A master's degree in computer forensics prepares graduates to pursue in-demand careers solving cybercrimes, stopping cyberattacks, and improving computer security.
Computer forensics is an interdisciplinary field that incorporates computer science, criminal justice, and cybersecurity. Some schools refer to computer forensics and digital forensics interchangeably.
Computer forensics students learn to collect and analyze computer-based evidence to solve crimes. Programs explore ethical hacking, penetration testing, and legal and ethical issues. Potential work environments for computer forensics professionals include the criminal justice system, government agencies, and information technology.
As cyberattacks rise in frequency, organizations increasingly need cybersecurity professionals, making now an excellent time to pursue a computer forensics degree. This guide outlines what to expect from a computer forensics master's program, along with job opportunities for graduates.
To choose a program, consult our rankings list of the top computer forensics colleges below.
Why Get a Master's Degree in Computer Forensics?
Online computer forensics programs prepare graduates to solve and prevent cybercrimes such as data breaches, identity theft, and electronic fraud. A computer forensics master's degree combines criminal justice knowledge and information technology skills. Students learn to identify, analyze, preserve, and document digital evidence.
Master's in computer forensics graduates can pursue careers as information security analysts, computer and information systems managers, computer systems analysts, and computer and information research scientists.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment for information security analysts in the U.S. will grow by 33% from 2020-2030 — a rate significantly faster than the national average for all occupations.
Major computer forensics employers include the computer systems design, finance and insurance, and management industries. Most industry sectors rely on skilled computer forensics professionals to protect sensitive and valuable data. However, financial and healthcare institutions may be especially vulnerable to cybercrime.
While earning a computer forensics degree takes time, money, and hard work, it can increase income potential and job opportunities. Below, we list benefits of completing an online master's in computer forensics.
In-Demand Field: The BLS projects 33% job growth for information security analysts from 2030-2030. Frequent cyberthreats driving demand for improved information security protocols contribute to the positive career outlook. Career Opportunities: On-campus and online computer forensics programs prepare students for careers in information security analysis, computer and information research, and computer and information systems management. Salary Potential: The computer forensics field offers competitive salaries. BLS data indicates that computer systems analysts made a 2020 median income of $93,730. Though this role requires only a bachelor's degree, a computer forensics master's degree can help to increase your salary.
What to Expect From a Computer Forensics Master's Program
Computer forensics and digital forensics programs explore cybersecurity, information assurance, business management, and evidence collection. Students learn to respond to cyberattacks, recover data, investigate illegal activities, and lead information technology teams.
A typical computer forensics master's program takes two years or less to complete and comprises about 30 credits. School type, learning format, prestige level, and program length can affect degree cost.
Colleges with online or in-person computer forensics programs may award master of science (MS) or master of business administration (MBA) degrees. Computer forensics programs offer concentrations in cybersecurity, criminal justice, and information systems.
Popular computer forensics classes focus on digital forensics evidence, web browser forensics, cryptography, and leadership fundamentals. Many programs require a final-semester capstone or research project.
Learn more about what to expect from computer forensics programs.
Admission requirements for most computer forensics programs include a bachelor's degree from an accredited university. Schools often require a minimum 2.5-3.0 GPA and satisfactory GRE or GMAT scores.
Other requirements include letters of recommendation, a resume or CV, a statement of purpose, and college transcripts. Some institutions conduct in-person or telephone interviews. Candidates may need to complete an online application and pay a fee.
Many programs accept applications from students with bachelor's degrees in any field. However, learners without computer-related undergraduate degrees may need to complete prerequisite courses.
Possessing a bachelor's degree in computer forensics or general cybersecurity, or relevant professional experience, may increase applicants' chances of acceptance into master's in computer forensics programs.
Degree and Concentration Options
Master's programs in digital and computer forensics have various degree and concentration options. Some programs confer degrees in cybersecurity with a concentration in computer forensics. Schools feature online, in-person, and hybrid computer forensics degrees.
MS in Computer Forensics: An MS in computer or digital forensics emphasizes computer forensics theory and practice. Students explore topics like information assurance, risk mitigation, and ethical hacking. Master of Business Administration in Computer Forensics: An MBA in computer forensics includes a broad general business education. This degree develops specialized digital forensics skills for use in various business settings. Graduates can pursue many different business careers focusing on information security issues. MS in Cybersecurity with a concentration in Computer Forensics: An MS in cybersecurity with a computer forensics concentration focuses on the broad field of cybersecurity with a few specialized classes in computer forensics topics.
Computer forensics master's curricula vary among programs. Most degrees require core, elective/concentration, and capstone/project credits. Standard courses explore digital forensics tools and techniques, digital forensics evidence, and cryptography. Some programs also feature leadership, business, and project management classes. Below are some common computer forensics courses.
