Best Online Master’s in Computer Forensics Programs of 2021

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Find the right education path to take advantage of this fast-growing industry and join the front-lines on technology and security.

Online computer forensics programs prepare students for lucrative careers protecting computer systems and networks in the growing cybersecurity field.

Computer forensics professionals enjoy an excellent job outlook. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 31% job growth rate for information security analysts in 2019-29 (much faster than the average for all occupations). The risk of cyberattacks increases as organizations move information and operations online, which drives demand for skilled information security personnel.

This guide includes our list of the best online computer forensics master’s programs. We also explain why to get a master’s in computer forensics, describe what to expect from a typical program, and discuss jobs and salary potential for graduates.

Why Get an Online Computer Forensics Master’s?

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 BLS reports 131,000 information security analysts in the U.S. in 2019, which is projected to grow to 171,900 by 2029.

Online computer forensics programs prepare graduates to solve and prevent cybercrimes such as data breaches, identity theft, and electronic fraud.

Major employers of computer forensics professionals 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 describe some benefits of an online master’s in computer forensics.

In-Demand Field
The BLS projects 31% job growthfor information security analysts in 2019-29. The agency attributes this favorable outlook to more frequent cyberthreats increasing demand for improved information security protocols.
Career Opportunities
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. PayScale reports that master’s in computer forensics graduates earn an average annual salary of $87,920 as of May 2021. Comparatively, those with a bachelor’s in the field earn an average salary of $66,603 as of March 2021.

What to Expect From Online Computer Forensics Programs

Online computer 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 requires about 30 credits. School type, learning format, prestige level, and program length can impact degree cost.

Colleges that offer computer forensics programs online 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.

Keep reading to learn more about what to expect from online computer forensics programs.

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Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for most computer forensics programs include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. Schools often require a minimum GPA of 2.5-3.0 and satisfactory GRE or GMAT scores. Other requirements include letters of recommendation, a resume or CV, a statement of purpose, and college transcripts. Some schools conduct an in-person or telephone interview. Students usually must complete an online application and pay a fee to apply.

Many programs accept applications from students with a bachelor’s degree in any field. However, learners without a computer-related undergraduate degree may need to complete prerequisite courses. A bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity or relevant professional experience may increase applicants’ chances of acceptance into a master’s in computer forensics program.

Degree and Specialization Options

Online computer forensics programs provide several master’s degree options. Many schools offer an MS, but students may find computer forensics MBAs or other master’s degree types. Master’s candidates can also pursue specializations in different career paths.

A computer forensics MS focuses on solving cybercrimes and responding to cyberattacks. Graduates with an MS in computer forensics qualify for positions like information security analysts and computer systems analysts. An MBA in computer forensics emphasizes general business skills and principles. This degree prepares students for management positions that combine business knowledge with information technology skills.

Similar programs may offer degrees in digital forensics, cybersecurity engineering, or information assurance. Potential concentrations or specializations in computer forensics include cybersecurity, criminal justice, and data analytics.

Popular Computer Forensics Courses

A computer forensics master’s curriculum varies by program. Most programs require core, elective/concentration, and capstone/project credits. Typical courses explore digital forensics tools and techniques, digital forensics evidence, and cryptography. Some programs also feature leadership, business, and project management classes. Below, we describe some common computer forensics courses.

  • Digital Forensics Evidence

    Students learn about legal issues in digital evidence. Topics include chain of custody, rules of evidence, protocols, and digital forensics analysis.

  • Leadership Fundamentals

    This class covers theories of effective leadership in criminal justice settings. Students learn from past and present leaders and explore management models relevant to criminal justice.

  • Cryptography

    This course focuses on security-related methods for hiding data. Learners explore cryptographic approaches, techniques, and technologies.

  • Digital Forensics Tools and Techniques

    An introduction to practical digital forensics methods, this class examines real-world cases. Topics include digital forensics triage, techniques, and investigation. Students learn to use open source and emerging digital forensics tools.

  • Digital Forensics Capstone

    This culminating experience lets students apply their skills and knowledge to a real-life digital forensics problem. Under faculty supervision, learners create a cybersecurity response plan, analyze data, and document their results in a written and oral report.


