A computer forensic investigator, also referred to as a forensic investigator, computer forensics analyst, and digital forensics examiner (among others), will spend most of their time gathering, analyzing, and investigating digital data and computer evidence. Earning a computer forensics degree is an important step to entering this rapidly growing field.
Computer forensic investigators work within local, state, national, and international law enforcement agencies, as well as within personal investigation firms. The duties of a computer forensics investigator will vary depending on which of these types of organizations they are employed by.
How to become a Digital Forensics Investigator | EC-Council
What does a computer forensic investigator do?
In most cases, computer forensic analysts examine digital computing systems and storage devices to recover files, including those which were deleted or encrypted by a user, which may be relevant in criminal investigations. Depending on their specific role, a computer forensic analyst may be responsible for tasks ranging from the gathering of digital information to investigating such information to create a legal report. They may specialize in cyber crime, but some computer forensic investigators work to uncover digital information pertinent to non-digital crimes.
For example, a law enforcement agency may contract a computer forensic investigator to track the location of an alleged criminal suspect on the night a crime was committed. In this case, the computer forensic investigator would find such information by examining the suspects personal mobile device and present their results to the law enforcement agency to help officials progress in their investigation. On a day-to-day basis, a computer forensic analyst may perform any of the following duties:
What is a computer forensic investigator?
Computer forensic investigators are technology professionals who often work for law enforcement agencies, government organizations, accounting firms, law firms, banks, software development companies and private investigation companies. The purpose of their work is to fight cyber crimes and extract digital evidence from devices, like computer systems, hard drives and other storage devices for use in criminal investigations. Further, forensic investigators are often hired to analyze electronic documents to identify potential evidence in emails, images and other files.
While the field of computer forensics is relatively new, it has become more popular in recent years. This may be attributed to the rise of technological advancements and the increasing involvement of technological devices in crimes. With the expansion of the field of computer forensics, multiple branches of specialization have been developed, such as the investigation of firewalls, networks, databases, mobile devices, mobile applications and more.
How to become a computer forensic investigator
Depending on your exact career path, educational background, location and other situational factors, the exact path youll take to become a computer forensic investigator will likely vary. Despite this, there are a few fundamental steps you can take toward accomplishing this goal and starting your career. Here are five steps to follow to become a computer forensic investigator:
1. Graduate with your high school diploma or equivalent
Computer forensic investigators typically must attend four-year degree programs at colleges or universities to start entry-level roles in their field. Therefore, you must first earn their high school diploma or equivalent degree. From here, you can apply to higher education institutions which offer degree programs that can help you build the necessary skills to become a successful computer forensic investigator.
2. Enroll in a four-year degree program
After graduating high school and getting accepted to a college or university, you should enroll in a four-year degree program relevant to the field of computer forensic investigation. You may consider studying computer and digital forensics, computer and information security, cyber security, computer information technology, database development, computer engineering, software engineering or other related disciplines. These courses of study can help you build the strong foundation of technical competencies that you will use in your role as a computer forensic investigator.
3. Pursue experiential learning opportunities
While enrolled in your four-year degree program, you should consider pursuing experiential learning opportunities such as internships, fellowships or part-time jobs. These experiences can help you gain tangible experience in the field of computer forensics and build up your base of skills through on-the-job training. In addition, such experiences can be valuable to have on your resume when you enter the job market once you graduate with your bachelors degree, as most employers prefer to hire candidates with experience in the field.
4. Become a GIAC certified forensic analyst (GCFA)
While it is not a requirement to become a computer forensic investigator, you may consider earning a professional certification in the field of computer forensics to legitimize yourself as a professional. The Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC) offers the GCFA credential to help professionals specialize their cyber security and investigation skills. These certificates may help give you an advantage on the job market and prepare you for a role in computer forensics with additional training opportunities.
5. Pursue job opportunities
Once youve graduated with your bachelors degree, gained experience in the field of computer forensics and decided whether or not youd like to pursue a GCFA credential, you can pursue job opportunities. You may seek employment with law enforcement agencies, legal firms, government organizations or private companies, depending on your specific interests and the opportunities available in your area.
Average salary and job outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for forensic professionals is quite positive. Over the next 10 years, from 2019 to 2029, the BLS projects that the employment of forensic science technicians will increase by 14%, a rate much faster than average for all occupations. This growth rate may be attributed to the increasing popularity of the field.
Skills for a computer forensic investigator
There are various technical and soft skills youll need to focus on developing in order to become a successful computer forensic investigator. Here are a few of those skills outlined:
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