Digital Forensics and Information Security Analyst Certification and Career Path guide

By: David Parker

The demand for tech gurus who can solve crimes is growing all the time as hackers from home and abroad seek to crack servers and networks in the United States.

Cyber security is fast becoming a necessary component to all businesses and agencies. The demand for tech gurus who can solve crimes is growing all the time as hackers from home and abroad seek to crack servers and networks in the United States. Why not work to thwart them with a computer forensics certification? Though this is not an easy credential to add to your resume, it will be worth the hard work and effort when you have the gratification of busting cyber bad guys. You will also qualify for a broad range of jobs and your salary will likely see a dramatic increase, too.

The Certification Exam

To become eligible for a computer forensics certification, you will need to pass a test. Prior to the test, you will need to study the field and sharpen both your soft and hard skills. You can get prepared either in a purely academic scenario, by taking forensics courses online, or with professional experience. If you have professional experience only, it may be beneficial to read up on areas that you might might not cover in your daily work. For instance, you might not work with all the laws that apply to the field, and those might show up on a soft skills test.

Your hard skills might be put to the test in a set of practical scenarios where you will need to demonstrate your knowledge in a simulation. You will often be given a significant amount of time to complete the simulation. Successful candidates will analyze the files they’ve been given and then write up a report that could be entered as evidence in a court of law. Certification programs will seek stellar outcomes in areas that include, but aren’t limited to the following subjects:

  • Computer ethics and law
  • Investigation procedures
  • Tools of forensic investigators
  • Legal data recovery that follows the rules of evidence
  • Data structure forensics
  • Assessing evidence
  • Recovering evidence from various operating systems, including windows and Linux
  • Collecting evidence from volatile memory
  • Report writing

Benefits of Certification

Depending upon which professional body provides your certification, you may find that a host of benefits become available to you. Often, certifying bodies allow you to participate in their private listservs, receive group benefits for things like professional liability insurance, and have access to a wide network of other forensics professionals. Other benefits may include access to proprietary professional journals, research and development projects and newsletters.

Once you pass your certification exam, you may find that you are eligible for a wider range of jobs. While your on-the-job experience might have qualified you previously, it is important to gain a respected credential that demonstrates a dedication to the field, as well as providing solid evidence that you have mastered certain areas in the field. Professional designations always help garner immediate respect and qualify you as the professional you are so that you can advance faster without having to prove your worth.

Career Paths

You can then move your career forward with a number of different paths. You can apply to work with law enforcement agencies who are hungry for computer investigators, or you might seek work with a corporation that finds your particular skill set valuable to their information technology department. Some of the job titles that you can consider might include the following:

  • Digital Forensic Analyst
  • Computer Security Incident Response & Recovery
  • Cyber Security Malware Analyst
  • Security Engineer
  • Forensics Cyber Weapons and Tactics Advisor
  • Application Security Analyst
  • Security Auditor
  • Security Manager
  • Penetration Tester

Consultancy Practices

Many computer forensics specialists also pursue careers as business consultants. If you choose this path, you are likely to join a team that might include penetration testers, programmers and other IT professionals with a wide range of specialties. As a consultant, you might work with a firm or on your own. In a firm, you will have a support system that will handle various aspects of work such as benefits, administrative support and a dedicated team. If you work as an independent consultant, you may need to find subcontractors in your field and having a solid network from your certification program could prove invaluable.

Your consultancy practice might take a few different tracks as well. You could work as a legal consultant for law enforcement departments and agencies that don’t keep forensics experts on staff. In that scenario, or you might be called to a job on a moment’s notice. Investigators will need your expertise as soon as possible so that you can begin the evidence-collection process.

It may also be that you consult for legal defense teams, helping to exonerate those who have been wrongfully accused. Those cases will often involve you arriving after investigators have amassed evidence. Your job will then be to provide an independent opinion of the evidence and what it really means for the court. Whether you work for the prosecution or the defense, you will probably be asked to write a comprehensive report along with testifying in court.

Homeland Security Jobs

The Department of Homeland Security is also actively seeking professionals who can help thwart and investigate cyber crimes. After you have done a significant tenure helping to protect the national interest, you might find yourself all the more hireable by independent contractors. If you have some of the following skills, you could qualify for a full-time position with federal law enforcement:

  • Cyber Incident Response
  • Cyber Risk and Strategic Analysis
  • Vulnerability Detection
  • Intelligence and Investigation
  • Networks and Systems Engineering
  • Digital Forensics Analysis
  • Software Assurance

Salary and Career Outlook

Salaries for those with a computer forensics certification vary according to the stage of your career, your chosen path and even where you live in the country, as salaries are often calibrated according to the local cost of living. Nonetheless, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics cites the median annual income for Information Security Analysts at $88,890 for 2014. That number is for a professional with a bachelor’s degree and less than five years’ experience. You might find that you earn more with a higher level of education and experience. The BLS projects that the field will grow by 18 percent through 2024, which is much faster than average for all career fields.