How to Become a Forensic Computer Analyst
Essential Education, Skills, and Job Interview Prep
Forensic computer analysts work with corporate organizations, private sector organizations, law enforcement, the US Department of Defense, and other government agencies. These experts retrieve erased or encrypted data from computing devices. If you intend on pursuing this career, this guide will come in handy for you.
Most forensic computer analysts need to get an education to receive the necessary training to work in the field. A degree will also teach you the tools required for the job. This guide will cover how to become a forensic computer analyst.
What Is a Forensic Computer Analyst?
A forensic computer analyst assists in criminal investigations, especially cybercrime. Most often, they recover encrypted, hidden, or deleted information that may help solve a case. They are also responsible for safeguarding the integrity of data. When working with criminal investigators, they follow the chain of custody to ensure the data will be admissible in court.
These professionals are primarily found in public service as part of the criminal justice system. However, they may also work in information technology, financial services, computing, defense, and network security. In the private sector, they protect companies’ computer systems and help retrieve data if it is lost.
Forensic Computer Analyst Salary and Job Outlook
There is currently a high demand for different types of information technology experts, including forensic computer analysts. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for computer systems analysts is $93,730 per year.
The occupation is predicted to see job growth of seven percent between 2019 and 2029, faster than the national average. This could be caused by the adoption of cloud computing, or by the general increase in the use of information technology.
Entry-Level Forensic Computer Analyst Job Requirements
To get an entry-level job as a forensic computer analyst, you should consider a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or a related program. Some employers may also accept bootcamp or community college graduates.
How to Ace Your Forensic Computer Analyst Job Interview
The interviewers will want to know about your personality and how well you work with others. They may also ask technical questions to try to find out the extent of your skills.
Some of the questions you may want to prepare for include the following.
Common Paralegal Job Interview Questions
- Name a few common encryption algorithms used to encrypt data.
- What kind of email analysis experience do you have?
- Describe any experience you have with virtualization.
- How would you retrieve data from an encrypted hard drive?
What Degree Should I Get to Become a Forensic Computer Analyst?
Many people become forensic computer analysts with a bachelor’s degree, while others pursue a master’s degree. No matter the degree you have, you need to have majored in computer science or a related discipline. A degree in information security with a concentration in digital forensics is another potential path.
Aside from attending a university or college, forensic computer analysts can take exams to receive professional certifications.
Associate Degree in Forensic Computer Analysis
There are programs in community colleges for forensic computer analysts. These associate degree programs cover essential topics like operating systems, forensics, computer, hacking, and law.
In most cases, these programs usually take two years to complete. An online associate degree program could take more or less time, depending on your schedule. Graduates of the programs can choose to pursue further education or begin working in entry-level positions.
Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Computer Analysis
You need a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or other related programs to become a forensic computer analyst. Many employers prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree.
There are other specialized degree programs to increase your chances of becoming a qualified forensic computer analyst. Some are cyber security, computer engineering, and information sciences. While a degree is essential, it may not be enough to help you stand out. You will also need the necessary skills to perform well as a forensic computer analyst.
Master’s Degree in Forensic Computer Analysis
After getting a bachelor’s degree, you can apply for a master’s degree. This type of program is mostly for professionals in the field who want to specialize or increase their knowledge base and earning power. On average, students need to complete around 36 credits before they can graduate.
Full-time students can finish this requirement in two years. The program can take a longer time for part-time students, who may spend up to five years in school. At the end of the program, you may be required to write a thesis.
Forensic Computer Analyst Doctoral Degree
A doctoral degree is not necessary to get a job as a forensic computer analyst. However, some people get it to improve their skills.
The programs have strict admission standards. For full-time students, this could take up to four or five years. In most cases, the degree also involves real-world work experience.
What Does a Forensic Computer Analyst Do?
Forensic computer analysts mainly work as investigators. This is why they are mostly hired by law enforcement agencies. However, they may fill other roles.
The main responsibilities of computer forensics specialists are outlined below.
Retrieves Lost Files
These experts are responsible for recovering lost files deleted intentionally and lost when a system is attacked. They make use of recovery tools and design unique algorithms to fish out data that is encrypted or lost.
Forensic examiners usually determine the cause of death or link a crime to the perpetrator. A forensic computer analyst examines storage devices to determine how they were compromised. The data can then be retrieved and handed over to law enforcement agencies.
If there is a breach of cyber security within an organization, a forensic computer analyst will participate in the investigation. Such investigations can cover incidents like money laundering, malware attacks, and other crimes with a digital footprint.
