Are you passionate about computer systems and architectures? Can you envision yourself securing important digital networks for big companies? Do you love problem-solving, investigation, and puzzles?
Then a degree in computer forensics may be the next best step for you!
What kind of Computer Forensics degree should you get?
While it’s true that each of these 10 programs ensure a solid foundation in computer forensic fundamentals, each program varies in emphasis and structure.
For example, Boston University offers a broader MS in Computer Science degree that allows you to specialize in cyber security. Meanwhile, UAB offers an MS in Computer Forensics and Security Management degree.
Whether you want a specialized program or one with broader applications, just be sure to find one that best suits your career goals. You may also want to consider online education, which can often be earned at a fraction of the cost of an on-campus degree.
Check out College Choice’s Best Online Master’s in Computer Forensics!
How much money do people make with a Computer Forensics degree?
A job in high-stakes security is a notably secure career move! Cyber crime is on the rise; so is the employment outlook for digital forensics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the market to grow another 28 percent in just the next few years!
A career in digital forensics is also lucrative. BLS provides salary averages for information security analysts at $95,000 annually. But depending on training and experience level, which you will earn with one of these degrees, that salary can jump up to over $115,000 annually, according to PayScale.
What can you do with a Computer Forensics degree?
With an advanced degree in computer forensics you will be equipped to work in a range of industries and settings. From government agencies to healthcare providers, from the corporate office to Silicon Valley, a program that blends information technology with security, such as an MS in Computer Forensics degree, will serve you well.
Many of the graduates from the programs below have secured rewarding careers as:
- Crime Analysts
- Business Intelligence Analysts
- Homeland Security Officials
- Computer Forensic Investigators
- Digital Fraud Specialists
What are the requirements for a Computer Forensics Master’s?
Most of these programs are two-year master’s degrees. You’ll allocate your first year or term to building a foundation in computer forensic fundamentals. This will include classes such as:
- Modern Cryptography
- Network Security
- Media Forensics
- Digital Forensics I and II
Then, in your second year you will be able to specialize through either a formal concentration or through an arrangement of electives. Some schools will also require a capstone project, a written thesis, or an internship. We’ve been sure to note those.
What are the best Computer Forensics degrees?
Though some of these programs are offered by smaller tech-focused schools and others are offered through sprawling research universities, they all share one thing in common: they offer the nation’s best computer forensics programs.
To find the best graduate degrees in computer forensics we first looked exhaustively at all the schools around the country offering such a program. From there we considered critical key factors such as academic reputation and retention rate, the latter being a reflection of student satisfaction. Then we examined tuition rates and graduates’ salaries to figure out the return on investment.
After such extensive research we determined the country’s 10 Best Computer Forensic degrees.
Carnegie Mellon University
College Choice Score: 100
Average Net Price: $35,250
Located in Pittsburgh, PA, Carnegie Mellon University was founded as a technical school. It maintains those roots today with some of the best tech programs in the nation. But it has also grown into a large university comprised of seven colleges that offer an array of academic and professional programs.
The Information Networking Institute and the College of Engineering at CMU offers a graduate certificate in Cyber Forensics and Incident Response. This is an ideal program for those who want to advance their skills in and knowledge of network forensics and digital investigations. You’ll take four classes to fulfill the certificate requirements:
- Host-Based Forensics
- Applied Information Assurance
- Network Forensics
- Cyber Forensics and Incident Response Capstone
With a solid reputation for its research contributions across the sciences, Carnegie Mellon’s computer science programs are top-ranked. Indeed, its graduate computer science and engineering programs are ranked first and fifth respectively. Newsweek recently named Carnegie Mellon a “New Ivy.”
Johns Hopkins University
College Choice Score: 95.96
Average Net Price: $27,352
Located in Baltimore, MD, Johns Hopkins University is one of the East Coast’s best research universities. Though strong in many academic and professional areas, JHU is best known for its computer science, medicine, and public policy programs, among others. Approximately 20,000 students attend JHU.
JHU offers a MS in Security Informatics degree that is immersive and can be earned in just three terms. At JHU you’ll partner closely with the Center for Leadership Education and the Whiting School of Engineering. And you’ll take a range of classes that cover the spectrum of security informatics, such as:
- Modern Cryptography
- Security and Privacy in Computing
- Ethical Hacking
- Network Security
A founding member of the illustrious American Association of Universities, JHU also belongs to the Big Ten Conference. Campus houses the Peabody Institute, the Applied Physics Laboratory, and much more. JHU is lauded by the likes of U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, and much more.
College Choice Score: 91.20
Average Net Price: $11,693
Purdue University is a flagship school located in West Lafayette, IN. It is considered one of the best schools in the Midwest and is a member of the highly regarded Big Ten Conference. Offering more than 260 academic programs to its 40,000 students, Purdue is a bustling research university
At Purdue you can earn an MS in Computer and Information Technology degree and specialize in information security, cyberforensics, and homeland security. This is a fantastic opportunity for those who want a broad-based experience in information technology while also exploring some of the niche topics related to security and investigation. Classes include:
- Cyberforensics for the Apple Ecosystem
- Cyberforensics of File Systems
- Homeland Security Seminar
- Network Forensics
As a land, sea, and space-grant institution, Purdue is strong in the sciences and technology. It operates the Purdue Research Foundation. And it has more than a dozen libraries and even more research centers, labs, and facilities. Purdue is nationally ranked among the best 100 schools in the nation.
College Choice Score: 89.82
Average Net Price: $31,539
Situated along the Charles River in the Fenway neighborhood, Boston University is a world-class, private, research university. It is organized into 17 colleges and schools and has more than 33,000 students.
