Computer Forensics Majors: Salary and Career Facts

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in computer forensics. Read on to learn more about career options along with education and salary information. Schools offering Computer Forensics degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Computer Forensics Investigator?

As a major in computer forensics, a specialty classified under private detectives and investigators, you'll look for evidence of crimes involving computers. These programs prepare students for careers as forensic computer investigators, also called forensic computer analysts. As a computer forensic analyst, you would help analyze computer networks for vulnerability, communicate intelligence information and conduct forensic research. You will also be responsible for making sure your investigations follow local, state and federal laws. The following chart provides an overview of the education, job outlook and average salary in this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Computer technology, security and programming; database management; criminal investigation
Certification and Licensure Certification through the International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists (IACIS)
Key Responsibilities Examine computers and various digital recordings for criminal evidence; track theft on the Internet; present evidence in court
Job Growth (2014-24) 5% (for all private detectives and investigators)*
Mean Annual Salary (2016) $68,666 (for forensic computer analysts)**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Programs are Available in Computer Forensics?

You can find computer forensics programs in universities across the country, usually in a computer information systems department. Some schools include computer forensics in their criminal justice departments. You can earn these degrees on-campus and online. Bachelor's degrees that include computer forensics training require completion of 120 or more credit hours of coursework.

A major in computer forensics is sometimes called computer criminology. It includes courses on crime scenes, theft detection and introductory methods of research. Students explore topics like computer security, databases and computer programming. A bachelor's program typically takes four years to complete.

What Would I Do as a Computer Forensics Investigator?

According to the Florida Association of Computer Crime Investigators, a computer forensics investigator is responsible for a wide range of duties (www.facci.org). He or she may examine computers and related digital media to locate potential evidence. Other job responsibilities might include recovering deleted e-mails or tracking Internet-based identity theft. Computer forensics investigators are sometimes asked to testify in court about their findings. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these professionals often work in local, state or federal law enforcement agencies (www.bls.gov).

How Much Can I Get Paid?

The BLS states that in 2015, there were 30,460 total private detectives and investigators employed. Those who worked as forensic computer analysts earned a median yearly salary of $68,666. Private detectives and investigators working in management, scientific or technical consulting services could earn an annual mean salary of $57,810. Wage range often varies by location. For example, in Alabama, you could earn $31.40 per hour in 2015, while in New Mexico, the average hourly wage was $16.19.

What Professional Certifications Can I Earn?

The International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists (IACIS) offers a certified forensic computer examiner certification, which includes a 2-week training program, peer review and an application process (www.iacis.org). With the help of an assigned mentor, you'll be given four problems to solve using IACIS-approved digital forensics techniques. Certification is granted after taking a final exam covering all aspects of computer investigation.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

You may also be interested in other careers involving work with computer networks or criminal investigations. Computer systems analysts work for companies and organizations to ensure that their computer systems are efficient and have properly working programs. This job requires applicants to have a bachelor's degree in a computer-related field. If you're more interested in a career that deals with the law and handling criminals, you may want to consider working as a police officer or a security guard. This option requires a high school diploma, or equivalent, and some additional vocational training.

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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