Computer forensics degrees provide an individual with the knowledge and skills required to obtain or preserve information from all types of electronic media including computers, hard drives, CDs, flash drives, and any other device used for storing electronic data. Such individuals frequently have jobs with law enforcement agencies although a highly skilled individual will often have a much higher salary when working as a private consultant or through a large investigative firm. The salary for a person in a law office averages around $37,000 while a consulting firm may charge $300 to $600 per hour.
Computer forensic investigators may be referred to by different names such as computer examiners or information systems security professionals, but they all do the same type of work. They all need to know how to retrieve information from electronic sources in ways that preserve the information without damaging the source and using methods that follow the guidelines of legal procedures to ensure the protection of the rights of an accused individual. Information that is retrieved is copied, stored and documented using meticulous methods so the information can be used in court. Everything from personal email to business transaction records will be examined in the effort to ferret out the details of criminal activity.
Computer forensic training most often involves the completion of various certifications although degrees at every level are possible to obtain. Many students in the computer forensic programs already have careers in law enforcement or attorneys' offices and are seeking for a change to a career that is a bit less dangerous or more tightly focused. A person working on a bachelor's degree in law may find computer forensic courses a fascinating minor that makes use of many of the same courses that are required for the law degree. Some people who already have bachelor degrees take computer forensics as a graduate program, but as degrees in the field are not currently required, the certificate programs are more common.
Even the certificate will require online tests and may require internships in order to earn a license as a certified computer examiner. The certificate also requires 18 months of documented training or experience and 50 hours of continuing education every two years. These credentialing requirements take the place of formal education and help guarantee that the professional is up-to-date on all the latest electronic investigative techniques.
To be truly successful in computer forensics requires a special type of person. You must be highly focused and disciplined as well as have a good sense of organization. You also need to be comfortable spending long hours working alone with electronic storage devices since, like computer programming, computer forensics often means working individually and without a lot of interaction with co-workers. Yet you also need good written and spoken communication skills as much of what you do will need to be explained in courtrooms. Finally, you need to have or be willing to obtain a thorough understanding of the theory and technology of electronic media in order to successfully apply your own creativity and analytic skills to the recovery of electronic data.