Become a Computer Forensics Investigator: Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a computer forensics investigator. Research the career requirements, training information, and experience required to start a career in computer forensics investigation.

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Computer Forensics Investigator

Computer forensics investigators fight cyber-crime for law enforcement agencies. They also assist in other types of criminal investigations to track, locate, and extract digital information that will provide clues and evidence needed to convict criminals.

Computer forensics investigators spend almost all of their time working on computers, often in an office or digital laboratory setting. Though there are few physical demands associated with this career, it can be stressful as law enforcement agencies need to find information pertaining to crimes very quickly. Most computer forensics investigators work full-time and though much of their job can be done independently, they must be able to communicate well with other members of an investigative team.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Criminal justice, computer science, computer forensics, or other related field
Experience 1 - 4 years of experience
Certification and Licensure Professional certification, such as the EnCase Certified Examiner (EnCE) credential, preferred by some employers; private investigator license may be required in some states
Key Skills Interview, investigation, communication, and problem-solving skills; as well as patience, honesty, and resourcefulness; ability to perform e-mail, hard drive, and document recovery; understanding of evidence collection and laws related to investigation
Median Annual Salary (2016) $68,357


Career Steps

So now that we know the requirements and salary, let's check out the individual steps that you would take to become a computer forensics investigator:

Step 1: Gain a Degree

Many computer forensics investigators need at least a bachelor's degree to enter the field, and colleges and universities are increasingly offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in the specialty. Related programs, such as the Bachelor of Science in Computer Forensics, can help students gain the skills needed in both investigation and computer use. Students can also study in an undergraduate program to learn new technologies and techniques used in the industry. Advanced programs, such as a master's degree in high technology crime investigation, can also help students prepare for an investigation career.

Step 2: Get Certified

Several types of certification are available for computer forensics investigators. For example, the Certified Forensics Computer Examiner (CFCE) credential can be attained at institutions such as the International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists. Another option is the EnCase Certified Examiner (EnCE) certification from Guidance Software.

Success Tip:

You'll also want to research licensing requirements. In some states, computer forensics investigators need a private investigator license. Requirements for this license can vary by state.

Step 3: Find a Job

Computer forensics investigator jobs are found in all levels of law enforcement agencies. Smaller agencies, such as city police departments, may not have many opportunities available. Larger agencies, such as Homeland Security offices, the National Security Agency (NSA), and the FBI have a growing need for these investigators.

Step 4: Advance Your Career with Experience

Computer forensics investigators have a few options on advancing their career. With enough years of experience, one can become a senior forensics investigator. Computer forensics investigators can also start their own consulting agencies or private practices.

To review, with a bachelor's degree and certification under their belt, a computer forensics investigator can earn about $68,000 a year to help agencies like the FBI and Homeland Security fight cybercrime.

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