COMPUTER FORENSICS DEGREE
With such a wide variety of positions within this cyber security, it is a very realistic and attainable future goal for anyone interested in cyber crime to consider the field. Enter the land of cyber security and there are some extremely interesting and exciting positions offered throughout several large corporations, federal and state agencies and companies. Earning a computer forensics degree can take you down an intriguing path toward a career that may never be boring.
A computer forensics analyst is the job title you may be striving for once your computer forensics degree program is completed. Think about the forensic detectives and analysts that work in the law enforcement field, then compare yourself to their role in the digital world. You are going to be discovering and evaluating evidence from computer hacks, damage to computer systems, overrides to networks and much more. Breached and destroyed networks are going to need your help to break down how it happened and to solve the crime—and to prevent it from happening again. Specific responsibilities that may be noted in job postings may include the following:
- Gather evidence for authorities and legal cases
- Provide training for offices in law enforcement on strategies in computer evidence
- Evaluate and restore information and data from computers
- Create reports of findings and provide evidence for trials if necessary
- Rebuild networks and software systems to recover lost and/or damaged information
- Discover other systems that may have been hacked
- Collaborate with attorneys and discuss the importance of electronic evidence within the case
- Stay up to date with the latest and greatest techniques, systems and technology
- Use your knowledge of reverse engineering, forensic and response procedures
- Testify and present evidence in court
CAREER PATHS AS A FORENSIC ANALYST
Where will you go with your computer forensics degree in hand to begin your employment? If you haven't guessed by now, law enforcement, legal firms, and large corporations may be workplaces with strong opportunities for forensic analysts. In a law enforcement position, you might start out as an officer and then complete training within your agency to enter the forensics division. Almost all levels of government also provide jobs for those with degrees in computer forensics. For example, the FBI has a team of some 500 analysts spread across the country who investigate cyber crime. There are some stepping stones within this career choice that may usually be followed, no matter who your employer is.
Here are the general steps to advancement in forensic analyst career paths:
- Junior Forensics Analyst
- Senior Forensics Analyst
- Senior Forensics Manager
As with all computer science and most cyber security positions, there are several different specific titles which may have the same responsibilities—or extremely similar—to each other. When you begin the job hunt, carefully read every word in the job title and the responsibilities/requirements listed. Some examples of other titles include:
- Computer Forensics Specialist
- Computer Forensics Engineer
- Computer Forensics Examiner
- Computer Forensics Technician
- Computer Forensics Investigator
- Information Security Crime Investigator
- Digital/Computer Crime Specialist
A computer forensics bachelor's degree may be required for any position in this field. Most schools may offer a degree in computer science and then offer an emphasis in forensics. This degree is critical because your knowledge needs to go beyond an understanding of computers and software systems. You will need proficient knowledge of cyber crime and how cyber criminals attack computer systems as well as insight into how their minds think and work. Master's degrees in computer forensics may also be available and might be helpful if you want to improve your resume and expand job opportunities, or move up to senior roles within your current place of work.
The stepping stones in job positions within this field tend to balance with the work experience required. When starting as a junior or entry-level analyst, some employers may only require 1-to-2 years experience, but usually an average of three years is the expected norm. Senior or management roles are going to need at least five years on the job to be considered for advancement. Internships and employers that offer in house training are excellent ways to build up your work experience.
A unique mind is needed in this career. After all, you are looking to help solve and catch cyber criminals, but in order to do your best in this role you need to be able to think as a criminal. You'll need to be good at snooping and curious about human and computer behaviors. It may also be helpful to have strong verbal and writing skills as you will use these continually throughout your career. Collaborating and training officials, lawyers and creating reports for the courtroom are other skills that will be part of the basic foundation for success in computer forensics.
Professional certifications could show expertise, growth, and a commitment to your chosen career. Some employers may help you pay for the education to earn your certifications, so don't be shy about asking about employer reimbursement for education. Here are just some of the professional certifications available to forensic analysts:
- Certified Reverse Engineering Analyst (CREA)
- Certified Computer Forensics Examiner (CCFE)
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
- Certified Computer Examiner (CCE)
- GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst
- Certified Penetration Tester (CPT)
- GIAC Network Forensic Analyst
- GIAC Reverse Engineering Malware
Obtaining either a bachelor's or master's degree in computer forensics may be well worth the investment. Either could provide potential opportunity with some amazing employers and companies. No matter if you have your sights set on a local law enforcement office or a government security agency, earning your computer forensics degree may be the first step toward making that goal become a reality. Start researching your education options now.