Career Guide of Computer Forensics Investigator
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Computer forensics, or digital forensics, is a fairly new field. Computer forensics investigators, also known as computer forensics specialists, computer forensics examiners, or computer forensics analysts, are charged with uncovering and describing the information contained on, or the state or existence of, a digital artifact. Digital artifacts include computer systems, hard drives, CDs, and other storage devices, as well as electronic documents and files like emails and JPEG images. The fast-growing field of computer forensics includes several branches related to firewalls, networks, databases, and mobile devices. Digital forensics technicians can find work with many types of organizations: government (local, state, and federal), accounting firms, law firms, banks, and software development companies. Essentially, any organization that has a computer system may have a need for a digital forensics specialist. Some digital forensics specialists opt to start their own businesses, giving them an opportunity to work with a variety of clients.
Computer forensics investigators provide many services based on gathering digital information, from investigating computer systems and data in order to present information for legal cases to determining how an unauthorized user hacked into a system. A digital forensics examiner does many things in the course of these tasks – protects the computer system, recovers files (including those that were deleted or encrypted), analyzes data found on various disks, and provides reports, feedback, and even testimony, when required. A computer forensics degree can help you develop the skills necessary for a successful career in this field.
A bachelor’s degree in computer forensics or a similar area is generally required to earn a position as a computer forensics investigator. Some community colleges offer two-year associate degrees in computer forensics, which allow aspiring digital forensics investigators to then transfer to a four-year college or university to earn a bachelor’s degree.
- Attend a degree program and/or gain experience in a related field.*
- Become certified as a GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst (GCFA).**
- Apply for an open position as a computer forensics investigator.
- Complete an interview.
- Get hired as a computer forensics investigator.
- Receive training on the job once hired.
The salary range for computer forensics analysts and investigators varies widely depending on whether the job is in the private sector or in the public sector. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t provide salary data for computer forensic specialists but does provide data for the related occupation of information security analysts, who earn a median salary of $90,120 per year.1 The employment outlook for digital forensics examiners and investigators is favorable due to the rapid growth of crimes involving computers (cybercrime). According to the BLS, the related occupation of information security analysts is expected to grow by 18% between 2014 and 2024.1
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