Criminals and hackers may attempt to hide their tracks with encryption, but a trained forensic computer analyst can recover this hidden information. Methods and tools they use include image creation, disk analysis, and the Windows Registry.
Analyzes Data for Legal Purposes
Forensic computer analysts use technical skills to analyze data and files that are lost, hidden, or deleted. They help law enforcement agencies prepare the files that relate to a case under investigation. They are also responsible for ensuring that the digital evidence in a case is well-formatted and admissible as evidence in court.
Essential Forensic Computer Analyst Skills
As mentioned earlier, a degree may not be enough to help you stand out. You will need to demonstrate certain skills. These skills will make it easier for you to carry out your responsibilities as a forensic computer analyst. They include technical skills, cyber security skills, and knowledge of the law.
For any field in information technology, technical skills are necessary. These skills are essential because you will need to understand various technologies and operating systems. The technology isn’t unique to computers, but relevant to mobile phones as well.
Cyber Security Skills
Forensics and cyber security are connected in many ways. Understanding cyber security can help you to see the full scope of the job, as crimes in the modern age are often committed on the Internet.
Cyber security skills will give you an edge over others because most of the courses for computer forensics revolve around cyber security.
Knowledge of Criminal Investigation and Law
As a forensic computer analyst, you need a firm grip on criminal investigation and law. This is almost as important as being tech-savvy. The job involves working on different kinds of crimes, so investigation skills are important.
Technological and legal skills are fused in this line of work, so an understanding of both will help you thrive in the industry.
How to Become a Forensic
Computer Analyst: A Step-by-Step Guide
The steps below are recommended but not compulsory. You need to first get a degree and become certified. When that is done, you can begin to apply for jobs or opt for continuing education. Below are the steps for becoming a forensic computer analyst.
Obtain a Degree
Most employers require a bachelor’s degree. Some major in digital forensics. Others study computer science, cyber security, or computer engineering.
Another option is to consider enrolling in a cyber security bootcamp program like the one offered by Code Fellows. It may not be a degree, but it gives you the majority of the training you need for this line of work.
Apply for Internships
Internships help you get some real-world experience. This experience can also be added to your resume to increase your chances of finding a job immediately after graduation.
Some schools offer internships, but they may not be focused specifically on forensic computer analysis. You can look out for internships that are more specific to get a clear experience of the job.
Certification is not compulsory, but it may be a good idea if you want to stand out. Most candidates will have a degree, but certification proves that you are truly skilled in the field.
There are different digital forensic certifications available today. Some are more generic, while others focus on fields of forensic analysis. You can get any of these certifications to improve your chances of getting a job.
Apply for Entry-Level Positions
After certification, the next step would be to apply for jobs in the private or public sector. Law enforcement agencies also look out for these experts to assist them in solving cases.
The best way to do this is to find openings online. Some popular sites like Indeed and ZipRecruiter always show job vacancies. You can even sign up for alerts to find the nearest available positions.
Continue Your Education
After landing the job or even before, you can continue your education with graduate degrees. A master’s degree will increase your earning power and your capabilities. It can also make you more employable.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Forensic Computer Analyst?
The time it takes to become a forensic computer analyst depends solely on the education path you choose. It can take as little as thirteen weeks in a coding bootcamp. Usually, cyber security bootcamps take around three months.
Associate degrees take two years, and bachelor’s degrees usually take four. If you choose to pursue graduate studies, it may take even longer.
Should You Become a Forensic Computer Analyst in 2021?
There is a high demand for forensic computer analysts today. If you choose to pursue this career, you will likely earn a high salary in a field with potential for growth.
Besides earning good money, you have the option to choose from a large pool of industries. If you prefer to investigate, law enforcement agencies will hire forensic computer analysts. If you want to work for a private company, there are still a lot of positions to fill.
Forensic Computer Analyst FAQ
Are forensic computer analysts in high demand?
There is a huge demand for these experts because all criminal investigations nowadays require computer forensics. The demand will continue as long as cybercrime or other crimes with digital footprints thrive. Businesses also need experts to retrieve lost or encrypted data.
Where can a forensic computer analyst work?
State and federal governments, law firms, accounting firms, banks, and tech companies all hire forensic computer analysts. They can work in any organization that uses a computer system.
Does forensic computer analysis require programming?
These specialists need to be trained in programming, networking, and encryption. Though the main responsibilities do not involve programming, it is a technical skill an expert should have.
Does forensic computer analysis pay well?
According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for a computer forensics analyst in the United States is $100,063 per year. This works out to $48 per hour and $1,924 per week.