The Computer Forensics and Security concentration within the Computer Science degree program at Eastern Kentucky University is one of the first two undergraduate digital forensic programs in the U.S. to earn national accreditation.
The Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC), the organization to accredit academic programs in both traditional forensic science and digital forensics in the nation, shared the good news recently with officials at EKU and the University of Central Oklahoma.
Computer (digital) forensics is a newly emerging field of study in which students learn how to examine digital devices such as computers, notebooks, mobile electronic devices and network devices to collect digital evidence that can be used in criminal and civil court trials.
Dr. Shuangteng Zhang, director of the Computer Forensics and Security program, said the full, five-year accreditation “means that the program meets the high standards set by FEPAC to educate and train the students with critical knowledge and skills and produce graduates ready to enter the career field. Employers trust that graduates from FEPAC-accredited programs are prepared to enter the workforce and are more willing to accept them for job positions. Therefore, students in FEPAC-accredited programs are more confident, and graduates from the program are more competitive in the job market.”
Since its establishment in 2011, EKU’s Computer Forensics and Security program has steadily grown to serve approximately 60 students today. “We have seen a large growth in enrollment in the last two years,” Zhang noted, “and we expect that the number of students in the program will grow even faster in the coming years.”
Many students are attracted to the program because of the strong job market for graduates. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the growth rate of Information Security Analyst jobs will reach as high as 18 percent through 2024.
Job titles, Zhang noted, include computer/digital forensics examiner, specialist or analyst; digital evidence technician; evidence specialist; cyber threat intelligence analyst; forensics scientist (digital evidence); and incidence responder.
“Computer forensics and security has become a fast-growing career field,” Zhang said. “It offers immense potential for jobs in law enforcement, corporations and business. The program is built on the computer science foundation and has a very comprehensive, unique curriculum that provides the students a strong knowledge base and practical skills to develop a career in the field of digital forensics and security.”
Courses are taught by faculty with a research background in the field and by faculty with extensive working experience either in a forensics lab or law enforcement.
“Licensed digital forensic software used by the FBI are used to teach the majority of our digital forensic courses,” Zhang said. “Graduates of the program with a strong computer science background will be more prepared and more competitive when entering the fast-growing digital forensic and security career field.”
Zhang noted that the program has a strong relationship with the Louisville office of the FBI as well as the Kentucky State Police Electronic Crime Branch in Frankfort, adding that two of the leading investigators in the labs are serving on the Computer Science Advisory Board. The program is also “ready to build” a digital forensic lab similar to the Commonwealth’s digital lab in Frankfort to serve its capstone course and the digital forensic community.
For more information about undergraduate degree concentrations offered by the EKU Department of Computer Science, visit computerscience.eku.edu/undergraduate-program.