Did you know that cybercrime is a multibillion-dollar industry? According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, cybercrime cost victims and financial institutions $445 billion in 2013. The use of technology in criminal activity, however, extends far beyond credit card fraud and identity theft. Smartphones, laptops and tablets have proliferated in our everyday lives, and the bad guys have learned how to use them to advance their nefarious deeds. At the same time, technology has also gained greater relevance in law enforcement.
It takes a skilled technician to understand the intricacies of how computers, apps and GPS systems operate, as well as how public safety officers can use digital details to their advantage. Not all computer scientists or information technologists know the ins and outs of law enforcement, nor do all officers know how to retrieve and preserve pertinent data. With the demand for tech skills across the job market only expected to increase — the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that information security analysts will see some of the fastest growth among all professions, rising at a rate of 37% until 2022 — this could be a smart time to specialize. More and more educational programs are offering degrees and certificates combining technology and criminal justice; here’s a sampling of some of the options available.
Degree: Bachelor of Science minor in Cybersecurity and Forensics
Course sampling: Unix/Linux; Cyber Crime
Why choose it? The Monroe College School of Information Technology offers a variety of IT minors that can enhance a criminal justice major, with Cybersecurity and Forensics being the most relevant. Courses in this program address how to secure computers against hacking attempts, as well as how to gather cybercrime evidence.
The George Washington University Columbian College of Arts & Sciences
Degree: Master of Science in High Technology Crime Investigation
Course sampling: Research Methods for the Security Professional; Investigation and Data Gathering
Why choose it? This graduate-level program’s diverse faculty — digital forensics experts, cybersecurity specialists, experienced investigators, lawyers and psychologists — delves into various areas of technology and criminal investigations. The program “focuses on both the academics and the practice of digital forensics,” says Program Director Eva A. Vincze. “It provides the opportunity for students to obtain both the critical-thinking skills and the hands-on experience necessary to be successful in the field.”
Degree: Bachelor of Criminal Justice Cyber-Defense and Information Security major
Course sampling: Introduction to National Security Studies; Counterintelligence/Counterterrorism
Why choose it? Rather than solely highlighting the finer technical points of computer security, this degree also examines the investigative, policy and programmatic elements of the field. “The curriculum is designed to give students a solid background in technology applications, threat assessment and mitigations. Using real-world case scenarios and threat actors, the program challenges students to think critically about interconnected systems and vulnerabilities,” says Scott Blough, associate professor of criminal justice.
University of Phoenix
Degree: Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration with a Cybercrimes certificate
Course sampling: Contemporary Issues and Futures in Cybercrimes; Cybercrime and Role of Law Enforcement Security Personnel
Why choose it? Participants receive a core education in criminal justice administration with an additional focus on cybercrime without having to commit to extra costs or prolonging their studies. “University of Phoenix faculty members base classroom discussions around current criminal justice and cybercrime topics, so students gain real-world perspectives on relevant industry-based information and learn how to apply classroom instruction back into their jobs the very next day,” says Franzi Walsh, program dean for the College of Criminal Justice and Security.
Upper Iowa University
Degree: Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science
Course sampling: Forensic Science Laboratory; Introduction to Toxicology
Why choose it? As prevalent as digital evidence has become, biological matter still plays a pivotal role in composing strong cases for prosecution. At Upper Iowa University, enrollees gain an extensive background of the natural sciences from the point of view of applying that knowledge to evidence analysis. Graduates are prepared to enter advanced degree programs in medicine, biology and chemistry, as well as forensic science.
Mineral Area College
Degree: Associate of Applied Science in Forensic Investigation
Course sampling: Police Photography; Crime Scene Analysis
Why choose it? Students are trained as crime scene technicians/investigators. “Our curriculum presents a specialized scope of knowledge about forensic photography, the collection and preservation of evidence and investigative strategies as it relates to active crime scenes,” says Major Rich Flotron, director of Law Enforcement Training. Additional coursework addresses general professional development, such as English composition and computer literacy.