Digital Forensic Investigator Certification

Research the certification options available for digital forensic investigators. Read on for a summary on certifications and other educational requirements to pursue a career in this field. Schools offering Computer Forensics degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Digital Forensic Investigators at a Glance

The escalation and spread of cybercrime continues to raise the demand for experienced digital forensic investigators in both law enforcement and private businesses. Those looking to become experts in digital forensics have access to many different certifications from a wide variety of private companies and professional associations. The table below is a summary of career details.

Typical Degree Bachelor's degree
Certification Requirements Preferred by some employers; options available in various specialties
Field of Study Computer science, information technology, criminal justice or related
Skills Analytical skills, computer science, written and verbal communication
Average Annual Salary (2019) $71,666*
Career Outlook (2016-2026) 28% (information security analysts)**

Sources: *PayScale.com; **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Are the Education Requirements for Digital Forensic Investigators?

Digital forensic investigators must be well versed on both computer programming and law enforcement concepts. Though a bachelor's degree is not always required, most employers prefer it. Related areas of study both at the bachelor's and advanced degree level include computer science, information technology, and criminal justice. For those without a degree, employers will generally seek proof of a candidate's background in the technical aspects of the profession from the successful completion of one of the available certifications.

What Are the Certification Options?

With digital forensics investigators on the rise, many associations and companies have appeared on the scene offering certifications and specialized training. Some certifications revolve around the use of specific software tools, offered by the same companies who built them. Others are offered by professional associations and may only be available to current law enforcement employees. Choosing the right certification requires a delicate balancing of the education and experience you already have, the skills that will complement them in the pursuit of your next career opportunity, and the certifications most sought after by the type of employer you would like to work for (law enforcement or private business).

Which Certifications Are Sought Most by Employers?

Some of the certifications often preferred by employers in job postings include those offered by the EC-Council, SANS, The International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists (IACIS) and EnCase. Certifications from the SANS GIAC program are available to all IT professionals in many different disciplines related to digital forensics (such as forensic examiner and detection analyst). The EC-Council's Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI) program is also available to all IT professionals involved with security related issues. Though it includes an extensive training component, it also allows those with significant professional experience to skip the training requirements and take the test. Two other popular certifications include EnCase's Certified Examiner, which revolves around the skills required to properly use EnCase's forensic software, and IACIS' Certified Forensic Computer Examiner (CFCE), which is only available to law enforcement personnel.

What Are the Skills Expected?

Digital forensics investigators must have a high degree of analytical skills, allowing them to make keen observations on the evidence available and find relevant patterns. Because the field involves the detection of crime evidence inside databases, computer equipment, and a wide variety of software tools, a background in computer science fundamentals is key. Writing and speaking skills are also important, as digital forensics investigators are often tasked with explaining their findings to others and presenting the results of their work in written reports.

How Much Should I Expect to Make and What Is the Career Outlook?

In 2019, PayScale estimated the average annual salary for digital forensics investigators at $71,666. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics includes digital forensics investigators under the category of information security analysts. The BLS estimate a 28% growth in job opportunities between 2016 and 2026.

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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