How Much Will a Computer Forensics Program Online Cost?

Online computer forensics program costs vary by school. Factors affecting price 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 typically offers the most affordable option. Public institutions often charge out-of-state students higher tuition rates, although some online programs offer a tuition discount to distance learners. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that graduate students at public institutions paid $12,171 in tuition and fees on average in 2018-19, while those attending private universities paid an average of $25,929 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.

The Top Online Master’s in Computer Forensics Schools

  1. University of Central Florida
    Location

    Orlando, FL

    Tuition

    $13016

    The University of Central Florida began in 1963 with a strong interest in space research. Located in Orlando, this public institution awards over 16,000 degrees annually, for a total of more than 347,000 conferred degrees over time. Enrollment surpassed 69,000 for fall 2019 at this military-friendly university. UFC boasts Carnegie Classification and ranks as the 16th most innovative school in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report. The institution's accreditation comes from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    UFC offers a master of science in digital forensics. This program emphasizes cybersecurity and trains students to communicate, examine, and resolve technological issues for companies.

    The curriculum includes 30 credits and three restricted elective course categories: computing and technology, criminal justice, and legal studies. Learners can choose a thesis or non-thesis option and may finish their degree in 24 months. Career opportunities for graduates include analyst and security administrator.

    This online computer forensics degree is a product of several university departments and the National Center for Forensic Science. UCF also delivers online certificates in crime analysis, systems engineering, and design for usability, which can increase students' career options.

    Distance learners at UCF can receive writing guidance through the writing center by using Adobe Connect technology. UCF also provides online tutoring through the student academic resource center. The library offers virtual research consultations to students and allows online candidates to review virtual library materials such as journals and databases. Applicants must provide transcripts, a resume, and a professional statement.

  2. Champlain College
    Location

    Burlington, VT

    Tuition

    $38577

    Champlain College started as the Burlington Collegiate Institute and Commercial College in 1878. The name changed to Champlain in 1958. More than 2,000 students benefit from a 12-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio at this private institution. Around 94% of 2018 alumni from this Vermont school entered the workforce within six months.

    U.S. News & World Report ranks Champlain as the 66th best regional university in the North, 38th best college for veterans, 46th best value school, and eighth most innovative school in the country. The New England Commission of Higher Education accredits the college.

    Champlain's master of science in digital forensic science prepares students to identify and manage cybersecurity threats for multiple devices. Learners are trained to create tools and determine strategies for countering these cyber issues, as well as to assess the value of current protective methods.

    To complete this computer forensics program, degree-seekers must complete 30 credits in courses that explore encryption, investigation, and systems analysis. Graduation also mandates a thesis. Courses embrace asynchronous delivery and last eight weeks each.

    The Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center recognizes the college as a National Center of Digital Forensics Academic Excellence. This distinction means Champlain is among the best schools for computer forensics, which can help graduates earn careers as research scientists, information systems managers, and computer systems analysts.

    Ideal applicants for the computer forensics master's hold a bachelor's and boast relevant field experience. Candidates must also answer essay questions and provide resumes and transcripts. Military students benefit from reduced tuition rates.

  3. Robert Morris University
    Location

    Moon Township, PA

    Tuition

    $25690

    The Pittsburgh School of Accountancy began in 1921 and later became Robert Morris University. The school's first class only included 26 learners. Today, this private university offers over 80 programs, and 94% of RMU graduates enter the workforce or a graduate program within 12 months of degree completion. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education accredits this military-friendly institution.

    The School of Informatics, Humanities, and Social Sciences delivers the master of science in cybersecurity and information assurance. This program equips learners with skills and knowledge for determining cybersecurity risks and creating systems that are safe and effective against those threats.

    This master's calls for 30 credits in computer forensics courses, including microcomputing technology, information technology governance, and network technology and management. As one of the best computer forensics programs in the country, this degree commonly leads to employment with companies like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Giant Eagle, and Heritage Valley Health System. In fact, 84% of RMU alumni enter careers related to their degree.

    RMU also offers an online 21-credit certificate in mobile forensics and security. Learners can also pursue RMU's on-campus doctorate in information systems and communications.

