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What Are the Top Five Universities in the USA for Getting a Degree in Computer Forensics?

by John Huddle , studioD

Computer forensic examiners work for law enforcement, the military or private corporations as they conduct investigations and analyze information technology. The top programs are notable because they adhere to the same high standards as their parent university, such as student selectivity, research, noted faculty and faculty publications, as measured by “U.S. News & World Report” and three additional world-ranking organizations for computer engineering. These top five programs will challenge students as they prepare for careers in the rapidly expanding field of digital forensic science.

Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University of Pittsburgh, Pa., offers a master's degree in information security technology and management with a cyber forensics and incident response track. In 2013, Carnegie Mellon ranked third by “U.S. News & World Report” and was top-ranked by the other ranking organizations. The 16-month program includes 12 units of security electives and 36 units in curriculum options as students gain skills in host and network computer forensics and digital investigations. Students learn with state-of-the-art software and courses that progressively build on each other.

Purdue University

Purdue University of West Lafayette, Ind., offers a master's degree program with specialization in cyber forensics. In 2013 Purdue University ranked 10th by “U.S. News & World Report” and in the top 100 worldwide according to the other ranking organizations. While it is desirable for applicants to have completed an undergraduate major in computers, the program accommodates those from a wide range of undergraduate majors. Students complete a 33-hour program with 15 hours in cyber forensics, such as cyber forensics of file systems, cloud and virtual environments, and cyber conflict and transnational crime.

University of Southern California

The University of Southern California of Los Angeles offers a specialization in digital forensics that can be taken as part of a bachelor's or graduate degree, such as the master's in cyber security program. In 2013, USC ranked 12th according to “U.S. News & World Report” and in the top 100 according to the other ranking organizations. The specialization requires a minimum of nine courses that build digital forensic skills in areas such as mobile devices, networks, conducting investigations and reporting the findings, leading to competency to perform computer forensic investigations.

University of Maryland

The University of Maryland of Adelphi offers a master's degree program in digital forensics and cyber investigation. In 2013, UM ranked 15th according to “U.S. News & World Report” and in the top 100 by the major ranking organizations. The program is designed for mid-career professionals who need skills in digital forensics. Students learn the basic procedures and technologies to examine digital media and networks, ensure that evidence is secured, conduct qualified searches for evidence and have the findings stand up in court.

Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University of Baltimore, Md., offers a Master of Science in security informatics with student customization, such as in computer forensics. In 2013, Johns Hopkins was ranked 22nd by “U.S. News & World Report” and in the top-ranked universities for computer engineering. The three-semester immersive program combines a range of disciplines with course work in forensics, such as salvaging and reconstructing file fragments, and culminates in a capstone project that addresses a real-world problem.

About the Author

John Huddle is an Army veteran with enlisted service as general hospital staff and hospital chaplain's assistant. His career also included stints as a teacher, adjunct faculty, administrator and school psychologist. Twice, Dr. Huddle was a major party nominee for state office. He also served as a director on several nonprofit boards. Today he enjoys consulting and lobbying for underdog causes.

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