A computer forensic scientist or technician is still considered a cutting edge profession in the criminal justice field. With the increase of cybercrime, cyberterrorism, identity theft, and Internet child predators, computer forensic scientists are needed to track seemingly traceless criminals. Computer forensic scientists work with law enforcement officials, legal teams, independent companies and the government to conduct investigations, retrieve evidence and sometimes even testify in court. Computer forensic scientists are in high demand because they need to have a very thorough, practical knowledge of computers, networks, hacking, data retrieval, information security, and computer surveillance, as well as criminal justice concepts like confidentiality, privacy laws, evidence handling and more. Generally, computer forensic scientists are supervised during their work by a forensic scientist, and they must have the ability to work well in stressful situations. Depending on the casework, these professionals may also encounter irregular schedules and long overtime hours.
Top Computer Forensics Degrees
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the job outlook for computer forensic investigators will be excellent for the next several years. This prediction is for self-employed investigators as well as those employed by a firm. Investigators who work on their own will enjoy more flexibility, but may make far less or far more than they would in a firm. Salary for self-employed investigators varies on their geographic location, experience and number of clients. Firms offer more stability and usually provide benefits like paid vacation and health insurance. The average salary reported in 2006 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics was $33,750 for private investigators, although those in the computer forensics field generally earn higher salaries. The median range for private investigators settled between $24,180 and $47,740.
Computer forensic scientists and investigators are expected to be highly educated professionals, so a bachelor’s degree is required. A Master’s degree in a field like computer science of criminal justice can be extremely beneficial to acquiring the top level jobs, as students in these programs will learn about all the cutting edge technologies, systems and concepts needed to succeed in computer forensics. Those with Master’s degrees can also expect to receive a higher salary than those who only hold undergraduate degrees, and they may be promoted earlier and more frequently also.