Computer Forensic Analyst Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a computer forensic analyst career? Get real job descriptions, education requirements and salary info to see if becoming a computer forensic analyst is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Computer Forensic Analyst Careers

Computer forensic analysts recover and gather valuable information from computers and data storage devices. Consider the pros and cons of a computer forensic analyst position to decide if you want to pursue this career.

Pros of Being a Computer Forensic Analyst
Can work in many settings (police departments, government agencies, law firms, etc.)*
You may be able to earn a bonus in addition to salary pay**
Jobs can be obtained with just a bachelor's degree***
Work leads to legal justice***

Cons of Being a Computer Forensic Analyst
Pressure to present accurate and detailed reports during court testimony***
Analysts need regular training to stay updated on new computer technologies***
Several years of work experience is usually required*

Sources: *CareerBuilder.com job advertisements, **Payscale.com, ***U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Computer forensic analysts are experts in recovering and gathering valuable information from computers and data storage devices. Computer forensics is a branch of forensic science that involves finding digital evidence for legal purposes; therefore, many analysts work for local, state or federal law enforcement agencies.

Computer forensic analysts in law enforcement work to find evidence of illegal activity by examining computers involved in crimes, including those committed on the Internet. Their duties usually include recovering deleted data such as emails and photos from hard drives and presenting evidence in court as expert witnesses.

Computer forensic analysts with related work experience, which may come from working in law enforcement, often seek employment in the private sector. Law firms, consulting companies and information security corporations hire analysts to find evidence during civil and criminal investigations, as well as provide computer security for their customers and the company themselves.

In a corporate setting, an analyst may recover lost files, protect systems from infiltration and track where computer attacks originated. To stay updated on new computer software and evidence collecting techniques, analysts must receive constant training by taking classes or attending conferences.

Salary

The salary for computer forensic analysts can vary depending on where you work and your level of experience. According to PayScale.com, most computer forensics analysts earned salaries between $40,000 and $117,000, which included bonuses, in July 2015.

What Are the Requirements?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that computer forensic investigators usually get bachelor's degrees in a related field, such as digital forensics or computer science, to develop a strong background in computer fundamentals. If you want a career in law enforcement, consider majoring in criminal justice, which will give you the opportunity to study forensic law and evidence collecting techniques.

Those who work in the private sector generally start by becoming a forensic scientist for a law enforcement agency and learning the ropes that way. Based on job postings on CareerBuilder.com, qualifications for computer forensic analysts include:

  • Knowledge of legal processes
  • Attention to detail
  • Ability to work independently
  • Ability to communicate verbally and in writing

What Do Employers Look for?

Most computer forensic analyst job listings specify the kind of education and experience the potential hire needs. They also describe the daily tasks candidates will be expected to do. The following are a few computer forensic analyst job postings open during April 2012:

  • A consulting firm in Texas seeks a candidate with at least one year of experience working in computer investigations, forensics or data analysis. A bachelor's degree in mathematics, computer science or a related field is also required.
  • A Washington D.C. company is looking for a computer forensic analyst to conduct investigations by collecting, recovering and analyzing electronic information. The employer requires candidates to have experience testifying in court, handling evidence and using electronic forensic tools. Law enforcement experience is preferred.
  • A corporation in Virginia wants a computer forensic analyst with a 4-year degree to help ensure national security. Responsibilities included seizing computer evidence, recovering data, testing the vulnerability of information systems and investigating network threats. The position requires three years of work experience, a polygraph test and Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmentalized Information security clearance.
  • A police agency in Arizona advertised for a computer forensics analyst with a high school diploma and three years of related work experience. This job requires knowledge of legal terminology, email systems, city, state and federal regulations, basic computer software and forensic software.

How to Stand out in the Field

Develop Related Skills

Job employers typically seek out computer forensic analysts that have valuable skills, such as computer programming. Mastering relevant computer software and technology can help you earn the most desirable placements and salary. Many employers prefer or require computer forensic analysts to have knowledge or experience in the following:

  • Computer hardware such as servers and storage technologies
  • Scripting and programming languages (SQL, C++ and VB)
  • Forensic software including EnCase and FTK
  • Character sets (ASCII, binary and ANSI)
  • Electronic Evidence Discovery laws

Get Certified

Show potential employers that you're an expert in the field of computer forensics by obtaining professional certifications. Analysts can receive the Certified Forensic Computer Examiner certification from both the International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists (IACIS) and the International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners (ISFCE). When seeking certification from the IACIS, you're required to pass a series of hands-on exercises and a written exam. The ISFCE awards the certification to computer forensic analysts who pass a test and have the appropriate training, experience or education.

Other Careers to Consider

Forensic Science Technician

If you love working with computers or in the field of forensics but becoming a computer forensic analyst doesn't interest you, there are other options. As a forensic science technician you'll examine evidence during criminal investigations, but you'll not be limited to collecting digital evidence. Forensic science technicians collect physical evidence, such as blood and fibers from crime scenes and analyze them in labs. The education requirements vary depending on the employer. Small, rural agencies usually only require high school diplomas while larger agencies and crime labs require bachelor's degrees. As of May 2011, the BLS noted that the median annual salary for forensic science technicians was about $52,000.

Police Detective

Detectives are police officers who have been promoted and given investigative duties, such as finding evidence and interviewing suspects. In addition to the basic law enforcement training detectives receive at the police academy as police officers, detectives usually complete further training in investigative methods after promotion. The education requirements for detectives vary among departments, but a high school diploma is the standard minimum. According to the BLS, the median annual salary of police detectives was around $72,000 in 2011.

Computer and Information Research Scientist

As a computer and information research scientist, you can help improve computer security by developing and testing new software systems. Most employers require scientists to have a Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science, which usually takes about eight years to complete. Although you'll have to spend twice as long in college, the median annual salary for computer and information research scientists was high at approximately $101,000 in 2011, according to the BLS.

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Georgetown University

  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management

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Colorado State University Global

  • Master - Information Technology Management
  • BS - Information Technology
  • Graduate Certificate - Cyber Security

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • Doctor of Business Admin - Computer and Information Security
  • PhD in Business Admin - Computer and Information Security
  • MBA - Computer and Information Security
  • MS Technology and Innovation Management Cybersecurity

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctorate - Computer Science: Information Assurance (Executive Format)
  • MS - Management - Information Systems Security
  • Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security - Computer Systems Security

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Keiser University

  • Master of Business Admin - Information Security Management
  • Bachelor of Science - Cyber Forensics/Information Security
  • Associate of Sciences - Information Technology

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American InterContinental University

  • Master of Information Technology - Information Assurance and Security
  • Master of IT: Project Management
  • Bachelor of Technology: Information Assurance and Security
  • Bachelor of Information Technology - Digital Investigation

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Full Sail University

  • BS - Cloud Technologies (Campus)
  • BS - Game Design (Campus)

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