Computer Forensics Degrees: Associate, Bachelor's & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in a computer forensics degree program? Read about program requirements, the pros and cons of an associate's degree and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Studying Computer Forensics: Degrees at a Glance

Computer forensics specialists conduct investigations and recover computer data after misuse, system failure or criminal activity. You could defend your organization against illegal hacking with competence in computer forensics, electronic discovery, and information security. You might land a job with a law enforcement or government agency, corporation or consulting firm after completing an on-campus or distance learning program through a 2- or 4-year school.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that employment of private detectives and investigators, a group including computer forensics professionals, to grow 21% from 2010-2020, compared with an average growth rate of 14% for all careers. You'll have to keep up with technological changes to advance in this rapidly expanding and changing field where continuing education and professional certification options are varied.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals seeking an entry-level position in computer forensics or transfer to a bachelor's degree program Individuals interested in management positions or career advancement
Common Career Paths (with approximate median salary) - Private investigator ($48,000)*
- Police officer ($46,000)*
- Forensic computer analyst ($42,000)*
- Intelligence analyst ($69,000)*
- FBI agent ($66,711)*
- Network engineer ($62,000)*
- Fraud investigator ($49,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years, full-time 4-5 years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Typically 60-70 credits, including major area subjects and liberal arts core requirements
- Internship
- Approximately 120 credits
- Internship or capstone project
Prerequisites - High school diploma or GED
- 2 years each high school math and science or equivalent
- High school diploma, GED or associate degree
- Math and science background appropriate to program
Online Availability Yes, often through private schools Yes, often through private schools

Source: *PayScale.com (2012 figures).

Associate Degree in Computer Forensics

In this Associate of Science or Associate of Applied Business degree program, you'll learn to recover and analyze computer data for digital evidence needed for investigative purposes. You may study network security and intrusion detection so that you can protect your organization against vulnerabilities. This degree could prepare you for entry-level positions with criminal justice entities or security specialist or consulting opportunities with other organizations.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Credits may be transferable to a 4-year institution
  • Inexpensive, shorter option could help you earn a paycheck faster
  • Internships could lead to job contacts

Cons

  • Additional training may be required for management positions
  • Knowledge rapidly obsolete; lifelong learning commitment required
  • High-quality, targeted certificate programs may be adequate to land a first job

Courses and Requirements

You'll complete general education courses and technical courses covering computing concepts, networking and computer forensics. Studies will include criminal justice and computer science courses. These can prepare you to transfer to a 4-year program. Schools may require internship or capstone experiences.

Specific courses might include:

  • Data recovery techniques
  • Cyber-crime
  • Intrusion detection and prevention
  • Search and seizure issues
  • Technology crimes and law

Online Course Options

Fully online programs are sometimes available, and more likely to be available at private schools. You may also find stand-alone classes in computer forensics online.

Standing Out with This Degree

You may be able to join a computer forensics club at your school that will offer leadership and learning opportunities. Hands-on experience and internships could help you land a first job.

Bachelor's Degree in Computer Forensics

A bachelor's degree program in computer forensics may prepare you for entry-level positions in corporate security, homeland security or intelligence, finance or law enforcement. With this degree, you could defend against financial and Internet crimes and assist with prosecution of criminals. Some schools are recognized by law enforcement agencies and programs may be modeled on those recognized by the federal National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • You may qualify for management-level or consulting positions faster
  • Education can be tailored to your interests through elective courses
  • May complete resumé-enhancing field experiences and internships
  • Access to specialized lab facilities on campus and to institutional partners could provide beneficial hands-on experience

Cons

  • Constant update of skills and continuing education required
  • Competition with candidates who have associate degrees, specialized certificates or targeted industry training
  • Time and expense of a 4-5 year program

Courses and Requirements

You'll take courses in the investigation of inappropriate computer activity on an individual computer or a network, including collection and analysis of digital evidence. Training could include study of basic legal concepts, ethical use of technology and use of forensic knowledge to design a comprehensive security plan. You may be able to tailor your curriculum to your interests, better preparing you for employment in areas like information assurance, economic crime investigation or cyber-crime investigation.

Courses that you may encounter in a bachelor's program include:

  • Digital evidence and procedure
  • Techniques in criminal investigation
  • Cyber-crime investigations and forensics
  • Information system threats, attacks and defenses
  • Computer organization and programming, various languages
  • Computer and network security

Online Degree and Course Options

While it's possible for you to enroll in an online bachelor's degree program, they are uncommon. You're more likely to find them through private schools. Online degree programs may have fewer opportunities for hands-on learning.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

You may be able to pursue part-time employment, volunteer work, internships or a capstone experience in this field while earning your degree. Some schools have computer forensics lab facilities, centers or institutes where students are welcome. Your school may also prepare you for professional certification, such as the Certified Computer Examiner (CCE) certification examination offered by the International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security - Computer Systems Security
      • Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security - Information Assurance
      • Bachelor: Information Technology
      • BS - Management - Cybersecurity Management
      • BS - Business Administration - IT
      • BS - IT - Security
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS in Information Technology/Information Security and Assurance
      • BS in Cybersecurity
      • BSIT - Information Management
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    3. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Technology: Information Assurance and Security
      • Bachelor of Information Technology - Digital Investigation
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS - Information Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    5. ECPI University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor's - Network Security
      • Bachelor's - Cloud Computing
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. in Information Technology with an Emphasis in Cyber Security
      • B.S. in Information Technology
      • Bachelor of Science in Business Information Systems
      • Bachelor of Science in Applied Business Information Systems
      • B.S. in Computer Programming
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Information Technology: Security Technology Concentration
      • Bachelor: Technology Management
      • B.S. - Information Technology: Network Management Concentration
      • B.S. - Information Technology Admin and Management With No Declared Minor or Concentration
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Utica College

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS in Cybersecurity - Information Assurance
      • BS in Cybersecurity - Cyber Operations
      • BS in Cybersecurity - Network Forensics and Intrusion Investigation
      • Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation
      • Online Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity
      • Online Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation - Financial Investigation
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science - Cyber Forensics/Information Security
      • B.S.s - Management Information Systems
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. Business Information Systems
      • B.S. General Studies - Computer Information Technology

Featured Schools

Colorado Technical University

  • Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security - Computer Systems Security
  • Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security - Information Assurance
  • Bachelor: Information Technology

Are you a US citizen?

Kaplan University

  • BS in Information Technology/Information Security and Assurance
  • BS in Cybersecurity
  • BSIT - Information Management

Which subject are you interested in?

American InterContinental University

  • Bachelor of Technology: Information Assurance and Security
  • Bachelor of Information Technology - Digital Investigation
  • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology

Are you a US citizen?

Colorado State University Global

  • BS - Information Technology

What is your highest level of education?

ECPI University

  • Bachelor's - Network Security
  • Bachelor's - Cloud Computing

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • B.S. in Information Technology with an Emphasis in Cyber Security
  • B.S. in Information Technology
  • Bachelor of Science in Business Information Systems

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • B.S. - Information Technology: Security Technology Concentration
  • Bachelor: Technology Management
  • B.S. - Information Technology: Network Management Concentration

What is your highest level of education?

Utica College

  • BS in Cybersecurity - Information Assurance
  • BS in Cybersecurity - Cyber Operations
  • BS in Cybersecurity - Network Forensics and Intrusion Investigation

What is your highest level of education completed?