    The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security recognize RMU as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education. RMU learners can participate in events that relate to cybersecurity concepts such as email privacy and identity theft. The school's website also informs students of relevant certification opportunities, journals, and conferences.

  4. University of Arizona
    Location

    Tucson, AZ

    Tuition

    $15594

    The University of Arizona's history begins in 1885. Located in Tucson, this public school boasted 45,918 students in fall 2019 and conferred over 10,000 degrees in 2019. The institution ranks on U.S. News & World Report's lists for top national universities, best colleges for veterans, best value schools, and top public schools. The Higher Learning Commission accredits this university.

    The school offers an online master of science in cybersecurity that examines security issues as they relate to individuals, companies, and countries. Coursework provides information for determining and preventing security threats, as well as dealing with security breaches.

    The program calls for 33 credits and delivers two track options: information systems and physical systems. For either track, learners complete online courses related to computer forensics, including data mining for business intelligence and systems cybersecurity engineering.

    The department is recognized as a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency.

    Applicants for this computer forensics master's should have related field experience, certification, or an undergraduate degree that is no more than 12 months old. Candidates also need a minimum 3.0 GPA and must provide three recommendation letters, a resume, and a purpose statement.

    UA does not charge out-of-state tuition for online learners. The school provides military personnel with reduced tuition rates. Online students can benefit from tutoring through the Think Tank and may access online library resources.

  5. DeSales University
    Location

    Center Valley, PA

    Tuition

    $28244

    Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales opened to students in 1965. This Catholic institution in Center Valley, Pennsylvania, became DeSales University in 2000. Nearly 3,500 learners attend DeSales and benefit from a 13-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. The university ranks among U.S. News & World Report's top 60 regional universities in the North, best colleges for veterans, and best value schools. The school also holds accreditation through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

    Students who are interested in online courses for computer forensics should consider the university's 30-credit master of arts in criminal justice with a focus on digital forensics. Candidates learn to conduct forensic criminal investigations by using current tools, technology, and research. To prepare for these outcomes, the curriculum includes technology-based courses like network and cloud forensics. The program also addresses criminology and criminal law. All learners complete a master's project seminar.

    Online courses at DeSales use Blackboard technology and may be delivered synchronously or asynchronously. All faculty for this master's program boast professional field experience.

    To enter this computer forensics program, degree-seekers must hold a bachelor's and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Admission also requires three recommendation letters and a goals statement. Learners who work in criminal justice benefit from reduced tuition rates. Out-of-state learners do not pay higher tuition than in-state students.

    Learners can earn related graduate certificates from DeSales to increase their employment odds. These credentials cover topics such as cybersecurity, information systems, investigative forensics, counterrorism digital forensics, and homeland security and counterrorism investigations.

  6. Utica College
    Location

    Utica, NY

    Tuition

    $22991

    Utica College started in 1946 in connection to Syracuse University. Current enrollment at this New York college exceeds 5,000, and more than 29,000 learners have graduated from the institution. Utica ranks as the 86th regional university in the North, according to U.S. News and World Report, and boasts accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

    The college's master of science in cybersecurity offers a concentration in computer forensics. This program covers methods of detecting and dealing with cyber crimes related to breaches, data manipulation, and illegal content. Coursework trains students in using current tools, assessing information, and maintaining evidence to solve virtual crimes through 30 credits of courses. Learners must also complete a capstone project.

    Students can graduate in two years. However, candidates without previous coursework related to computer forensics may need to complete a foundational class in cybersecurity. Graduates may work for organizations such as banks, insurance companies, and law enforcement agencies.

    This degree can help individuals obtain certifications as professional investigators, computer hacking forensic investigators, and forensic computer examiners or analysts. These credentials come from organizations such as the International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists.

    The Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency recognize Utica as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education.

    Other specializations for the MS in cybersecurity include electronic crime, intelligence, malware analysis, and cyber operations. The school also offers certificates in related areas, including cyber policy, cybersecurity technologies, cyber network defense, and financial crime and compliance operations.

    Online students can benefit from online tutoring through Smarthinking, including essay feedback through the Online Writing Lab.

