Computer Forensics Analyst: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a computer forensics analyst. Learn about education programs, job duties and potential earnings to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Computer Forensics degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is A Computer Forensic Analyst?

A computer forensics analyst is trained to analyze and retrieve data from computers or computerized systems. For example, they may review encrypted files or retrieve files a computer used tried to delete to establish their online activities or contact they may have had with someone. They use computer analysis software, and they need a bachelor's degree in forensic computing, computer security or a similar discipline. In some respects, their work is similar to the work of a detective, except they investigate the content of a computer or computer storage device and analyze the content. Reasons for doing this may include identifying whether a user has been engaged in illegal activity online. They document the evidence they uncover and produce detailed reports about their findings. Computer forensic analysts also need to be able to comply with local laws and regulations regarding the processing of evidence.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Computer science, accounting, computer forensics, forensic accounting
Key Responsibilities Collect data from computers and networks, assist criminal investigations
Licensure/Certification Private investigator license (certain states), computer forensic analyst certification (recommended), certification in proprietary software (individual companies)
Job Growth (2014-2024) 5%* (for private detectives and investigators)
Median Salary (2015) $45,610* (for private detectives and investigators)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Computer Forensic Analyst Do?

Computer forensic analysts or investigators collect data from computers and networks, including deleted e-mails and encrypted files. These professionals often assist criminal investigations that involve financial fraud, website sabotage or illegal sharing of proprietary information. As a computer forensic analyst, you'll also need a good understanding of legal procedures related to the field. According to the magazine IEEE Security and Privacy - published by the IEEE Computer Society - similar job titles might include computer and network forensic technician (www.computer.org).

What Education Do I Need?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), individuals interested in computer forensics work should pursue a bachelor's degree in computer science or accounting; some bachelor's programs in computer forensics or forensic accounting are also available (www.bls.gov). The BLS notes that many police officers or related law enforcement officials can receive on-the-job training in computer forensics. Individuals who already work within the legal system and have obtained a bachelor's degree might consider pursuing a graduate certificate in computer forensics.

Should I Get Certified?

Some states expect computer forensic analysts to obtain licensure as private investigators, according to the BLS. In most cases, you won't be required to earn certification as a computer forensic analyst; however, certification is an additional way to show competency to potential employers.

Many different organizations offer certification in the field. For example, you could obtain the Certified Computer Examiner (CCE) credential through the International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners. You could also pursue the Certified Forensic Computer Examiner (CFCE) credential through the International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists.You may need to submit to a background check and complete an exam in order to receive your credential.

Some companies also offer certification in their own proprietary computer forensics software. Guidance Software offers the EnCase Certified Examiner (EnCE) credential, while AccessData offers the AccessData Certified Examiner (ACE) designation.

What Salary Could I Earn?

According to PayScale.com, most computer forensic analysts earned between $40,895 and $119,492 as of October 2016. The BLS notes that all private investigators and detectives earned a median annual salary of $45,610 in 2015.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

The role of a computer forensic analyst is similar to the work that police, detectives and private detectives do. All of these law enforcement professionals are presented with a specific issue and will then investigate the issue, retrieve evidence, interview witnesses and collect evidence to determine who is responsible for the issue. In the case of police and detectives, they deal with crimes that may involve making an arrest and sending someone to jail. Private detectives may be hired to determine who is responsible for a specific issue in a community or company, or by a spouse that wants to know if their partner is cheating. They will investigate to determine the answer and then relay that information to their client. These roles are similar to the roles of computer forensic analysts because they are responsible for a part of the evidence retrieved in an investigation, and they must process that evidence to determine if the information is useful for confirming who is responsible for the situation being investigated, or specific details about the crime or problem. All of these professionals benefit from being analytic and organized, and from keeping detailed notes about their investigative process. The key difference is that police, detectives and private detectives do not necessarily need a bachelor's degree. Having a degree is increasingly common amongst law enforcement officials, particularly those who want to advance to command or detective work, and private investigators usually have prior experience in law enforcement.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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