The internet provides a way for people to stay in touch, conduct business, and find entertainment. Unfortunately, many risks can accompany online activities. Cybercriminals use these same technologies to exploit people, disrupt business, and commit crimes. Identity theft, data breaches, and computer hacking continue as the digital world expands. Cybercrime professionals protect individuals and families and help bring criminals to justice, whereas the focus in cybersecurity or information security involves protecting business and government computer networks and data.
There has never been a better time to enter cybercrime prevention. One 2017 survey found that nearly one-third of U.S. internet users have experienced online accounts hacking, requiring a high demand for internet security professionals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 28% growth rate in information security between 2016 and 2026. An online master's degree in cybercrime, or a related master's degree with a concentration in cybercrime, can give you the credentials and training you need to enter this growing, lucrative profession.
A master's degree in cybercrime can prepare you for a job in industry, government, or criminal justice. Finding a program to match your career goals, budget, location, and schedule can help you effectively complete your degree and find a job. Some programs may focus entirely on cybercrime. More commonly, cybersecurity or criminal justice programs include a concentration in cybercrime or computer forensics. Graduate programs differ in what undergraduate coursework or prerequisites they require. Without a background in computers, students may need additional schooling. Some programs also require a capstone or final project where you apply your knowledge to a practical situation, giving you concrete experience to prepare you for your career.
Master's degree programs in cybercrime and cybersecurity differ regarding cost and format. In-state tuition at state schools often costs less than out-of-state tuition at state schools or private school tuition. Some schools, however, offer the same tuition rates to all students or offer lower rates for online courses. In addition, online students save money by not traveling to or living on campus. Online programs also allow you to work while attending school, although this may affect degree completion times. Hybrid programs offer some online courses, but also include some on-campus or face-to-face requirements, allowing for in-person interaction and hands-on practice.
Sample Courses for a Master's Degree in Cyber Crime
The classes necessary for obtaining an online master's degree in cybercrime vary by school. However, the core subject matter often remains the same. Below is a list of five common classes, along with a brief description of each, for a cybercrime master's degree.
|Cybercrime||In this course, students learn about various types of cybercrime by studying popular fraudulent schemes. Students explore the most current laws specifically created to combat cybercrime.|
|White-Collar Crime||Here, students examine the world of white-collar crime, from detection to deterrence. Focal points include securities fraud, money laundering, political corruption, and current laws and regulations.|
|Digital Forensic Criminal Investigation||Through this course, you study the tools of digital forensics used by law enforcement at all levels. Students also learn how to recover materials used in computer crimes.|
|Research Methods in Criminology||This course introduces students to the basic research techniques of data collection and analysis as they relate to criminology. These techniques range from field research and surveys to complex experimental designs.|
|Victimology||In this course, you focus on the victims of crime and the impact of crime on victims. Students learn how victims interact with various institutions, such as government, local and national media, businesses, politicians, and even social media.|
How Long Does It Take to Earn an Online Master's in Cyber Crime?
The length of an online master's in cybercrime program depends on whether you take courses part or full time. Master's degrees may be completed in as little as one year with full-time coursework. Working professionals who proceed at their own pace may take longer. Some programs offer courses asynchronously, allowing you to progress at your own pace and work while pursuing your degree. Others require cohort learning that last one to two years. Being part of a cohort means that you go through courses and all other degree requirements as part of a group of students that start and finish their degree at the same time. On average, most master's degrees in cybercrime consist of 30 to 40 credits.
With an online master's degree in cybercrime, you may qualify to work for large tech companies, insurance companies, financial services companies, and government agencies. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is the federal agency taking the lead in investigating cyber attacks. As such, the FBI employs a large number of cybersecurity investigators. The Departments of Homeland Security and Defense also hire those trained in cybercrime and cybersecurity.
According to a 2015 Burning Glass report, the finance, healthcare, and retail industries see the largest increases in demand for cybersecurity workers. Burning Glass also reported that nearly one-quarter of job postings in cybersecurity required a master's degree. With a master's, you may compete for jobs with bachelor's degree holders and for leadership positions. A master's degree will increase your earning potential in a field with high education level requirements.
