CAREER DEVELOPMENT / MAR. 10, 2014
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How to Become a Forensic Computer Analyst

With IT becoming such an essential part of society, it has become important that we have what you could call IT detectives. This is an important and highly specialised career which, although quite niche at the moment, will only continue to grow in importance.

What do Forensic Computer Analysts do?

Forensic computer analysts can be involved in a number of activities, but essentially they are a cyber-security specialist. Either working for a government or private company they usually attempt to secure IT systems after their system has been breached, or look for evidence as to who carried out the attack. They may also attempt to gain digital evidence of a crime to secure a conviction. Typical activities for a Forensic Computer Analyst can include:

  • Trying to stop or reduce hacking and online scams.
  • Working for the police to access email accounts to secure information needed for a conviction. This could include accessing terrorist communications.
  • Accessing encrypted information on hard drives such as child pornography to help convict paedophiles.
  • Recovering damaged information, or information from damaged hard drives for the police or private company.
  • Unlock images which have been digitally altered in order to mask a person or location.
  • Stopping Commercial espionage and theft from organisations such as banks.
  • Identify someone who is hiding their location using an IP changing service.
  • Act as an expert witness in court cases.

Forensic Computer Analysts do not have the highest paid job, but the pay is still quite good. One of the reasons for this is that it is quite a niche career, with quite a unique skillset. Forensic Computer Analysts are not that easy to find, so experienced and talented ones can demand a high wage. But depending on whether you work for the government, a private company or freelance, it is likely that you will have to work a lot of overtime while conducting your investigations.  

Salary

Trainee

£20,000

12 Months Experience

£25,000 - £35,000

4 – 5 Years’ Experience

£40,000 - £60,000

5+ Years’ Experience

£60,000 + Depending on who you work for

What Qualifications Are Needed

Usually the bare minimum that is needed is an undergraduate degree in computer science, software engineering or a similar topic. But, now many universities are offering Forensic Computing undergraduate degrees. The government has also recently introduced a scheme to train forensic computer analysts through an apprentice system. However, there are still many people who enter the profession purely through experience and on the job training. These people may be experienced talented computer experts or policemen, who have learned the trade while working. One thing that is important is that in order to work with the police you have to be aware of the legal system and this is a part of all training programmes.

Career Development

The career development prospect for forensic computer analysts is extremely good. This area of employment is growing at a massive rate and there are a huge number of public employers such as the police, Serious organised crime agency, GCGQ, MI5 and MI6. There are also an ever growing number of private companies interested forensic computer analysts. Great resources for current vacancies can be found at these websites:

As you can see although the need for Forensic Computer Analysts is increasing it is still quite a niche career and the skills are specialised. If you have a genuine passion and talent for using computers, then this may be the career for you.

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