Be a Forensic Computer Technician
Forensic computer technicians are digital detectives, also known as information security analysts, forensic computer examiners, or forensic computer investigators. These trained professionals work with law enforcement, government agencies or private detectives. They use computer analysis and investigative techniques to gather, analyze and preserve digital evidence for legal purposes. Forensic computer technologists retrieve deleted items, recover corrupted files, inspect storage media, such as computer hard drives or USB flash drives. Other duties include presenting the findings in court or to superiors. Appearing in court might be stressful to some individuals.
Forensic computer technicians need excellent communication and critical-thinking skills, credibility and honesty, the desire to uncover the truth, strong problem-solving skills, extensive knowledge of computer operating systems and computer hardware, and familiarity with network security features and computer investigative techniques. While no degree required, certification, associate's degrees or bachelor's degrees in computer forensics, computer science or criminal justice may offer more opportunities for professional advancement. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the annual median salary for information security analysts, which include forensic computer technicians, was $90,120 in 2015. The salary varies widely by location and experience. You will want to check resources for data in your area.
Forensic Computer Technician Steps
What steps should I take to become a forensic computer technician?
You want to research and plan to fulfill the license requirements in your state. Some states require computer technicians to be licensed as private investigators. Licensure eligibility requirements vary from state to state, but generally include being fingerprinted, passing a private investigator test, and having some work experience. You will want to base your plan of action on the requirements of your state.
Complete an educational program. Although having a college degree is not a strict requirement to become a forensic computer technician, earning a certificate or degree in computer forensics or a related field, such as criminal justice or computer science, may provide a competitive edge for aspiring forensic computer technicians. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, certificate or degree programs may offer the best route toward becoming a computer forensic technician, since these programs provide students with the strong computer and investigative skills needed for the position.
Certificate programs are ideal for students who already have a job in law enforcement as well as students who have a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as criminal justice or computer science. Other options include a bachelor's degree or master's degree in computer forensics. Common courses include operating systems, criminal investigation, network security fundamentals, ethics, criminology, criminal justice and digital evidence recovery.
You want to gain experience. Many employers prefer candidates with a degree or with prior experience in law enforcement or an investigative environment. Forensic computer technicians may gain entry-level jobs with law enforcement agencies or private organizations. Possible jobs include digital forensic analyst, cyber investigator, information security specialist or cyber security analyst.
Consider getting a job with law enforcement. Gaining initial experience in an investigative setting provides hands-on experience in gathering evidence and dealing with computer-related crimes. According to the BLS, many workers in the field start their careers in law enforcement to gain training and establish strong reputations before transitioning to private organizations.
You will want to get certified. Forensic computer technicians can earn voluntary certification from organizations such as the International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists (IACIS), the International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners (ISFCE) and the High Tech Crime Network (HTCN). Certification requirements vary depending on the certifying organization. General requirements may include completing forensic computer training courses, working for a specified length of time in the field and passing a certification examination. Certification demonstrates professional competency and may offer a competitive edge in the job market.
Individuals might also pursue other voluntary computer-related certifications, such as Microsoft's Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) credential or CompTIA's A+ certification. Be sure to research the requirements to maintain the certification. Certifications must be periodically renewed and may require the individual to pay a re-certification fee and take a proficiency test.
Forensic computer technicians generally have certificates or degrees. They are required to have strong integrity and knowledge of computer hardware, software and security. And they earn a median annual salary of $90,120.