If you’re looking to earn a degree in computer science, Boston University has the program for you. It offers an MS in CS with specialization in Cyber Security. You’ll study cryptographic methods, fault-tolerant computing, and network security as well as information technology and systems development. Classes you’ll take at BU include:
- Probability in Computing
- Complexity Theory
- Operating Systems
- Performance Analysis of Computer Systems
Boston University has graduated innumerable Nobel Laureates, Pulitzer winners, Rhodes Scholars, MacArthur Geniuses, and much more. Nationally and globally ranked, several of BU’s individual departments are among the best of their kind.
George Washington University
College Choice Score: 88.05
Average Net Price: $39,562
Located in Washington, DC, George Washington University is home to more than 27,000 students. It is organized into 14 colleges and schools, many of which are the top of their kind. GWU is a research-driven university.
GWU offers an MS in Cybersecurity and Computer Science degree. This program introduces students to the design and analysis components of computer architecture. Similarly, students also explore software paradigms and algorithms to become experts in information assurance. And at GWU you can customize your degree experience, since only four classes are required:
- Design and Analysis of Algorithms
- Advanced Software Paradigms
- Computer System Architecture
- Management of Information and Systems Security
GWU was chartered by U.S. Congress in 1821 according to the desires of our first president. Many of the colleges on campus today are historical landmarks. And the main campus itself is located just a few blocks from the White House, National Mall, and the Washington Circle.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
College Choice Score: 85.31
Average Net Price: $16,683
The Urbana-Champaign campus within the University of Illinois System is a flagship university. It is a public school classified as an active research institution by Carnegie. More than 45,000 combined undergraduate and graduate students attend UIUC.
UIUC offers a graduate cyber security degree that can be paired with one of five areas of specialization, one of which is fully customizable. So whether you want to concentrate in cyber security as it relates to software engineering, enterprise data systems, computer networks, or digital forensics, UIUC can help you get there. Classes cover:
- Computer Security
- Applied Cryptography
- Digital Forensics I and II
- Information Assurance and Trust Seminar
The UIUC campus is home to one of the world’s fastest supercomputers. And it hosts the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. Needless to say, UIUC is renowned in the fields of computer science, technology, and software design.
Rochester Institute of Technology
College Choice Score: 80.32
Average Net Price: $29,111
The Rochester Institute of Technology is a private school located in Rochester, NY. It is organized into 10 colleges through which it proffers degrees in technology, science, engineering, computing, and more. Nearly 19,000 combined undergraduate and graduate students attend RIT.
When you earn an MS in Computing Security degree from RIT you will become an expert in the survivability of of hardware and software systems. In addition to the core (listed below), you will have the opportunity to explore everything from covert communications to security policy, big data, secure coding, and much more.
- Cryptography and Authentication
- Computer System Security
- Plus either a capstone project or thesis
RIT has been called one of “America’s Best Colleges” and a “Great School at a Great Price.” RIT is also home to one of the most long-standing co-op programs in the world. Students who participate work in a paid position in their field for up to five quarters throughout their time at RIT.
George Mason University
College Choice Score: 79.31
Average Net Price: $18,032
George Mason University is based in Fairfax County, VI. It is a research-driven university that was once a part of the University of Virginia System. Today it operates independently and serves more than 35,000 students.
When you earn an MS in Digital Forensics and Cyber Analysis at GMU you will become fully equipped to work in commercial industries, government agencies, or academia. This program is a blend of theory and practicum with a curriculum that covers everything from intrusion detection to ethics in information technology. Indeed, some of the electives you can take include:
- Mobile Device Forensics
- Reverse Engineering and Memory Forensics
- Pen Testing
- Digital Media Forensics
Known for its research achievements, George Mason University is home to several renowned centers and institutes. Among them is the Center for Excellence in Command, Control, Communications, Computing, and Intelligence. George Mason is nationally and globally ranked by a variety of sources.
University of South Florida
College Choice Score: 78.53
Average Net Price: $11,398
The University of South Florida is located in Tampa. It is a member of the wider State University System of Florida. Comprised of over a dozen schools and colleges, USF serves 42,000 students.
At USF you can earn an MS in Cybersecurity with a concentration in Digital Forensics. Through this program you will learn how to effectively investigate cyber and electronic crimes by analyzing networks. And you’ll graduate able to identify and secure digital evidence. Some of the classes you’ll take at USF include:
- Cybercrime and Criminal Justice
- Digital Evidence Recognition
- Network Forensic Criminal Investigations
- Digital Forensic Criminal Investigations
USF is considered one of the most active research universities in the nation by the Carnegie Foundation. It is also ranked among the top 100 best Public Schools by U.S. News & World Report. Furthermore, USF’s computer science, information studies, and criminology programs are among the best of their kind.
University of Alabama Birmingham
College Choice Score: 66.20
Average Net Price: $16,092
The Birmingham campus within the broader University of Alabama System is a public research institution. UAB offers nearly 150 academic programs through its 12 academic and professional divisions. Approximately 20,000 students attend UAB.
UAB offers an MS in Computer Forensics and Security Management degree. This is a notably interdisciplinary program that brings together information security, forensic accounting, and computer forensics. You’ll graduate ready to protect physical and virtual systems in an array of industries and settings. The UAB curriculum includes classes such as:
- Information Technology Auditing
- Fraud Examination
- Digital Media Forensics
- Network Security
UAB is among the top 20 schools nationwide for its federal research and development funding. Likewise, it is nationally ranked and regionally recognized for its research achievements. UAB has produced dozens of Fulbright winners, National Science Foundation fellows, Rhodes Scholars, and more.