Computer forensics is the branch of computer science that deals with the extraction of data from digital and mobile devices. This is a process normally required by the authorities, when they need to get information about a potential suspect or victim from their devices. A professional is needed to perform this extraction, as the data and devices can be easily corrupted.
Highlighted courses and degrees in computer forensics
An undergraduate degree in computer forensics will cover the basics of the area, before progressing onto the more complex and specialised concepts. You might study modules on cyber security, file systems, digital forensics, general law enforcement legal collection methods, and operating systems.
Your degree will be delivered in a mixture of modes. These will include degrees and seminars, as well as practical and computer laboratory sessions. The practical sessions will allow you to practice your skills in a simulated situation. You may be required to take part in a work placement module.
Depending on where you choose to study, you may be able to specialise towards the end of your degree. This specialisation can influence the area in which you choose to work after you have graduated. Common specialisations include:
If your degree requires you to write a dissertation, this will give you the opportunity to further research and explore a favoured area of computer forensics.
The accreditation of your degree will depend on where you choose to study. Different countries can have different accreditation systems. Typically, you can expect to be awarded a Bachelor of Science (BSc), or an integrated Master of Computing (MComp).
Some university degrees are accredited by professional bodies, such as the British Computer Society (BCS), which means that you would graduate as a Chartered Information Technology Practitioner (CITP). It might be required by future employers that you gain extra professional or academic qualifications.
Generally, an undergraduate degree in computer forensics will take three to four years to complete. Foundation degrees, diplomas and certificates can last up to two years, when studied full-time.
Once you have successfully completed your degree, you can choose to either seek employment in your chosen area, or further your studies. Continuation of your studies could be in the form of a postgraduate degree, such as a masters or PhD, or a graduate diploma or certificate.
The entry requirements for a computer forensics degree will depend on your institution. Some universities might require you to sit an entrance exam, where others may rely on previous exam results. Some universities may prefer you to have studied certain subjects, and others might consider previous relevant work experience.
You should check each institution to see what entry requirements they have for their computer forensics programmes.
If you do not meet the entry requirements you may want to consider a pathway course.
Tuition fees for international students are not fixed. This means that they can vary greatly from institution to institution. You should make sure that you are aware of how much your course will cost you.
You may be eligible for a scholarship or funding. This could be awarded by your institution, or by a separate funding body. For more information, visit our scholarships and funding section.
The most common destination for computer forensics graduates is to work as a computer forensic investigator. This role could be within different industries. You might choose to work with the authorities, the military, intelligence agencies, private security firms, or finance and banking companies. Alternatively, you could become self-employed, and offer your services as a consultant.
The wide range of skills you will have gained throughout your degree will mean that your employment opportunities will be varied. Skills gained might include effective communication, time management, project management, data processing, and the ability to deal with delicate and confidential data.
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