Network Security: This core class covers the foundations of computer networks and distributed processing. Students explore risk management and assessment, network security policies, and security protocols for network infrastructure. Cryptography: Computer forensics majors learn about data integrity and authentication, public key cryptography, secure email protocol, and security engineering with cryptography. Other topics in this elective class include digital signature schemes, symmetric ciphers, and electronic payment security. Digital Forensics Evidence: This core course introduces information systems and methods that computer forensics professionals use to analyze computer-based information. Topics include preservation and analysis of computer data, technology for retrieving evidence, data warehousing and mining, and statistical methods. Mobile Forensics: Students explore forensics issues in mobile and wireless environments. They study wireless network protocols and principles and learn to collect and analyze digital evidence from mobile devices. The class also covers the legal and ethical issues of mobile forensics. Digital Forensics Capstone: A digital forensics capstone course allows enrollees to synthesize the knowledge and skills gained throughout the program during their last semester. Students complete individual and group projects that explore real-world problems in digital forensics.
How Much Do Master's in Digital Forensics Degrees Cost?
Computer forensics program costs vary by school. Pricing factors include school type (public or private), student residency status (in-state or out-of-state), and program format (online, in-person, or hybrid).
Attending a public university as an in-state student is often the most affordable option. Public institutions often charge out-of-state enrollees higher tuition rates, although some online programs offer tuition discounts for distance learners.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that graduate students at public institutions paid $12,410 in tuition and fees on average in 2019-20, while those attending private universities paid an average of $26,597 per year.
Financing options for online computer forensics programs include scholarships, grants, and student loans. Master's candidates may qualify for graduate assistantships and fellowships. Students should contact their school's financial aid office for more information.
Jobs for Master's in Computer Forensics Graduates
Graduates with computer forensics degrees can pursue cybersecurity and computer science careers as information security analysts and computer and information research scientists. The BLS projects faster-than-average growth from 2020-2030 for these occupations.
Earning computer forensics-related certifications can help you qualify for more jobs and differentiate yourself from the competition. Below, we describe potential careers for master's in computer forensics graduates, including frequent duties, advancement opportunities, and industries that often hire this position.
Information Security Analyst
These security analysts protect organizations' computer systems and networks. They monitor for security breaches, use software to protect data, and oversee network and computer systems to identify vulnerabilities. Many employers prefer information security analysts with information security certifications like the Certified Information Systems Security Professional.
Computer Systems Analysts
Computer systems analysts improve the efficiency of organizations' computer systems. They work primarily in the computer systems design and finance industries. Typical job duties include researching new technologies, calculating costs and benefits of upgrades and new systems, and training computer users.
Computer and Information Research Scientists
Computer and information research scientists study computers and create new computing technologies. They need excellent analytical, math, and problem-solving skills. Employers sometimes prefer to hire computer and information research scientists with doctoral degrees. These professionals can advance to pursue computer and information systems manager roles.
Computer and Information Systems Managers
A computer and information systems manager, sometimes called an information technology manager, oversees the computer-related issues for an organization. They recommend computer upgrades to management, analyze the costs and benefits of computer projects, and research new technologies for their organization. Many computer and information systems managers start in lower positions within IT departments.
An incident responder helps an organization improve information security efforts by preventing and responding to security threats. They monitor for security breaches, create security protocols, and produce reports for management describing security incidents. Incident responders need good communication, problem-solving, and analytical skills.
Required Education: Bachelor's or master's degree
Average Annual Salary: $87,060
Selecting the Right Master's Program
Choosing the right master's in computer forensics program requires careful research. Below, we discuss some important factors to consider when making your decision.
Accreditation: Attending a regionally accredited school makes it easier to receive financial aid, qualify for professional certifications, and transfer credit to other programs. Accreditation also indicates that students can trust their education will be high quality. Cost: The price of a digital forensics degree varies by type of school (public or private), program format (online or in-person), and level of prestige. Finding a program at a public institution where you can pay in-state tuition may offer the most affordable pathway. Program Length: Program length varies by school and may include part-time, full-time, or accelerated options. Earning Potential: How much do graduates of the prospective school or program earn after completing this degree? Some programs provide this information on their websites. If they do not, you can contact the program director to ask.
Should You Get Your Computer Forensics Degree Online?
Many universities offer convenient, cost-effective computer forensics programs online. These programs often allow students to complete coursework anytime and anywhere. This flexibility may appeal to learners planning to work full time while earning their degrees.
Online computer forensics programs remove geographic limitations for students. Distance learners can pursue master's in computer forensics degrees from anywhere that align with their professional goals and interests.
Completing a computer forensics master's degree online can help students save money by avoiding on-campus housing costs, transportation expenses, and on-campus fees. When deciding if online learning will work for them, prospective enrollees should consider their learning style, academic priorities, and professional goals.
Explore Related Programs
Top Colleges for Computer Forensics Degrees
Ready to find a computer forensics program and earn your master's degree? Explore the ranklings list of our top computer forensics colleges to start your search. The link below provides more information about how we rank schools.
#1 Online College in New York
CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice
|Location||New York, New York|
|Percent Online Enrollment||
A public institution, CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice delivers academic programs from its campus in New York. At the school, graduate degree-seekers can enroll in a master's in computer forensics. The program features a rigorous curriculum, helping enrollees develop foundational knowledge in the field.