  7. University of San Diego
    Location

    San Diego, CA

    Tuition

    $35931

    The University of San Diego dates back to 1949 and offers education that is grounded in Catholic traditions. More than 9,000 students attend USD and can choose from over 75 programs. Over 70,000 learners from more than 140 countries have graduated from this private university. According to U.S. News and World Report, USD ranks as the 91st best national university, 58th best college for veterans, and 66th best value school in the country. The school holds accreditation from Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

    The Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering delivers a master of science in cybersecurity engineering that prepares individuals to detect and counter cybersecurity risks in a variety of settings. The program emphasizes current problems in cybersecurity. Students develop hardware and software skills for designing tools and techniques for safer virtual practices.

    The curriculum includes 30 credits in concepts such as cryptography, security assurance, and cybersecurity operations. Learners can graduate in under two years by enrolling in two asynchronous classes during three 14-week semesters per year. These classes last seven weeks apiece. USD uses Blackboard to deliver online courses.

    Ideal applicants for the program have a bachelor's and work experience in the field. Candidates should also hold a minimum 3.0 GPA and supply a statement of purpose; two references; a resume; and test scores from exams like the Graduate Record Examination, the Graduate Management Admission Test, or the Miller Analogies Test. The university embraces rolling admissions. In-state and out-of-state learners pay equal tuition rates.

  8. University of the Cumberlands
    Location

    Williamsburg, KY

    Tuition

    $17588

    The Williamsburg Institute was founded in 1888 and changed its name to the University of the Cumberlands in 2005. Today, the university educates 11,696 learners, and over one-fourth of these students are first generation. This Kentucky university's accreditation comes from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    To study computer forensics, students can enroll in the institution's master of science in digital forensics. The program equips degree-seekers with technical knowledge for helping companies solve and recover from cyber crimes. Learners also study theories, statistics, communication, and leadership as they relate to digital forensics practices.

    Candidates must earn 31 credits through computer forensics courses such as malware, wireless security, and Windows digital forensics. The curriculum also calls for an applied learning practicum. Alumni can earn positions as police detectives, data security administrators, private investigators, and information technology managers.

    Ideal applicants have a bachelor's, experience in the field, and at least a 2.5 GPA.

    The university does not charge higher tuition for nonresident students.

    The institution is one of the best schools for computer forensics in the country, due to its recognition as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense. This distinction comes from the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency.

    Distance learners can search for available careers through Handshake and polish interview skills through Big Interview. The school also provides online workshops and tutoring for academic assistance. Other online resources include access to e-books and journals through the Hagan Memorial Library.

  9. Stevenson University
    Location

    Stevenson, MD

    Tuition

    $26663

    Located in Maryland, Stevenson University started in 1947 and currently educates more than 2,700 undergraduate learners. These students experience a 14-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, and 92% of graduates enter the workforce or another academic program in the six months following degree conferral. U.S. News & World Report ranks Stevenson as the 75th best regional university in the North, 45th best college for veterans, and 33rd best value school in the nation. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education accredits Stevenson.

    The university offers a master of science in cybersecurity and digital forensics that emphasizes information collection and analysis for criminal cases. Students examine effective procedures through assignments that mimic common issues in cybersecurity, such as data loss.

    Computer forensics courses for this program may cover concepts such as incident response, malware detection, and network penetration testing. The university delivers these courses through Blackboard.

    The program prepares for careers as network engineers, network architects, and cybersecurity engineers and analysts. Stevenson's other certificates -- such as credentials in crime scene investigation, forensic accounting, and forensic investigation -- may also help graduates obtain forensics careers.

    The department requires a related bachelor's or field experience for admission. Candidates must also hold at least a 3.0 GPA and submit a personal statement. For higher admission chances, candidates can also supply a resume and two recommendations.

    Stevenson provides online students with online tutoring through Smarthinking. Virtual learners can also browse library resources, including citation guidelines, research tutorials, and online databases and journals.

  10. Illinois Institute of Technology
    Location

    Chicago, IL

    Tuition

    $13168

    Created through a merger of the Lewis Institute and Armour Institute, the Illinois Institute of Technology began in 1940 and has graduated more than 80,000 learners. This Chicago-based school educated 6,566 students in fall 2019 and conferred over 2,300 degrees in 2018-2019. The student loan default rate for Illinois Tech alumni is 2.7%, which is nearly 9% lower than the national average. The institute ranks as one of the best colleges for veterans and best value schools in the nation, according to U.S. News and World Report, and holds accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission.

