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How to Become a Computer Forensic Examiner

Find out how to become a computer forensic examiner. Research the education requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in computer forensics. View article »

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  • 0:03 Computer Forensic…
  • 0:57 Get an Education
  • 1:32 Gain Work Experience
  • 2:00 Become Licensed and/or…

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Video Transcript

Computer Forensic Examiner Info

Computer forensic examiners are investigators who are experts in gathering, recovering, analyzing, and presenting data evidence from computers and other digital media related to computer-based and non-cyber crimes. They might work on cases concerning identity theft, electronic fraud, and various types of scams. They fill out reports for law enforcement and sometimes testify in court about what they have discovered. Travel is often involved in this profession, and these examiners spend a great deal of time sitting in offices and looking at computer monitors.

They should have written and verbal communication skills, investigative skills, and familiarity with relevant software such as EnCase Forensic. Forensic computer analysts made a median annual salary of $68,357 in 2016, according to PayScale.com.

Career Requirements at a Glance

Degree Level High school diploma; some employers require a bachelor's degree
Degree Fields Computer forensics, computer science, or criminal justice
Experience Varies; minimum of 2-3 years is common
Certification and Licensure Both are voluntary; some states require private investigator license
Key Skills Skills in written and verbal communication, investigation, interviewing, surveillance, evidence collection, and background verification; familiarity with relevant software such as EnCase Forensic; knowledge of applicable laws
Salary (2016)* $68,357 yearly (median for all forensic computer analysts)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Monster.com job postings, *PayScale.com

Get an Education

Most computer forensic examiner jobs have no educational requirements; however, a college degree or certificate in a relevant field, such as computer science or criminal justice, can provide training. Many colleges offer bachelor's and master's degree programs in computer forensics, which can offer study in forensic analysis, computer networks, cryptography, and fraud in accounting. Certificate programs in computer forensics may also be available for those who already have some background in investigations work and simply need additional training specific to digital investigations.

Gain Work Experience

The most important component to becoming a computer forensic examiner is work experience. In most investigative work, experience is gained on the job. Aspiring examiners may want to consider working for a law enforcement agency, which usually trains its officers and investigators in digital forensics investigation techniques. This background provides a good foundation for a future as a computer forensic examiner for either government or private companies.

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Become Licensed and/or Certified

Some states require that computer forensic examiners be licensed as private investigators. For the states that require licensure, the requirements may include a certain amount of education, passing a criminal background check, and an exam. For states that don't require it, obtaining a private investigator license can be advantageous to a forensic examiner's career, such as for completing follow-up investigative work.

Many organizations offer certification opportunities for computer forensic examiners. For example, the International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners (ICFCE) offers the opportunity to obtain the Certified Computer Examiner (CCE) credential to computer forensic examiners who have completed a certain amount of training, self-study, or professional experience. Candidates who pass a 4-part exam are awarded the certification, which indicates to potential employers and clients a certain level of competency in the field. The International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists (IACIS) offers the Certificate Forensic Computer Examiner (CFCE) option covering six core competencies in a peer review phase and certification phase.

Before gaining certification, it may be helpful to research the options available and what employers are looking for. Many employers require experience in specific software that offers vendor certification, such as the EnCase Certified Examiner (EnCE) designation.

Computer forensic examiners should also be current on the latest technological advances in order to be adequately prepared for their jobs. Classes and seminars in fraud detection programs and other computer software and systems are often available through professional organizations and software companies.

To recap, aspiring computer forensic examiners might complete full degree programs in computer forensics or else might shift into the specialty from another aspect of the investigative field. Licensure is also sometimes required.

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