The number of careers with the law enforcement industry are vast and varied and continue to evolve. Law enforcement has no choice in the matter; more and more, criminals are turning to advanced digital technologies in order to perpetuate new, and more insidious white collar crimes. While police officers, drug enforcement agents and crime scene investigators handle more conventional work, certain careers focus primarily on white collar crime.
However, a properly trained computer forensic expert can expect to be involved in both white collar crime and “traditional” crime – any crime that involves a computer (i.e. retrieving “locked” data from the computer of a murder suspect). Due to the complexity of digital security systems, proper computer forensics training is vital to ensure this professional has all the tools at his (or her) disposal to do the best possible job.
Computer Forensics Analyst Job Responsibilities
If you possess strong computer and analytical skills and have a genuine interest in fighting crime, undergoing computer forensics training is definitely something of interest to you. Because your duties and skills will ensure you are involved in a diverse range of cases, you can expect this to be a unique, exciting, challenging, and rewarding career.
As a computer forensic analyst, your primary responsibility is to retrieve data from computers that has been hidden, damaged, or even erased. You’ll also be expected to analyze and determine the nature of intrusions into computer systems. All retrieved data is then carefully analyzed in an effort to catch a criminal or stop a crime. You’ll work hand in hand with detectives, private investigators and law enforcement to “put the pieces” together and apprehend the criminals, or prevent the crime.
Although there are no “formal” requirements to become a computer forensics expert, employees prefer applicants with a computer science or accounting degree (a degree in accounting provides a good foundation from which to become an expert in computer-based frauds). Then, training is usually provided directly by the company who does the hiring – be it private corporation, educational institute, government agency, or law enforcement agency. (Of course, having some experience in the computer industry or law enforcement field would be a benefit but proper education and training are the two most critical factors to the potential employer.)
That said, it is becoming increasingly common to see computer forensics offered as a certificate course in local colleges and universities (requires 15-21 credits). For those already involved in law enforcement or investigative work, this is a extremely simple way to upgrade your skills and expand on the services you can provide.
There is no formal licensing program for computer forensics professionals, although some jurisdictions may require you to be a licensed private investigator (a designation that may have many or few requirements depending on the state from which you apply) in order to work in this field.
Certification is voluntary too; although obtaining the Certified Computer Examiner certification (or CEE) from the International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners will provide you with an edge over competitors applying for the same job, increase your earning potential, and demonstrate your competency to potential employers.
The most common classes taken as part of computer forensics training, whether to earn certification or a degree are provided below:
- Advanced Computer Forensics
- Computer Network and Security
- Criminal Investigation Protocols
- Criminal Law
- Criminal Procedures
- Cybercrime and its History
- Financial Accounting
- Introduction to Computer Theory
- Introduction to Criminalistics
- Introduction to Digital Forensics
- Introduction to Networking and Security
- Laboratory Forensic Science
- Network Forensics
- Operating Systems
- White Collar Crime
Computer Forensics Wages, Salary And Job Opportunities
The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that “opportunities will be favorable” for properly qualified individuals in this field. The median annual wages of investigators was $42,000 in 2008. The top 10% of earners took home in excess of $76,000, while the bottom ten earned less than $23,500.
Because investigative careers like computer forensics offer the opportunity for individuals to start their own businesses or work as consultants, salaries can vary greatly, and there is room for advancement.