How to Become a
Forensic Computer Analyst
Best Education Tracks, Key Skills, and Top Certifications
Forensic computer analysts have a significant role in the investigation process. They use different tools to retrieve damaged, broken, or deleted computer evidence. In the digital age, these analysts are vital to solving crimes.
This comprehensive guide will teach you how to become a forensic computer analyst. This career requires many of the same skills needed to become a network engineer or a cyber security specialist. If you’re interested in digital forensics, this could be the career for you.
What Is a Forensic Computer Analyst?
A forensic computer analyst is an IT professional who works in defense organizations, government agencies, or private firms to find criminal information. If someone leaves a digital footprint after committing a crime, it can become important evidence. The role of a forensic computer analyst is to retrieve and restore this information.
This job often involves traveling to help officers solve cases. Their working hours are usually long or irregular because crimes are unpredictable. However, computer forensics can be a rewarding career.
What Type of School Should You Attend
to Become a Forensic Computer Analyst?
To become a forensic computer analyst, you usually need to attend a university. You should earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, Cyber Security, or a related field. However, you can get a specialized certificate in computer forensics to help you learn everything you need to know.
Best Forensic Computer Analyst Education Tracks
To become a forensic computer analyst, you have a few education options: community college, university, and alternative programs. Some analysts have both a college degree and additional training.
Although a community college will not usually award you with a bachelor’s degree, it can be a helpful first step. You can try looking for associate programs in computer science topics. Most community colleges allow you to use your credits toward a bachelor’s. This can help you save money and time if you want to dip your toes in before committing.
Forensic Computer Analysis Degrees
The starting point of a career in forensic computer analysis is to get a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or Information Technology. You can learn about network security, cyber security, and programming fundamentals. Some universities offer specializations in forensics or security. This degree can take three to five years to complete.
Once you get your bachelor’s, you can further your career with a Master’s Degree in Computer Forensics or Digital Forensics. This degree covers fundamental topics like digital evidence collection and forensic analysis. It will take you up to two years.
Forensic Computer Analysis Bootcamps
Although there aren’t many coding bootcamps with forensics programs, they can still help you develop the right skills. In a data science or cyber security bootcamp, for example, you will learn about network security and data recovery.
You can find cyber security programs at bootcamps like Ironhack, Flatiron School, and BrainStation. Most bootcamps are less expensive and time-consuming than a university program. If you already have a degree and want to specialize, a bootcamp is a good option.
Forensic Computer Analysis Courses
If you want to learn specialized forensic computer analyst skills, an online course might be a great choice. A forensic computer course is usually short-term and either at an introductory or intermediate level. They can be free or cost up to a few hundred dollars, but they are generally affordable. You can find online courses on platforms like Udemy and edX.
How to Become a Forensic Computer Analyst: A Step-by-Step Guide
There are certain steps you need to take if you want to become a forensic computer analyst. Read the list below to learn more about which pathways you can take.
Earn a bachelor’s degree
A Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science will help you build a strong foundation in CS fundamentals. You will learn about programming principles, data protection, databases, and more. You can also specialize or minor in a more specific subject.
Join an internship program
An internship is a great way to learn and practice while getting paid. You could find a position at a national defense organization or law enforcement company. This way, you will get experience in the field. Some degree programs offer internship opportunities as part of the program.
Obtain a master’s or a certificate
Once you have your bachelor’s degree, you should try to specialize. You can do this through a master’s degree, certificate, or intensive course. This is an essential step because you can prove to employers that you want to focus on forensic computer analysis.
Get a certification
Certifications are a great way to authenticate your skills. Many institutions out there can validate your cyber security skills. However, in this case, the Certified Forensic Computer Examiner (CFCE) certification is the best option. You can also research certifications that apply to your location or preferred job.
Apply for jobs
Now that you are qualified, you can submit your resume. Even if you don’t have any experience in the field, you can highlight the skills you earned during internships.
Key Forensic Computer Analyst Skills
A digital forensic analyst must have a specific set of skills and knowledge. This includes data recovery, chain of custody procedures, forensic examination, and computer networking. Take a look at the following list for more in-depth information.
Forensic Examination and Data Recovery
A forensic computer analyst must examine the devices involved in criminal cases to find any helpful information. Data recovery skills can help you find erased or damaged information that could work as potential evidence in criminal cases. This data recovery could be performed on mobile and computer devices.
Evidence Chain of Custody Procedures
The chain of custody is a type of record that officers use to track evidence. A digital forensic examiner must be competent in chain of custody procedures such as collecting and documenting evidence. This can help the investigation process run smoothly.
A computer network is a group of computers, devices, and servers that share common data. Forensic computer analysts must understand the computer systems dynamic to retrieve important information and use it to solve cases. Most computer science degrees will teach computer networking skills.
