Earning a Master’s in Computer Forensics Online
Should I Pursue a Master's in Computer Forensics Online?
An online computer forensics master's degree provides a pathway to careers in government, law enforcement, and financial services. As dependence on information technology spreads, many organizations rely on specialists to monitor hardware and software vulnerabilities, recover and protect data, and collect and analyze digital evidence. Fields like information security, criminal investigation, and cybercrime require technologically savvy and detailed-oriented professionals with an analytical mindset and up-to-date-skills acquired through graduate training.
Students entering an online digital forensics master's often have undergraduate degrees in computer science, criminal justice, or natural science. Some master's programs prefer applicants with backgrounds in computer programming, operating systems, or networks. Many students prefer the flexibility and convenience of an online computer forensics master's over traditional on-campus programs. The round-the-clock accessibility appeals to working professionals, and the self-paced courses and web-based format works well for parents who are unable to enroll in full-time, campus-based programs.
Employment Outlook for Master's in Computer Forensics Graduates
Master's in Computer Forensics Salary
Graduates of an online computer forensics master's program can expect to find expanding and well-paying employment possibilities across the U.S., as technicians, data analysts, and administrators. Computer systems analysts, for example, earn a mean salary of $92,740 annually. California, Texas, and New York provide the most employment opportunities for systems analysts. New York, California, Virginia, and Texas offer the highest salaries, well above the national average.
As the field grows, job experience pays off. Forensic computer analysis rewards professionals with experience, awarding the highest salaries to those with 10 or more years in the field.
Top Paying States for Computer Systems Analysts
|State||Employment||Annual Mean Wage|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Pay by Experience Level for Forensic Computer Analysts
- Entry-Level (0-5 Years):
- Mid-Career (5-10 Years):
- Experienced (10-20 Years):
- Late-Career (20+ Years):
Master's in Computer Forensics Careers
Graduates with an online computer forensics master's find placements in government agencies, law enforcement, and security firms recovering and analyzing digital evidence. Forensic specialists of all kinds find employment in private industries and financial organizations, monitoring computer networks and data storage systems. If you understand computer technology and applications, have an aptitude for data collection and analysis, and enjoy the challenge of investigation and research, consider one of the emerging career possibilities in computer forensics, including but not limited to these options:
Forensic Computer Analysts
Annual Median Salary: $70,398
These specialists analyze large amounts of computer-based information. Their duties include examining hard drives and data storage devices to discover user patterns and recovering information from corrupted devices. Most positions require at least a bachelor's in computer forensics. Many employers look for graduate-trained analysts or those with knowledge of industry best practices and work experience.
Computer Security Specialist
Annual Median Salary: $71,831
Computer security specialists oversee and troubleshoot security systems, administer updates, and conduct periodic testing in many organizational settings. These professionals must be knowledgeable about security products such as VPN, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems. They must stay current in the field to anticipate new threats and utilize the best available applications. Because of the skills required, many employers seek specialists with graduate training and work experience.
Digital Forensic Investigator
Annual Median Salary: $70,614
These professionals conduct forensic investigations of digital information and electronic discovery for criminal, legal, and corporate entities. Their responsibilities include investigations, eDiscovery, digital forensics, and incident response. They also develop and administer strategic initiatives and policy for IP protection and data security. A growing number of employers require their investigators to hold specialized certifications and master's degrees.
Forensic Data Analyst
Annual Median Salary: $70,614
These analysts employ forensic applications to collect, summarize, and interpret evidence for the investigation of criminal, financial, and corporate crime. In some positions, they monitor cybersecurity to protect computer networks and systems from external attacks and anticipate external vulnerabilities. Data analysts must keep current with the latest IT security applications. These specialists usually have a bachelor's degree in computer forensics and many obtain advanced training at the graduate level and/or specialized certifications.
Annual Median Salary: $60,769
Working in law enforcement agencies, forensic examiners retrieve information from computers and other electronic storage devices for evidence of illegal activity. They recover data like documents, images, and e-mails from hard drives and other data storage devices that have been deleted, damaged, or otherwise manipulated. A master's degree in computer forensics provides a competitive edge for these positions.
What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Computer Forensics Program?
Each online computer forensics master's degree program has its own curriculum and focus. However, the majority of master's programs share a similar structure and common elements. Students first complete the core foundational courses, followed by electives and specialized courses that directly relate to their theses or culminating capstone projects.
Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Computer Forensics
- Foundations of Computing, Security, and Data Protection: This introductory course introduces students to network analysis, routing protocols, and software and hardware risks. Students learn various methods of data storage, processing, and protections, including cryptology and encryption, authentication protocols, certificate authorities, privacy protections, and security protocols.
- Digital Forensics Technology and Practices: Students gain proficiency with the tools and technologies used in computer forensic examinations and investigations. The course explores best practices for securing and validating evidence, including digital media and physical memory, and recovering artifacts. Students learn procedures and protocols for analyzing, and reporting results for criminal and civil cases.
- Digital Forensics and Encryption: This examination of encryption techniques demonstrates practical applications for forensic investigators, analysts, and examiners. Students learn encryption and hashing algorithm techniques, including the relationship of algorithm complexity to password strength and password cracking tools. The course covers whole-disk encryption, memory and network-based encryption, the use of encryption in Malware applications, steganography, and other techniques used to hide data.
- Mobile Device Forensics: This course teaches students how to recover data and digital evidence from mobile devices such as smartphones, GPS devices, and tablets, and how to unlock and root devices, bypass lock codes and recover data from damaged devices. The course covers Linux and ANAND technology, and mobile file systems.
- Digital Crime, Evidence, and Procedure: Students learn procedures for criminal investigations and methods for conducting digital crime research. The course introduces students to digital crime, including hacking, phishing, cyber bullying, and identity theft. Students explore the ways government, industry, and law enforcement agencies respond to these threats, with an emphasis on the federal laws that control cyber crime and criminal procedures in law enforcement.
Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Computer Forensics Prepares For
- GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst: Professionals working in information security, computer forensics, and incident response fields may seek the GCFA credential. The GCFA certifies that candidates have the knowledge and skills to carry out formal incident investigations and manage advanced incident handling scenarios, such as internal and external data breach intrusions, advanced persistent threats, and complex digital forensic cases. Candidates must pass a proctored exam.
- Certified Forensic Computer Examiner: Administered by the Information Assurance Certification Review Board, the CCFE credential establishes fundamental knowledge of computer forensics evidence recovery and analysis. Candidates must demonstrate their knowledge of both hard and soft skills, including legal and ethical issues related to computer forensics, by passing an online exam and a practical take-home test.
- Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator: The CGHI certificate validates a candidate's investigative skills for the identification of intruder footprints and their ability to gather evidence acceptable for criminal prosecution. Candidates demonstrate knowledge of data discovery and data recovery from deleted, encrypted, or damaged files. CHFI certification requires two years of work experience in information security or official training.
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