How to Become a Forensic Computer Analyst (With Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

20 December 2021

Forensic computer analysts are technology professionals who help prevent and investigate crimes. They may work for private companies or government agencies, like the Hong Kong Police Force. Understanding their duties and the steps on how to become a forensic computer analyst can help you decide if this is the right career path for you. In this article, we explore a step-by-step guide on how to become a forensic computer analyst, along with their duties, essential skills and average salary.

What is a forensic computer analyst?

A forensic computer analyst is a digital forensics expert that retrieves data from digital devices, such as computers and phones. They also analyse data to find evidence of crimes to help investigations. When working with government agencies, forensic computer analysts help to solve cybercrimes. Private companies often hire forensic computer analysts to prevent cybercrimes with their specialised expertise. Some of their duties include:

  • recovering hidden, encrypted or deleted digital information

  • gaining access to locked digital devices, such as computers or phones

  • analysing a company's cybersecurity to detect vulnerabilities

  • writing reports of their findings

  • offering expert insights to lawyers and law enforcement

  • determining the cause of failure after a cyber attack

  • updating computer systems to meet security standards

  • design cybersecurity protocols for a company

Forensic computer analysts primarily work in an office setting but may perform site visits to inspect evidence. They often work long hours as organisations are constantly at risk of cyber threats.

Related: What Does Police Do and How to Become One (Plus Salary)

How to become a forensic computer analyst

Here are the steps on how to become a forensic computer analyst if you're interested in pursuing this career path:

1. Education

Performing forensic computer analysis is a highly technical skill, so many employers require a bachelor's degree in a relevant field. You can also consider attending a vocational school. Here are different degrees to consider pursuing and how they apply to the role:

  • Computer forensics: This degree provides the specific knowledge and skills for the role, so it's often the most ideal choice.

  • Computer science: As computer forensics involves an in-depth understanding of computers, this degree can provide the technical knowledge required for this role.

  • Cybersecurity: If you're interested in working for private companies, cybersecurity may be more applicable as private organisations are largely looking to prevent cybercrimes more than investigating them.

  • Criminal justice: This degree can provide you with relevant legal knowledge which is suitable if you're looking to join the Hong Kong Police Force or other government agencies. If you pursue this degree, consider taking extra courses related to computer science to ensure you have adequate technical knowledge.

While employers rarely require candidates to have advanced degrees such as a master's or a Ph.D., obtaining one can increase your technical knowledge and improve your qualifications.

Related: Professional Qualifications vs. Academic Qualifications: How They Differ

2. Experience

Gaining experience during and after pursuing your educational qualifications is crucial to succeeding as a forensic computer analyst in a mid-level role. Consider applying for internships while studying, so you can learn how to apply your technical knowledge and gain practical experience. After your studies, consider applying for entry-level roles related to computer science or cybersecurity.

3. Certifications

Employers may not require certifications, but they may require knowledge or expertise in certain aspects of the role. A job opening may require proficiency in a specific computer language or with certain computer hardware. Earning certifications can help you show employers you meet their requirements. Attending certification courses may also improve your skills and show your dedication to the industry. Some certifications to consider obtaining are:

  • Certified Digital Forensics Examiner Training Course: A 35-hour course designed to train cybercrime and fraud investigators in advanced investigation techniques.

  • Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator: This certification provides a strong baseline knowledge of key concepts and practices in digital forensic science. To earn this certification, students undertake an 18-hour course and pass a 150-question multiple-choice examination.

  • Network Security Training & Certification: Focused on network security and defence, this course may be more suitable for candidates looking to join a private organisation. This is a more advanced course recommended for people with fundamental knowledge of networking concepts.

4. Build your CV

Regardless of what stage of your career you're at, it's important to have a CV. When you're still studying with minimal experience, you may apply for internships. In such cases, your CV can highlight the courses you've taken and any extracurricular activities related to computer science you've participated in, such as hacking competitions or software development contests. Once you gain some experience, you can consider focusing your CV on any tasks you completed in your previous roles.

Make sure to add any relevant certifications and elaborate on how they apply to forensic computer analysis. Consider mentioning specific keywords from job postings in your CV to show you meet the qualification requirements of an employer.

Related: 50 IT CV Skills (With Definition, Examples and Sample CV)

5. Apply for jobs

Try to use every resource available to you. Consider posting your resume on several job-posting websites and set alerts using keywords, such as cybersecurity or forensic investigator, for job postings that match your career path. Many universities have employment resources that are also available to graduates. Attend any local career fairs or technology conventions to network with potential employers. If you're looking to join a specific company, you can search their website and contact them directly by email or phone to see if they have any vacancies.

6. Keep learning

It's important to develop your knowledge and skills throughout your career. Technology is a fast-paced industry, with new software and hardware being created constantly. Cyber attackers are always looking for new vulnerabilities to gain from, so it's important to track industry news to be aware of the latest best practices for cyber security. Consider reading industry journals and attending technology exhibitions to follow industry trends.

Essential skills of a forensic computer analyst

Here are some essential skills to consider developing for this career path:

Analytical skills

Analysing data is one of the primary duties of forensic computer analysts. Criminals often try to cover up their illegal activities, such as deleting files or using software tools. Being successful at data analysis requires you to draw meaningful conclusions from seemingly random or useless data.

Related: A Guide to Analytical Skills: Definition, Examples and Tips

Communication

Communication involves the ability to exchange information using verbal or written means. If you're working for a law enforcement agency, you might work as part of a team of investigators. When working for private organisations, you may give presentations to management on how to improve cybersecurity. It's important that you're able to convey complex technical information in a clear and concise manner to people without computer expertise.

Attention to detail

Forensic computer analysis involves investigating large sums of data, the majority of which could be meaningless. Being able to discern minor details can provide crucial evidence for a criminal case. Locating mistakes in software or hardware implementation can help improve an organisation's cybersecurity.

Confidentiality

While retrieving or analysing data, forensic computer analysts may come across personal or confidential information. If you're involved in a criminal investigation, it's important to protect the privacy of people unrelated to the case. Similarly, while helping companies implement cybersecurity protocols, you may also come across confidential files. If you're working for a private company, it's crucial that you're familiar with their privacy and confidentiality policies.

Critical thinking

Critical thinking is the ability to evaluate a situation to determine an effective response. Implementing cybersecurity for a company often involves challenges, such as minimal technical knowledge of employees, a limited budget and unfamiliar technical infrastructure. Being able to apply logical reasoning and creativity can help you devise unique and practical solutions.

Average salary of a forensic computer analyst

The average salary for a forensic computer analyst is $29,592 per month. This can vary depending on your workplace, such as whether it's a private or governmental organisation. Your educational background, skills, certifications and experience may also factor into your earning potential.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.