Computer Forensics Analyst: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a computer forensics analyst. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, schooling, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

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Computer forensics analysts collect information from digital devices as part of legal investigations. To enter this rapidly-growing field, you'll need a degree in a relevant subject and, possibly, certification.

Essential Information

Computer forensic analysts combine their computer science background with their forensic skills to recover information from computers and storage devices. Analysts are responsible for assisting law enforcement officers with cyber crimes and to retrieve evidence. Computer forensic analysts typically hold a bachelor's degree in computer science with a background in criminal justice.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in computer science or information technology
Other Requirements Certified Forensic Computer Examiner (CFCE) certification
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 21% (Much faster than average)*
Average Salary (2015) $85,800*

Source: United States Bureau of Labor Statistics*

Computer Forensics Analyst Job Description

The field of computer forensics is the information security branch of law enforcement and is closely related to forensic science and criminal justice work; therefore, most computer forensic analysts work for law enforcement agencies. The role of the analyst is to recover data like documents, photos and e-mails from computer hard drives and other data storage devices, such as zip and flash drives, that have been deleted, damaged or otherwise manipulated. Analysts often work on cases involving offenses committed on the Internet ('cyber crime') and examine computers that may have been involved in other types of crime in order to find evidence of illegal activity. As an information security professional, a computer forensic analyst may also use their expertise in a corporate setting to protect computers from infiltration, determine how a computer was broken into or recover lost files.

Duties of a Computer Forensic Analyst

Computer forensic analysts use forensic tools and investigative methods to find specific electronic data, including Internet use history, word processing documents, images and other files. They use their technical skills to hunt for files and information that have been hidden, deleted or lost. They help detectives and other officials analyze data and evaluate its relevance to the case under investigation. Analysts also transfer the evidence into a format that can be used for legal purposes (i.e. criminal trials) and often testify in court themselves.

Career Requirements for Computer Forensic Analysts

Computer forensic analysts must be familiar with standard computer operating systems, networks and hardware as well as security software and document-creation applications. Analysts must have expertise in hacking and intrusion techniques and prior experience with security testing and computer system diagnostics. As their title suggests, analysts are expected to have excellent analytical skills, to be highly conscious of details and to be able to multi-task efficiently.

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Educational Requirements for Computer Forensic Analysts

A 4-year degree, such as a Bachelor of Arts in Information Technology or a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, is required to begin a career as a computer forensic analyst. Undergraduate studies in accounting and criminal justice can also help prepare analysts for the types of skills and experience they need in the workplace. Some colleges offer programs in computer forensics, but most computer forensic analysts learn advanced investigative techniques on-the-job after obtaining a degree in a related subject.

Certification

Some agencies now require their analysts to be certified. The International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners (ISFCE) and the International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists (IACIS) both offer a Certified Forensic Computer Examiner (CFCE) certification. The IACIS awards the certification to analysts who pass their examination. The ISFCE requires completion of Certified Computer Examiner (CCE) Board approved training, professional experience and study as well as passing an exam. This certification must be renewed every three years.

Analysts can also obtain an Advanced Computer System Security, Computer Forensics or Advanced Computer Forensic certification through Cyber Enforcement Resources Incorporated by passing their examination and showing proof of adequate work experience or training. This certification does not require renewal.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of labor Statistics doesn't provide salary or employment growth data specifically for computer forensic analysts; however, data for computer systems analysts is available. In May 2015, computer systems analysts had a median salary of $85,800, and the BLS indicated these workers might see employment growth of 21% from 2014 to 2024.

Computer forensic analysts are a type of computer systems analyst with an understanding of forensic science. They typically hold a bachelor's degree relating to computer technology and certification as a CFCE. Through earning their degree and certification, they learn the necessary tools to extract and assemble evidence from or with computers and electronic devices.

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