If you have an interest in both crime fighting and information technology, going into the computer forensics profession just might be a good career choice for you. Computer forensics is a very specialized discipline within the field of information technology. Individuals who perform this type of work are skilled in performing a variety of tasks associated with computer crimes and security breaches. For example, they may recover deleted files, break encryption codes, and determine how computer network and hardware breaches occurred in the past or might occur in the future.
Types of Computer Forensics Jobs
Individuals with computer forensics skills may work for law enforcement agencies, in corporate computer security roles, or as independent consultants.
Law Enforcement Jobs
When working in an investigatory capacity, computer forensics specialists may be involved in a wide variety of tasks:
- Tracking down the criminals behind various types of cybercrimes
- Finding criminals ranging from identity thieves, to criminals who swindle money out of people via email and Internet scams to sexual predators who target victims via the Internet
- Tracking down the culprits behind software piracy and hacking incidents
- Working with individual computers and network systems as well as servers, mobile devices, thumb drives, and other types of computerized electronic equipment
In addition to tracking down cybercriminals, those who hold law enforcement related computer forensics jobs are also responsible for gathering evidence, analyzing and reporting their findings, and helping build legally defensible cases. They are often required to testify in hearings and court proceedings to defend their processes, investigations and conclusions.
Those who work in corporate settings help ensure that the systems their companies put in place are secure. They determine the best way to protect critical data and protected information from both internal and external threats. When viruses strike, computer forensics professionals handle undoing the damage to the extent possible. They often function as hackers, trying to identify weaknesses that could make the organization vulnerable to cyber-criminals. The information computer forensics specialists who perform this type of work provide alerts the organization about changes that may need to be implemented to maintain the highest levels of security.
Independent consultants may provide services to private companies as well as to law enforcement agencies, working on whatever types of cyber security projects their clients require.
Qualifications for Computer Forensics Jobs
There is not a specific credential or requirement to be considered for employment in this field. However, preference is likely to be given to individuals who hold degrees in computer forensics or a closely related field like computer science or criminal justice.
Professional certification credentials are also very beneficial. If your goal is to pursue employment in this profession, it is probably a good idea to earn one or more general information technology certifications as well as a designation specific to computer forensics, such as:
- Certified Computer Examiner (CCE)
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
- CyberSecurity Forensic Analyst (CSFA)
- Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC)
Where to Look for Jobs
Whether you are looking for a job now or if you simply want to find out what opportunities really exist within the field, there are a number of helpful online resources.
- Forensic Magazine: This well-respected trade publication has an online listing of jobs in the field of forensics, with a category dedicated specifically to forensic computing and digital forensics. Each listing features the posting date, the name of the employer, and the city and state where the work will be performed. Click on any position that interests you for additional details and application information.
- Forensic Focus: This informational resource website is written specifically to address the interests of digital forensics and e-discovery professionals. Job postings are shared via a forum, and employment opportunities listed include openings within the U.S. and overseas. From the main job vacancies page you'll be able to see position title, posting date and time and company name. You can see geographic location from this page for some positions, but for others you'll need to click the job title to find out where the job is located, which is also how you can access specifics about each position and application instructions. You don't have to become a forum member to view job openings, but you will need to register to reply via the forum. Registration is free.
- Crime Scene Investigator Network : This website publishes job openings for all types of crime scene investigation job, with a category devoted to computer forensics and cybercrime. You'll need to scroll down the page to get to the category specific to computer forensics positions to see what is currently available. Each listing includes the job title, location of the position and the deadline for application. Click on any job title that interests you for specifics. Follow @CSInetwork on Twitter to learn about new opportunities as they are posted to the site.
- Computer Forensics World: There is an employment forum on the Computer Forensics World website where you can find information about job openings in the field, as well as interview and job search tips from other site visitors. Additional employment-related information specific to the computer forensics field is also included, and many forum participants ask and answer questions. You can view the forum posts without being a member, but you'll need to complete the no-cost registration process in order to join the discussion.
Additional Employment Considerations
Before being hired for a computer forensics job, you can expect to be required to pass a thorough background check that will likely include close scrutiny of criminal records, credit history, past employment, and educational background. Many employers, and even some of the entities that grant certification credentials, require a complete Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) background screening, including fingerprinting, for people who want to do this type of work.