How to Become a Computer Forensic Analyst (With Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 24, 2022 | Published January 3, 2022

Updated November 24, 2022

Published January 3, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Business and law enforcement usually require the services of professionals to manage information security. A computer forensic analyst can possess the necessary skills and technical expertise to analyze digital data, handle information security breaches, and manage other digital insecurities. Knowing the responsibilities and skills of these professionals can help you decide if it's a career you want to pursue. In this article, we explain steps on how to become a computer forensic analyst, review the job responsibilities of these professionals, and discuss their skills, salary information, and work environment.

How to become a computer forensic analyst

The steps on how to become a computer forensic analyst include the following:

1. Complete a degree

If you decide to become a computer forensic analyst, you may want to obtain a bachelor's degree relevant to the field of computer forensics. Most of these professionals have a degree in computer and digital forensics. Other practical degrees include cyber security, computer and information security, computer information technology, software engineering, and network engineering. Some community colleges also offer two-year associate degrees in computer forensics. With this associate degree, you can transfer to a four-year college or a university to earn a more advanced degree.

2. Choose a work structure

Before deciding on the steps to become a computer forensic analyst, it may be better to decide on a work structure. You may want to work for the government, a private non-government-operated organization, or start your own firm. Deciding this early can help guide you on the steps and qualifications to earn. If you want to work for a private firm, they may not be as stringent concerning your qualifications or certifications. If you intend to work for the government, they may require you to earn necessary certifications and undergo training.

3. Gain experience

You can pursue experiential learning opportunities to gain skills while still in your degree program. Various learning opportunities include internships, part-time jobs, or even fellowships. These experiences can serve as a foundation for the forensic discipline, provide you with practical knowledge of the field, and can help you develop your skills. You can also add these experiences to your resume to increase your chances of obtaining an interview. Employers usually prefer hiring applicants with practical knowledge of the field.

4. Obtain certification

Certifications may not be mandatory depending on the position or organization you apply for, but having one or two certifications can give you an advantage over other applicants. These certifications can also equip you with the necessary training to succeed in the field. Certifications you can earn include:

GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst (GCFA)

Professional certification from the Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC) can help you specialize your cyber security and investigative skills. This certificate may also provide you with additional training opportunities that can help you gain experience and develop your skill set. Other relevant certifications from the GIAC for computer forensic analysts include GIAC Network Forensic Analyst (GNFA) and the GIAC Certified Forensic Examiner (GCFE).

Certified Computer Examiner (CCE)

This certification is from The International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners (ISFCE), and it's available to forensic examiners working publically or privately. The purpose of the certification is to provide a fair and uncompromised process for certifying the competency of computer forensic analysts. The certificate also sets high forensic standards for these professionals.

5. Apply for the position

After completing your degree and earning the necessary certifications, you can start applying to positions that can utilize your skills and expertise. Local governments and Government agencies typically list their openings on the career page of their websites. You can also browse job listing sites for vacancies in the private sector. Private agencies may also decide to place ads on strategic platforms and websites to advertise their vacant position.

6. Continue learning

As the computer forensic field is a technological field, it's likely to evolve constantly. To stay relevant in this field, it's beneficial for you to keep researching and learn how to use new software pertinent to your job duties. You can improve your skills by attending conferences and expanding your knowledge of new software and technologies. Subscribing to computer forensics and cybersecurity publications to receive updates on emerging technologies may also be effective.

Related:

  • 12 Popular Forensic Science Jobs (With Average Salaries)

  • How to Become a Forensic Scientist in 6 Steps

What are the job responsibilities of a computer forensic analyst?

A computer forensic analyst usually gathers, analyzes, and investigates digital data and computer evidence. This evidence may relate to criminal activities such as hacking, use of illegal images, network intrusions, terrorist communications, theft of confidential information, online scams and frauds, and political, industrial, and commercial espionage. The job responsibilities of these professionals include:

  • reviewing digital evidence and providing findings to appropriate team members

  • preparing computer and digital evidence for court proceedings

  • decrypting and analyzing digital data using a variety of forensic tools and software

  • unlocking digital images that are locked to hide the identity of an individual or the location

  • examining data from electronic devices, including mobile phones and satellite navigation systems to trace a place or person

  • investigating a digital security incident, such as a breach in data

  • collecting evidence and information in a legally permissible way

  • working with law enforcement to recover digital evidence

  • advising law enforcement on the reliability of the digital evidence they collect

  • recovering encrypted or deleted data, often from a digital storage device

  • identifying system vulnerabilities that may cause data breaches

  • reconstructing data from a damaged digital file

  • documenting findings to uphold the integrity of the investigation

  • evaluating the scope of a digital attack

  • discovering the lost assets targeted during a cyber attack

  • protecting the data system to prevent future cyber attacks

  • keeping up with development and cyber-crime methods in the forensics field

Related: Careers in Criminal Justice You Can Pursue with Your Degree

What skills do computer forensic analysts possess?

Some skills computer forensic analysts possess include:

Computer skills

As a computer forensic analyst works with computing and storage systems, computer skills help these professionals navigate and uncover information in various platforms. Understanding network protocols, topologies, and data functionality may be easier with computer skills. Computer skills also enable these analysts to understand how computer software and hardware systems function. Knowledge of programming languages such as Python, Java, and HTML may also increase the competence of professionals working in this field. Computer forensic engineers typically possess computer skills that enable them to use digital forensic tools.

Critical thinking and analytical skills

Analysts can use their effective critical thinking and analytical skills to help solve crimes by uncovering hidden or deleted files. As a responsibility of a computer forensic analyst involves analyzing digital data to find solutions to security problems, they can conduct proper analysis and research with these skills. They may also use these skills to quickly browse through data and identify trends or patterns.

Read more: Analytical Skills: Essential for Every Job

Communication skills

Computer forensic analysts work with law enforcement and other legal bodies to solve cases. Using effective communication skills can help them simplify their analysis and research findings to these other professionals. A computer forensic analyst's job responsibilities may include drafting a report for their results, which can become easier as they develop their written skills. Law enforcement and legal firms may decide to use these reports in court cases and criminal investigations.

Malware analysis skill

This skill enables computer forensic analysts to decrypt and analyze suspicious files. By learning to understand the behaviour, functionality, origin, and potential impact of different files, these professionals can identify which method to use and view the information within the files. Malware samples can include viruses, backdoors, or even software that gathers information without permission. With this skill, these professionals can analyze binary samples to determine if they're malicious or not.

Cryptography skill

Analysts may use cryptography skills to ensure they protect private or sensitive information. A computer forensic analyst can build a system that allows only the sender and recipient of a message to view the message content. This can help increase cyber security for their clients. They usually do this by encrypting data using a secret key and sending the encoded message and the secret key to the decryption recipient.

What is the salary and work environment for a computer forensic analyst?

The national average salary of a computer forensic analyst is $73,986 per year. The working hours for this profession range from 35 to 40 hours. Some organizations may practice 24/7 coverage with their staff working shifts to respond quickly to cyber security or criminal incidents. Computer forensic analysts typically operate at an office or computer lab. There are situations where they may travel to off-site locations to visit clients, attend meetings, or go to court.

These professionals can also visit crime scenes to help law enforcement or legal firms examine devices or assist with the seizure of digital items relevant to the investigation of the case. Depending on where a computer forensic analyst works, there may be restrictions on how much they can talk about their job outside of work. This may be because of the sensitivity of the case on which they're working. Analysts may also act as expert witnesses and give evidence in court.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organization‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌, ‌and‌ ‌location.‌

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