Online Master's in Cyber Crime Careers
At the master's level, a cybercrime investigation degree increases employment opportunities in both the public and private sectors from companies like Microsoft to government agencies like the Department of Homeland Security. Prospective employees with the drive to detect, thwart, and capture cybercriminals can pursue such jobs as those listed below.
Security Architect, ITAs a security architect in information technology (IT), you manage both the company's computer network and its security. You plan, analyze, research, and design all aspects of your company's IT security. In the event of a security breach, you analyze the system and implement necessary changes.
Cybersecurity AnalystAs a cybersecurity analyst, you use your training in computer systems to track and analyze the data from secure systems within your company. As threats arise and fade in the digital world, you communicate with fellow employees and customers about the latest changes. Your technical skills help you respond to security incidents in a professional and timely manner, and help prevent future malicious activity.
Forensic Computer AnalystAs a forensic computer analyst, you gather and analyze computer-based information using the latest scientific methods for recovering and investigating evidence of a crime. You may analyze a computer's hard drive and auxiliary storage devices to discern user patterns, or you may use software to recover information from destroyed storage devices.
Cybersecurity EngineerIn this position, you develop cybersecurity solutions or improvements to prevent malicious activity and protect sensitive customer data. You will use your technical, communications, and leadership skills to analyze data, work effectively with customers, and coordinate security efforts with your fellow analysts.
Private InvestigatorAs a private investigator specializing in cybercrime, you solve crimes committed with computers or through the internet, such as fraud and identity theft. Private detectives help catch sexual predators, find missing persons, and recover lost assets. Education requirements vary greatly, but a graduate degree may attract top employers.
|Job Title||Overall Median Salary||Entry-Level Employees||Mid-Career Employees||Late-Career Employees|
|Security Architect, IT||$120,464||$95,000||$118,000||$144,000|
|Forensic Computer Analyst||$69,396||$58,000||$89,000||$110,000|
Licensure and Certification
Jobs in cybercrime generally do not require licensure, unless you become a private investigator. Although, advanced certifications can demonstrate your skills in a particular area of cybercrime, enabling you to compete for higher paying jobs. Global Information Assurance Certification offers certification as a forensic analyst, for example. The International Info System Security Certification Consortium offers highly regarded certification as an information systems security professional (CISSP). The Department of Defense also operates a Cyber Crime Center Training Academy where students may earn certification as a digital media collector, digital forensic examiner, or cybercrime investigator.
Institutions may choose to go through the accreditation process to show that their programs meet established standards for quality. It is important to find an accredited program so that any credits or degree you earn will be accepted by other schools and by potential employers. Private specialized, regional, and national agencies issue accreditation.
Regional accreditation remains more popular, with regionally accredited schools only accepting transfer credits from other regionally accredited institutions. When looking for an accredited online program, check to see if it holds accreditation by one of the six independent regional accrediting bodies.
Cybercrime programs can show their excellence by meeting the additional standards of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) or the Committee on National Security Systems (CNSS). ABET accredits computer and engineering programs and offers accreditation in cyber forensics and information. CNSS has also established standards in information technology training for security professionals.
Students typically pay for their degree in cybercrime with a combination of funding sources. Financial aid can include loans; grants from your college, state, or the federal government; work study; and scholarships. To qualify for financial aid, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), available in October each year. Some schools also require students to complete the CSS profile. Be sure to check with your school of choice regarding their financial aid policies and deadlines. Financial aid packages may be negotiable.
Due to the shortage in qualified cybersecurity employees, the federal government, along with many other companies, offer financial incentives to students entering the field. Federal agencies and departments, such as the Navy and the Central Intelligence Agency offer scholarships in cybersecurity and other STEM fields, for example. The federal government also offers the CyberCorps: Scholarships for Service program through the National Science Foundation to help increase the number of government information assurance professionals.
Cyber Crime Scholarships
Scholarships can cover or defray the cost of an online master's degree in cybersecurity. Use criminal justice scholarships, and the opportunities below, to start your search.