Computer forensics is a high-growth field, with huge potential for career advancement. Computer or digital forensics, along with other segments of the information security industry, are anticipated to grow rapidly over the next decade, and offer both significant opportunity for those looking to enter or grow in the field and high median salaries.
However, even if you're excited about the potential of a computer forensics career, you likely have some questions about what the field actually entails - like, "what jobs can you get with a computer forensics degree?" Here's an overview of how to get into computer forensics and what you can do with a degree in the field.
What Is Computer Forensics?
To start, it's important to get a clear sense of what computer forensics is, and is not. Many people believe that computer forensics and cybersecurity are synonymous; they are, in fact, very different fields (though there is quite a bit of overlap in the work that they do, in terms of protecting the digital assets and intelligence of an organization). While cybersecurity is focused on the prevention of cyber attacks, computer forensics is about handling the aftermath of an attack. Digital forensics professionals are called into action once a breach occurs, and work to identify the hack, understand the source, and recover any compromised data.
What Does a Computer Forensics Degree Entail?
If you're interested in the computer forensics field, a minimum of a bachelor's degree in the field is necessary for most positions. A computer forensics degree will give you experience in identifying and responding to cybersecurity breaches and network hacks that have already happened. You'll learn to do this work across a variety of technologies, from computers to mobile devices. Graduates of a B.S. in computer forensics degree program will have a deep knowledge of (and be able to interpret and apply) laws and procedures associated with identifying, acquiring, examining, and presenting digital evidence.
You'll learn to conduct efficient, high-quality digital forensics investigations, through fundamental computer theory, industry trends and best practices, an understanding of white-collar crime methods, and cutting-edge digital forensics tools. Courses will have a dual focus on both law and technology, with classes in criminal law and procedure, criminal investigation, and white-collar crime complementing in-depth, computer-focused classes focusing on forensics of mobile technology, files, malware, and operating systems, and much more.
What Jobs Can You Get With a Computer Forensics Degree?
A computer forensics degree prepares you to work as a specialist in organizations that are particularly susceptible to, or concerned about, network breaches. The majority of these jobs are in law enforcement - both state and national agencies - but you may also find positions in mid- to large-sized corporations, crime laboratories, or large municipalities.
Some potential computer forensics job titles might include:
- Computer Forensics Investigator
- Computer Forensics Technician
- Information Security Analyst
- Information Systems Security Analyst
- Forensic Computer Analyst
- Security Consultant
Your daily responsibilities and activities will vary based on the actual role you obtain and the type of organization you are working in. You might choose a role or organization based on their mission, or the job duties as described in the hiring process. Keep in mind that some computer forensics jobs, particularly those in law enforcement, often work on investigations that involve offensive or even disturbing content; if that will be an issue for you, you may want to ask careful questions about the kind of work you'll be doing before accepting a job.
Additionally, almost all of these roles entail working with highly sensitive information, and therefore a thorough background check is required for virtually any job in the field. This is important to note if you have any kind of criminal history - even minor offenses may disqualify you from the hiring process.
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