The ever-increasing number of data applications and cyberattacks has created a massive demand for information security professionals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects information security analysts to be one of the fastest-growing occupations in the country between 2020 and 2030.
With a computer forensics degree, graduates can qualify for these promising positions, along with many other computer occupations.
Computer forensics professionals possess the skills to protect against, investigate, and recover from cyberattacks. Training in this discipline equips students with valuable security, analytical, and communication skills that they can apply in various careers and industries. On this page, we examine the computer forensics degree and rank the top programs in the field.
Top 3 online schools for computer forensics
Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology
Avg. annual net price: $6,500
Application fee: $40
Dakota State University
Avg. annual net price: $17,691
Application fee: $35
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Avg. annual net price: $33,428
Application fee: $50
The best online bachelor’s in computer forensics degrees
We have listed and ordered the top computer forensic degrees in the nation using ZDNet’s ranking methodology. We collect and curate data from publicly available national datasets and then apply our proprietary algorithm to determine what programs make the list.
Unless otherwise indicated, data is drawn from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Scorecard.
What to expect in an online bachelor’s in computer forensics degree program
In general, a computer forensics degree at the bachelor’s level provides students with digital investigative skills and techniques. They learn to secure and protect the privacy of computer systems, networks, and users. To accomplish this, the programs combine theoretical and practical training using various operating systems, applications, and software.
While students usually work independently, some group assignments may be required. Several courses throughout the training will feature practical projects and lab work, and many programs offer practicum or internship opportunities for more hands-on training.
While computer forensics is often a specialization within a computer science discipline, some programs allow learners to pursue a more focused track, such as data loss prevention and incident response.
Computer forensics courses
The courses in a computer forensics degree may touch on various aspects of computer science, including computer engineering, systems management, and cybersecurity. The following courses highlight some of the more forensic-focused topics students might encounter.
In this course, students learn to use the most popular forensics tools and techniques. They look at investigative methods, including the collection and reporting of evidence.
Digital privacy and ethics
Students in this course study the privacy laws and ethics in the digital world. They analyze philosophical and legal issues in the field, including hacking, piracy, and copyrights.
This course familiarizes students with common network threats and teaches them how to protect against them. Some of the study topics may include cryptography, malicious software, and security standards and protocols.
In this course, students learn how to conduct penetration tests safely and effectively. Learners develop the skills to detect system weaknesses and identify the targets of potential attackers.
Computer forensics degree levels
With each subsequent degree level, students progress into more advanced materials and specialized skills. Associate degrees offer entry-level studies, bachelor’s degrees provide comprehensive training, master’s degrees focus on management, and doctoral programs emphasize research and advancement. Prospective students should first identify their educational and career goals and then pursue the cybersecurity training option that helps them get there.
Associate in computer forensics
- Length: Two years
- Cost: $11,389/year in 2018-19
- Post-grad careers: Computer support specialist, computer programmer, and web developer
Most associate computer forensics degrees provide students with general education and computer science fundamentals training. These programs also delve into the basics of cyberattacks and security, along with evidence collection and reporting.
Learners may pick up various technical skills in programming and networking during their training. While graduates qualify for several entry-level careers, many build off this degree and continue their studies in a bachelor’s program.
Bachelor’s in computer forensics
- Length: Four years
- Cost: $28,123 /year in 2018-19
- Post-grad careers: Information security analyst, computer systems analyst, and computer network architect
Some bachelor’s degrees in computer forensics provide a computer science foundation and a computer forensics specialization, whereas others focus primarily on forensics. In the latter programs, students may study topics like network security, mobile forensics, and cryptography. Most learners take criminal law and ethics courses as well.
Bachelor’s level programs feature plenty of practical training, including practicums and internships. Graduates can qualify for most entry-level cybersecurity roles, along with many other computer occupations.
Master’s in computer forensics
- Length: One to two years
- Cost: $19,792/year in 2019-20
- Post-grad careers: Computer research scientist, computer systems manager, and top executive
A master’s in computer forensics equips learners with more advanced computer science knowledge and forensics strategies. These programs prepare students to take leadership roles when handling systems and network threats and attacks.
Students can also specialize in their field of interest, such as working with specific systems, software, and applications. The training at this level features a heavy dose of research and practical training. Graduates qualify for most computer occupations and many leadership roles in the field.
Doctorate in computer forensics
- Length: Three to six years
- Cost: $19,792/year in 2019-20
- Post-grad careers: Postsecondary teacher, computer research scientist, and computer systems engineer
In a computer forensics doctoral program, students conduct extensive research in their field of expertise. They seek for new and advanced computer forensic methods and technologies, while also analyzing the latest developments and theories in the field.
Though learners can still incorporate practical applications into their training, most of their studies include research and theoretical explorations. In this field, doctorate-holders pursue teaching and research roles, policy positions, and leadership occupations within the business and technology industries.
By choosing a computer forensics degree, learners can pursue various computer and cybersecurity careers, one of the fastest-growing occupations in the nation. In the wake of increasing cyberattacks, you can help organizations store, protect, and recover their data.
Using the above list of computer forensics degrees, you can find a highly ranked program and pursue a top-paying career in cybersecurity.