307,871Private, 4-year$9,216Campus
Bachelor’s
  • Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance
American Public University SystemCharles Town, WV50,838Private, 4-year$6,000Campus
Bachelor’s
  • Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance
Master’s
  • Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance
Indiana University-BloomingtonBloomington, IN42,731Public, 4-year$8,750Campus
Master’s
  • Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance
University of Maryland-University CollegeAdelphi, MD42,713Public, 4-year$6,024Campus
Bachelor’s
  • Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance
Master’s
  • Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance
Florida State UniversityTallahassee, FL41,087Public, 4-year$4,587Campus
Bachelor’s
  • Cyber/Computer Forensics and Counterterrorism
University of HoustonHouston, TX39,820Public, 4-year$7,176Campus
Master’s
  • Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance
University of Southern CaliforniaLos Angeles, CA38,010Private, 4-year$43,722Campus
Master’s
  • Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance
College of Southern NevadaLas Vegas, NV37,717Public, 4-year$2,265Campus
Associate
  • Cyber/Computer Forensics and Counterterrorism
Capella UniversityMinneapolis, MN36,375Private, 4-year$11,952Campus
Bachelor’s
  • Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance
Master’s
  • Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance
Doctorate
  • Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance
City College of San FranciscoSan Francisco, CA34,558Public, 2-yearNRCampus
Associate
  • Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance