Computer Science for Digital Forensics?

Discussion in 'IT and Computer-Related Degrees' started by cookderosa, Aug 30, 2018.

  1. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef

    Question for those of you in computer occupations. My high school senior son is taking dual enrollment at our local community college on campus. His teacher for his OS and Device Foundations course has been a great inspiration for him, and my son is interested in pursuing the Digital Forensics AAS after he graduates.

    I have some questions because if he does pursue this program, I want to be sure it's worth it for him.

    Here's what you should know about him: he is homeschooled and will graduate June 1 from high school with his diploma and also his AS from Charter Oak (he has everything completed except his Cornerstone).

    He has taken all online courses up until this course on campus- and his engagement/enthusiasm has been below average. Our plan was to have him finish his bachelor's at COSC. He's a good student, get's A's, but just wasn't into anything until this class. This ON CAMPUS class lit his fire- so while I know he can easily do his bachelor's at COSC (he currently has over 100 credits) I want him to learn the foundation of his career on campus with a live teacher- so a plus for me is that most (not all) of the AAS courses are on campus.

    The more I read about careers in digital forensics the more confused I become. I think it's the same as cybersecurity, but I'm not sure. I also know that THIS AAS won't accept any of his gen eds from COSC and that our local 4 year university won't accept our local AAS in transfer there - so we have a big decision to make:

    AAS - starting from scratch, 70 credits while (maybe?) simultaneously doing a bachelor's at COSC too. He could do a business degree for cheap/fast, but they have Cybersecurity that wouldn't be cheap or fast- but it would give him a bachelor's and would build on the AAS.

    other option:
    UNC-Charlotte (local uni) not only has this degree, but is also a participant in the CyberCorps Scholarship program. This would put him into an internship at some point in Washington DC as well as a service obligation wtih the NSA. The huge cons of this degree, are that it's computer science and he doesn't meet the admissions requirements. He *could* eventually meet the requirements, but we'd have at least a year of courses at the CC to make that happen. He needs SAT scores (doesn't have) and needs to be at Calculus 1 (he's in Algebra). It's a very high bar he'd have to hit just to qualify, let alone gain admission or receive the scholarship (no guarantee).

    I'm ready, willing, and able to help him be successful, so - the BIG QUESTION is whether or not he needs a degree in computer science to make this happen. If he doesn't need a computer science degree, we're ready to go straight into the AAS - but I don't want him to invest 2 1/2 years only to be under-employed. If we found that out AFTER the AAS, he'd essentially be starting his bachelor's at UNCC from scratch- and no matter what he does, we're not investing 7 years in his undergrad.

    Advice or suggestions would be really appreciated at this point!! THANKS!

    EDIT to add: this is the course list for the AAS

    and the Department of Labor Occupational Outlook handbooks says a bachelor's degree is typical for entry level Information Security Analysist but lists computer science as one of several degrees that would work - also listed are "Information security analysts usually need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information assurance, programming, or a related field."
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2018
  2. dlbb

    dlbb Active Member

    Cyber Corps is a tremendous opportunity, and if he were to get in that, it would be a great experience. You also have an obligation to work for the government afterwards for a short period, but that would provide him with experience. They do have high standards, but that can open up doors. He should aim for excellent grades and be able to pass a background investigation successfully. (This will be true for some careers in cyber security or digital forensics as well.)

    If you are interested in cyber security, I would recommend a school that is an NSA Center of Academic Excellence designation in Cyber Operations:
    I would not consider a school not on that list. These schools need to meet rigorous guidelines, visits, etc., to achieve this.

    They also have some schools designated for cyber defense, which can include Digital Forensics:

    A program designated by NSA for Cyber Operations will not include Digital Forensics as part of the curriculum, but likely those class(es) could be taken as electives.

    I do not know what school you are looking at the AAS in Digital Forensics, but looking at them, I only see a few courses that are explicitly in forensics--the rest being background knowledge courses that provide necessary knowledge. A four year program might offer many of those types of courses and also at a higher level, so they might have greater value. A lot of "technical" computer related courses at community colleges may not transfer directly to a four year school.

    I do think you would have a lot more opportunities and learn more on campus with this field, so I would encourage that strongly. It can help make it easier to get support outside of the classroom and be successful in other areas, such as getting internships. Many on campus students take classes online as well, but you get something more being on campus and being involved.

    I would have him decide what he wants, visit some of those schools in person, and see what he likes. I would personally have him find an appropriate four year school on campus that excites him, get his bachelor's, and perhaps work towards master's. Some schools offer 4+1 programs where you can complete one degree and do part of a master's at the same time. Many students prefer smaller classroom size, so that can be a consideration when looking at schools. It is great he did dual enrollment as a high school student, but I would not let that limit him for his degree. Get the right degree, not the quickest.

    As to your question, I think his chances of being successful with a four year degree will be much higher. I do not know placement numbers for AAS in Digital Forensics, but it would be limiting somewhat in terms of how far you can go. Many good cyber security / cyber operations programs will have CS courses as part of the curriculum, so you get some of that background knowledge.

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