New degree: Digital forensics
In the 21st century, there are more ways than ever to get caught for a crime.
With better technology comes better surveillance and more tools to conduct investigations. Or, as it was worded in an article on Concise-Courses.com, "a computer can be a witness to a crime." This line of reasoning led to the origin of the digital forensics field, which uses all things digital (computers, mobile phones, etc.) when investigating crimes. Though the field has been around a few decades, it continues to emerge and create new branches (such as mobile forensics) as technology evolves.
One way it may be possible to break into the field could be by studying digital forensics in college, which more schools are offering as a major.
Degrees and certificates in digital forensics
There are a number of ways to be trained in digital forensics. You can get a certificate or an associate, bachelor's, master's or Ph.D. degree in digital forensics. No matter your level of education, if you want to study digital forensics, there's probably a program for you. Some programs even allow specialties, such as computer forensics.
Though the Digital Forensics Association writes on its website that college programs, being self-taught and using online resources, are all "valid ways to get educated on digital forensics," a number of companies looking to hire digital forensic professionals may prefer a bachelor's degree -- sometimes in digital forensics but perhaps in a computer-related field or a related degree, plus experience. You'll notice this if you browse jobs in the field.
Some graduate programs may be targeted to mid-career professionals, such as the one at University of Maryland University College. Make sure to pick the program that best suits your needs and situation. Regardless of which degree you pursue, studying digital forensics at the college level can help prepare you for a career in the field.
Courses in a digital forensics degree program
The courses you take in a digital forensics program will, of course, vary by program and degree level.
To give you an idea of the sort of classes students in digital forensics may take, though, a couple of classes in the digital forensic science certificate program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice include:
- Network forensics: According to the website, in this class students learn about the "forensic security issues related to access to data stored on computer systems, and the transmission of data between systems."
- Architecture of Secure Operating Systems: This class deals with all things associated with modern operating systems.
For students who take the associate degree route, some classes they may take could be similar to these offered at Texas State Technical College in Waco:
- Digital forensics tools: This class shows students how to use major forensics hardware.
- Fundamentals of criminal law: Students learn about the history and philosophies of criminal law.
At the bachelor's degree level and graduate level, students may find courses like these ones offered at the University of the Potomac and the University of Maryland University College:
- Firewalls for security
- Introduction to cyber crime and homeland security
- Cyber law
- Cyber incident analysis and response
- Human aspects in cybersecurity: ethics, legal issues and psychology
- Digital forensics investigation
These schools and courses are offered as an example of what students who are interested in digital forensics may have available to them. If even reading these course names interests you, then you may want to explore more about studying for this career path. Look at your desired school's degree requirements ahead of time to determine if it's the right program for you.
Careers a digital forensics program could prepare you for
While no degree program can guarantee job placement, earning a degree or certificate in digital forensics could help qualify you for a number of careers, such as:
- Computer forensics analyst
- Data restoration specialist
- Digital forensic analyst
- eDiscovery specialist
- Network and data security manager
- Technology risk management specialist
- Special agent with a federal agency
- Systems administrator
Though it's unclear what direction the digital forensics field is headed, it seems the digital world continues to grow. With that growth, you can no doubt expect digital crime, which will call for a digital forensics professional.
If you're a techie who grew up watching crime shows, digital forensics may be your calling. You may not know until you start taking classes, though. Find the best degree program for you and figure out if catching criminals via technology is your thing or not.
Digital Forensics Association, http://www.digitalforensicsassociation.org/a-word-on-education/
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Digital Forensics and Cybersecurity Programs, http://www.jjay.cuny.edu/academics/5130.php
Texas State Technical College, Digital Forensics Technology Associate Degree, http://www.waco.tstc.edu/programs/waco/networksecurity/dftaas
University of Maryland, Master of Science in Digital Forensics and Cyber Investigation, http://www.umuc.edu/academic-programs/masters-degrees/digital-forensics-and-cyber-investigations.cfm
University of the Potomac, Bachelor's Degree in Computer Forensics, http://www.potomac.edu/bachelor-degree/digital-forensics/