Master's students gain specialized knowledge during advanced computer forensics classes. The institution's accredited master's programs prepare learners for advanced professional roles and career success. Master's students can access support services such as academic advising, career-planning resources, and faculty mentorship. Graduates who are new to the field and those with established computer forensics careers can apply for advanced positions with a master's degree.
The institution holds accreditation, which enables degree-seekers with financial need to qualify for federal grants and loans. At the school, 85% of graduate students fund their education through financial aid.
CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice Facts:
Number of Master's Programs: 12
Online Master's Program Count: 1
Graduate Tuition In-State: $11,090
Graduate Tuition Out-of-State: $20,520
Transfer Credits Toward Degree: No
#2 Online College in Virginia
George Mason University
|Percent Online Enrollment||
Located in Virginia, George Mason University administers 87 on-campus and online master's programs. Degree-seekers can pursue high-quality master's programs from the institution, including a master's in digital forensics and cyber analysis.
Master's programs in any field help learners gain the transferable knowledge and skills that employers value. The program requires students to enroll in high-level courses in computer forensics. While completing degree requirements, degree-seekers explore field-specific topics and prepare for careers.
While studying full time, learners typically need about two years to complete a master's program. Online and on-campus learners can access support services such as tutoring and career counseling. Student organizations provide professional development and networking opportunities to help degree-seekers succeed in their field.
George Mason University Facts:
Student Enrollment: 37,863
Master's Degrees: 87
Grad School Tuition: $12,144 in-state; $33,456 out-of-state
Average Aid Per Learner: $6,524
Average Price With Aid: $20,157
The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
#3 Online College in Maryland
University of Baltimore
|Percent Online Enrollment||
University of Baltimore is a Maryland-based public institution delivering a variety of graduate programs. Learners attending University of Baltimore can earn a master's in computer forensics. The master's program prepares learners to enter the job market or advance their current computer forensics career.
The computer forensics program features a rigorous curriculum and meets high academic standards for graduate studies. Students can select field-specific electives and complete practical learning experiences to prepare for industry roles. The school delivers support services including academic advising and career counseling.
Master's students pursuing their computer forensics degree full time typically graduate in 1-2 years. Degree-seekers with financial need can submit the FAFSA to qualify for federal grants, scholarships, and loans.
University of Baltimore Fast Facts:
Total Master's Programs: 30
Distance Learning Master's Programs: 3
Students Receiving Aid: 97%
Students Receiving Loans: 47%
Transfer Credits Allowed: No
#4 Online College in Maryland
|Percent Online Enrollment||
Master's degree-seekers gain advanced knowledge from high-level courses in their field. Master's-level curricula emphasize the knowledge and skills that employers value. Courses build on foundational knowledge and cover advanced field-specific topics.
Full-time students typically earn their master's degree in two years. Information on the acceptance of transfer credits can be found on the institution's website. To help students succeed, the school provides a variety of support services. Degree-seekers can pursue peer tutoring to improve their academic performance.
To fund their education, 99% of the institution's learners obtain financial aid and 60% take out loans. Learners can reduce out-of-pocket costs by applying for grants and scholarships. Stevenson University reports an admission rate of 81% for incoming degree-seekers.
The school holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, a regional accrediting body.
#5 Online College in Vermont
|Percent Online Enrollment||
Graduate degree-seekers can pursue many of Champlain College's master's programs online or in person. The private institution's offerings include 13 online and on-campus master's programs. These programs rank among the top master's programs in the country.
The institution's online master's degree in digital forensic science features advanced computer forensics coursework. The program's rigorous curriculum provides foundational knowledge through core classes. Electives and experiential learning opportunities allow students to prepare for niche careers. Faculty advisors help graduate students explore complex issues facing professionals in the field. Graduates often benefit from increased computer forensics career opportunities after earning their master's degree.
Online master's programs at the school cost an average of $329 per credit. The institution holds accreditation, which means students can submit the FAFSA and determine whether they qualify for federal financial aid. Learners in the school's online programs can access support services such as tutoring and career counseling. For details about application deadlines and requirements, prospective applicants can contact an admissions advisor.
FAQ About Master's Degrees in Computer Forensics
What can you do with a master's in computer forensics?
A computer forensics degree prepares graduates to pursue various jobs in cybersecurity and computer science. Potential career opportunities include information security analyst, incident responder, and computer and information systems manager.
Is there a difference between computer forensics and digital forensics degrees?
Computer forensics focuses on computers, while digital forensics encompasses all digital devices. However, many programs refer to computer forensics and digital forensics interchangeably.
Are some of the top computer forensics degree programs online?
Yes. Schools offer top computer forensics degrees through online and hybrid delivery. Online programs may offer computer forensics classes in real-time, asynchronously, or through a combination of both.
Is a digital forensics degree worth it?
Earning a master's in computer forensics takes time and money but can pay off. A computer forensics degree can help students gain the knowledge and skills they need to apply for many in-demand and high-paying computing careers.
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