Smartphones. The Internet of Things. Artificial Intelligence. It’s the Golden Age for computer science geeks, the data-obsessed, and tech nerds of the world. You’re alive in a time when your knowledge and passion for all things tech aligns perfectly with fields like computer forensics.
In this computer-centric universe, cybercrime is inevitable. As technology evolves, so do the hackers. In the past decade alone, we have seen cybercrimes of all levels rise, from hacking personal bank accounts to shutting down entire government servers.
On the bright side, technology has also provided us with new methods of preventing crime both online and in real life.
With all that is happening in the world, and around the web, the demand for computer forensics experts is evident. We need intelligent, analytical, tech-savvy “geeks” to be on the frontlines of the digital frontier.
Computer Forensics Job Outlook
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics (2018), the projected outlook for Computer Forensics specialists is expanding:
- 16,700 jobs available
- $58,230 median annual salary
- 14% job growth from 2018-2028
As long as technology continues to dominate so will cybercriminals and therefore, the need for computer forensic specialists.
“There are numerous opportunities in both the criminal and civil arenas for a computer forensic examiner,” says Jim Watkins, a forensic examiner with 20+ years of experience, including work for the FBI. “On the criminal side, hardly a case is investigated that doesn’t involve a computer, cell phone or other digital advice.”
Jim currently teaches the Computer Forensics Certificate program at California State University, Fullerton.
So what does it take to be a computer forensics expert? The right education and training!
- Educational Background: You can’t just hit the ground running blind when it comes to fighting cybercrime. Taking college-level classes in criminal justice or computer science is the best way to start attaining the knowledge needed to start your career.
IT professionals, systems analysts and network administrators are also well-equipped to pick up the skills and knowledge necessary for success in computer forensics.
- Certification: Many organizations prefer to hire those who are certified with the right skills, from the right sources.
Protecting the digital space means knowing the latest techniques and technology used for cyber forensics, including the hardware, software and analytics needed to process digital evidence.
While procuring the right degree will lay the foundation of your career, specialized training is often expected for this field. Certification can be obtained from a number of universities, as well as industry-specific institutions.
Certificate programs are a practical, economical way to get the training needed to succeed. The Cal State University, Fullerton certificate program is one such option.
The CSUF 10-month course is 100% online and taught by experts in the field, including Jason G. Weiss, a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent and instructor of 22 years.
“Nothing can replace hands-on experience of using industry approved and tested tools,” he says. “When taking this program, you will be on the leading edge of forensic tool technology.”
The course, designed for those already working full-time, includes flexible learning times. Students are given access to the technology tools Weiss mentioned, as part of the hands-on learning component.
- Identify your ideal job & build experience: Once educated and certified, a computer forensic specialist can choose from a wide variety of places to work:
Law Enforcement: Computer forensics experts are needed at every level of the law, from police departments to the CIA. As a certified computer forensics specialist, you’ll be able to solve digital crime in real-world cases.
Private Sector: Businesses small and large need their data (and their customers’ data) protected against would-be hackers. In addition to this, the private sector has a need for examiners to support civil and trial litigation needs.
Consultant Opportunities: Freelance jobs for cybersecurity experts run aplenty. Organizations and businesses looking to hire consultants will likely choose those who are certified by a reputable organization, such as a university or a law enforcement team.
Research which environment will suit you best, and apply for jobs in that area. No matter where you land, experience is everything. As you continue to grow in knowledge and keep up with the ever-changing technology of the world, you will be able to advance your career and continue to succeed.
At the end of the day there will always be a need for computer forensic experts. It is a field that will never feel stagnant as long as technology continues to evolve.
With the right education, certification and job experience, you can become a formidable force against cybercrime, and a protector of people and businesses around the world.
To learn more about the California State University, Fullerton Computer Forensics Certificate program, visit https://extension.fullerton.edu.
This article was written by California State University, Fullerton staff.
About Cal State Fullerton Extension & International Programs:
Extension and International Programs (EIP) creates programs for every stage of life, extending the University’s resources into the community and around the world. Programs include professional certificates, online degree completion programs, international student services, and much more. https://extension.fullerton.edu