Computer Forensics Salaries: Average Salary of a Computer Forensics Professional

Published Oct 31, 2009

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A computer forensics professional uses data that are stored in computers and other digital media for investigative purposes. These professionals may work in law enforcement or as private detectives. Read on for career specifics, salaries and career expectations.

Computer Forensics Professional Career Summary

Professionals in computer forensics are trained to recover data for use in criminal investigations of fraud or other electronically mediated transgressions. These professionals are able to analyze computer data, read deleted or encrypted files and even recover lost passwords or deleted e-mails. All of this digital information can be used as evidence for various crimes.

Typical education for computer forensics professionals may include degrees in computer science or related fields. Another area that may be helpful is accounting. Study of accounting allows computer forensics professionals to learn fraud investigation through the use of computers and digital information. Typically, specific computer forensics credentials are earned at the associate's degree level, though some colleges do offer bachelor's and master's degrees in computer forensics. Computer science and accounting are usually offered as bachelor's or master's degrees. Professionals with prior investigative experience may choose to take a shorter certificate program in computer forensics.

There isn't a national licensing requirement for computer forensics professionals. However, depending on the state of employment, some may be required to become licensed as private investigators. Even when not required, licensure may allow them to perform additional tasks or follow-up that might otherwise be forbidden.

Computer Forensics Professional Career Outlook and Salary Information

When seeking a career move, law enforcement professionals may gain experience in other specialties and work their way up to become computer forensics professionals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median salary of general investigators and private detectives as $41,760 as of May 2008, but it does not list salaries of computer forensics investigators separately. According to Payscale.com, the typical salary range for a forensic computer analyst with 5-9 years of experience is $59,869-$85,915. Newcomers to the profession typically earn $35,375-$51,411, Payscale.com adds. Salaries will differ depending on years of experience and location of employment. The size of the organization one works for may also make a difference in salary.

The BLS also reported that from 2006-2016, job growth for investigators should be at 18%. This prediction was made before the current recession. However, increased security concerns, especially as they relate to digital data and online content, may warrant the employment of more computer forensics professionals.

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