    The School of Applied Technology's Department of Information Technology and Management offers a master of cyber forensics and security. The program examines legal, ethical, and technical concepts for overseeing systems and analyzing security issues. Learners explore ethical hacking and efficient protocols for dealing with security breaches.

    The curriculum includes 30 credits in vulnerability analysis and control, digital evidence, and cybersecurity technologies. Candidates can also choose a project path, which requires a research course. The program prepares degree-seekers for careers as information security officers, cybersecurity analysts, and vulnerability researchers.

    Illinois Tech's career services center provides students with Handshake access. Online learners can also explore the school's blog for information on professional development, internships, and networking. Distance students can use electronic library sources, such as journals and research guides.

    Learners at Illinois Tech can take part in study abroad opportunities on all continents but Antarctica. The institution participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program.

Jobs for Computer Forensics Master’s Graduates

Potential computer forensics careers include information security analyst, computer and information systems manager, and computer systems analyst. These occupations typically require at least a bachelor’s degree. However, many employers prefer applicants with master’s degrees, especially for managerial positions.

Master’s in computer forensics graduates may become computer and information research scientists. These professionals earn a median annual salary of $126,830 as of May 2020, according to the BLS. Earning professional certifications to demonstrate technical skills can lead to more career opportunities in the computer and information technology field.

  • Information Security Analysts

    Information security analysts protect computer systems and networks. Typical job duties include researching security trends, creating security standards, detecting and preventing data breaches, and installing software to protect information. These professionals need a bachelor’s degree at a minimum. A professional certification or master’s degree may qualify applicants for more positions.

    Required Education: Bachelor’s degree
    Job Outlook: +31%
    Median Annual Salary: $103,590

  • Computer and Information Systems Managers

    The BLS projects much-faster-than-average job growth for computer and information systems managers in 2019-29. These managers plan and oversee computer- and information systems-related activities. Many specialize in IT security management. Some companies require computer and information systems managers to hold graduate degrees, particularly MBAs.

    Required Education: Bachelor’s degree
    Job Outlook: +10%
    Median Annual Salary: $151,150

  • Computer Systems Analysts

    These professionals study computer systems and make recommendations to improve efficiency. These professionals need a creative mindset, strong analytical and communication skills, and a thorough understanding of their employer’s IT system. They work mainly in computer systems design, finance, and insurance.

    Required Education: Bachelor’s degree
    Job Outlook: +7%
    Median Annual Salary: $93,730

  • Computer and Information Research Scientists

    Computer and information research scientists typically need a master’s degree in computer science or a related field. Some specialize in robotics or programming. Typical tasks include solving complicated computing problems, designing experiments, publishing research findings, and creating new computing languages.

    Required Education: Master’s degree
    Job Outlook: +15%
    Median Annual Salary: $126,830

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Why You Should Get Your 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 degree.

Online computer forensics programs remove geographic limitations for students. Distance learners residing anywhere can pursue a master’s in computer forensics that aligns 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, students should consider their learning style, academic priorities, and professional goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Where can I study computer forensics?

    Colleges and universities across the U.S. offer online computer forensics programs. Many schools allow enrollees to earn a master’s in computer forensics fully online.

  • How long does it take to get an online master's degree in computer forensics?

    Online computer forensics programs typically take two years or less to complete. Program length for a master’s in computer forensics depends on factors like number of required credits, prior graduate credit, and enrollment status (part-time or full-time).

  • What can I do with a degree in computer forensics?

    Graduates with a computer forensics master’s qualify for jobs like information security analyst, computer systems analyst, and computer and information systems manager. Many computer and information research scientists hold a master’s in computer forensics.

  • Is computer forensics in demand?

    The BLS projects 31% job growth for information security analysts in 2019-29. Businesses and government organizations increasingly rely on computer forensics professionals to combat the rise in cyberattacks.

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Are you ready to find a school that's aligned with your interests?

Find the right education path to take advantage of this fast-growing industry and join the front-lines on technology and security.