A Guide To Help Start Your Career in Digital Forensics

Posted February 26, 2021 by in Career

Here we will help you discover the wide range of employment options available within the field of Digital Forensics. There is a wide range of different practitioners within the field covering a large range of responsibilities and skills. 

Digital Analysts, investigators, professionals and examiner’s are some of the titles used within the field of digital forensics. When researching forensics you may sometimes see computers in place of digital i.e. ‘computer forensics’ instead of ‘digital forensics’. You may also see the acronym DFIR and this stands for Digital Forensics Incident Response. 

Here we will be looking at the Digital Forensics part of DFIR.

Is Digital Forensics The Career For You?

It is important to consider the following before deciding if this career is for you:

  • Starting salary
  • Qualification requirements
  • Skill set and abilities to be successful
  • What type of work you will be expected to complete in computer forensics

You will definitely benefit from having a degree in computer related fields but it is not a requirement in the field.

The abilities listed below will be essential to the role:

  • Strong verbal, written and interpersonal skills
  • The ability to follow rules and your attention to detail
  • Writing reports and documenting evidence
  • Presentation skills
  • Knowledge of different laws

Typical Duties of The Job

The following are just some of the duties which will be typical of the job:

  • Investigating murders, sexual assaults and violent acts – if working within law enforcement
  • Carrying out witness interviews and possibly testifying in court
  • Gathering evidence and writing reports
  • Forensic analysis of the discovered evidence and write your professional opinion about what you think happened
  • Investigating hacks, leaks and breaches of policy
  • Meetings with superiors to discuss the investigation and evidence

Technology is constantly changing and being updated as are a lot of the laws around privacy, so within this field you will be constantly learning and researching. A knowledge of encryption, technology and software tools for forensics will be extremely important in this role.

Today in criminal investigations, computer forensics are vital to helping solve cases. Digital forensics are used to help figure out what happened in a crime, who was involved and can even find the motivation for the offence. This might be a child abduction, murder, sexual assault or fraud, whatever the offence the digital forensics role is vital. 

The evidence which you might gather may be from messages on an app on a phone, files on a laptop, logs from a vehicle’s sat nav, and location data from a cloud account.

The courses required for a degree in forensics will provide the skills needed to perform the duties within the role. 

Forensics qualifications are often recognized within the courts. In many cases, the defense or prosecution may ask the computer forensic examiner to be an expert witness within a court case. It is vital in these instances that you are knowledgeable and accurate with your information as this evidence goes beyond just stating facts. 

Who Could Employ You?

Public Sector

There are many different positions within digital forensics in the private and public sectors. The largest employer is law enforcement, they also have the highest profile work in the public sector. There are many sectors within law enforcement, including Police services, Customs and tax agencies, and the Military.

The positions within law enforcement are usually filled by police officers, but on occasion depending upon the organization, they could also hire non police officers to complete the forensics. If a sworn police officer takes on the role, they are required to go through training. They are used more often than not as they are paid a lower rate than civilians.

Private Sectors

It is now more common for corporations to hire a digital forensics investigator to investigate issues within their companies. These issues may include allegations such as a data breach within an organization.

Another possibility for a digital forensic would be to be called in the help investigate a ransom or cyber attack. The digital forensics in these cases will be part of the incident response team. 

In bigger corporations, the computer forensic experts are sometimes paid larger salaries to help ensure loyalty within the company. 

The main role you would be required to perform regardless of the job circumstance will be investigation skills and techniques and documenting the findings in a way which will be admissible in court. 

Your superior or a judge may have limited computer knowledge or skills and they have to make very important decisions based on your evidence gathered, so you must be able to explain everything clearly. 

Qualifications 

Having a degree as well as forensics certifications could earn you double compared to those with only the forensic certifications. 

Employers usually prefer you to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, forensic science, criminal justice or another related field. 

If you do not have a degree there are still plenty of roles available in the forensics field, especially within law enforcement. 

The following list is some of the forensic qualifications you may look into: 

CCE – Certified Computer Examiner

CFCE – Certified Forensic Computer Examiner

GIAC – Global Information Assurance Certification

X-PERT – X-Ways Professional in Evidence Recovery Techniques

ACE – AccessData Certified Examiner

EnCE – EnCase Certified Engineer

GIAC Certified Forensic Examiner (GCFE)

Benefits & Starting Salary

The salary you will start on will largely depend upon the qualifications you possess and whether you are working in the public or private sector. 

If you have a degree you may find it easier to find jobs and having both a degree and a forensics certification will be a lot more desirable for employers. 

Public sector forensics starting salary is between $50-$70k per year. Within the private sector you could earn more, a computer forensic professional with at least 2 years experience could earn $95k per year. It is not uncommon to earn six figure salaries within the field.

There is the added bonus of travel in the private sector and the ability to move up the corporate ladder. 

So if you are still interested in the field of digital forensics you should start looking into courses and certifications. 

*Photo by MD Duran