Forensic Computer Analyst Salary and Job Outlook
PayScale estimates that the average salary of a forensic computer analyst is about $74,189. This can vary based on your experience, location, and level of education. PayScale also says that experienced forensic analysts can earn up to $100,363 per year.
Entry-Level Forensic Computer Analyst Job Requirements
To work in an entry-level position as a forensic computer analyst in the United States, you need to have a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, Computer Forensics, or Information Technology. You should also try to complete a specialization or internship before you start applying for jobs.
What Does a Forensic Computer Analyst Do?
A forensic computer analyst has many different responsibilities on the job. These include extracting confidential data, collaborating with governmental agencies, and following electronic traits. Below you can learn more about the role of a computer forensics analyst.
A digital forensic analyst investigates computer data to find meaningful information for a criminal investigation. If the perpetrator has deleted, encrypted, or hidden that information, the analyst will recover it so it can be analyzed.
Performs Reverse Engineering
Reverse engineering consists of disassembling and analyzing the code used in a cyberattack to understand how it works. This can help discover how someone committed a crime and how it can be prevented in the future. Reverse engineering is a crucial task in this job, and today it is more common than ever.
Follows Electronic Traits
Computer forensics specialists follow electronic traits between people involved in the case and other groups or individuals. They must analyze data to find a meaningful link between the suspects and their involvement in the crime.
Writes Technical Reports
Computer forensic investigators must write detailed reports about their findings during the investigation. This will help officers understand better the overall situation of the case, including digital traits. Analysts must have good communication skills to explain complex digital information.
Gives Evidence in Court Cases
A forensic computer analyst must provide evidence in court cases about their discoveries. If they’re required in court, they will have the role of an expert witness. As an analyst, you might have to explain what the evidence proves and why it is important to the case.
Keeps Up with Digital Trends
Cybercrime is becoming more common each day, and the attackers always come up with different techniques. It is the role of a forensic computer analyst to keep up to date with the latest cybercrime trends.
Forensic Computer Analyst Certifications
Many companies ask candidates to get a certification to work as forensic computer analysts. Read below to find out which organizations can help you get certified as a forensic analyst.
International Association of Computer Investigation Specialists (IACIS)
IACIS issues the gold-standard Certified Forensic Computer Examiner (CFCE) certification, which consists of two phases. The first is a peer review phase where you will solve four scenario-based problems. The second is a certification phase where you must pass a practical exercise and exam. You must recertify every three years.
International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners (ISFCE)
The ISFCE offers a certification called Certified Computer Examiner (CCE). The CCE certification is valid in several different countries. This credential validates that you have high ethical standards in computer forensics and are qualified for this position.
Digital Forensics Certification Board (DFCB)
The DFCB offers a Digital Forensics Practitioner certification. It consists of a 50-question exam to evaluate your computer forensic skills. You will have 45 days to complete the one-hour online test. Before applying, you must submit an online self-assessment and pay a $350 fee for the exam.
How to Prepare for Your Forensic Computer Analyst Job Interview
During a job interview for a forensic computer analyst position, your interviewer will ask questions to get to know you. You can ace your job interview by showing them your skills and talking about your unique qualities and strengths.
Forensic Computer Analyst Job Interview Practice Questions
- What operating systems are you familiar with?
- Are you good at programming? What coding languages do you use?
- What does metadata represent?
- Do you prefer Encase or FTK?
How Long Does It Take to Become a Forensic Computer Analyst?
It can take you from four to six years to become a forensic computer analyst. A bachelor’s degree lasts around four years, and master’s or certificate programs take one to two years to complete. Most certifications can also be factored into this time frame.
Should You Become a Forensic Computer Analyst in 2021?
Yes, you should become a forensic computer analyst. Not only is this a high-paying career in 2021, but you can collaborate with national defense or security companies to solve criminal cases. You can even protect others from suffering due to digital crimes.
According to the BLS, the demand for these professionals is expected to grow in the coming years. Therefore, you will most likely be able to get a job in this field. If you have a passion for computer science and forensics, you should become a forensic computer analyst.
Forensic Computer Analyst FAQ
Does computer forensics require math?
Yes, since this is such a technical profession, you will need to understand math and statistics. This is a multidisciplinary profession, so you should also have a basic understanding of science, psychology, and more.
Does forensic computer analysis require coding?
In some entry-level positions, you will not need to code. However, once you move up and have more responsibilities, you will need to use your programming skills. Reverse engineering is one task that usually requires coding.
What is the hourly rate of a forensic computer analyst?
ZipRecruiter estimates that the average hourly rate of a forensic computer analyst is $48. However, it can be as high as $65 or as low as $36. It will depend on your experience and the company where you work.
Is forensic computer analysis a stressful job?
People may think it is a stressful job considering that working hours are unpredictable and grueling. However, the final purpose of this job, which is helping crime victims solve their cases, is very rewarding.