Digital Forensics Career Options and Education Requirements

A career in digital forensics investigation involves examining a variety of digital evidence, including photos and video, digital devices, computers and data networks. There are many career options for an aspiring digital forensics specialist, including law enforcement or private investigation, and education in computers and information systems is required.

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Career Options for Digital Forensic Investigators

Digital forensic specialists can work for private businesses as consultants or private investigators, or for state and federal law enforcement agencies as sworn officers. Career advancement in the field involves specialization, digital forensic lab management, or industry research and publication. Areas of specialization include:

  • Computer-related crime investigation
  • Computers and digital devices
  • Data and network analysis
  • Image enhancement
  • Speech science

Salary and Job Outlook Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, private detectives and investigators, which include forensic computer analysts, earned a median salary of $45,740 per year as of 2012. Employment for this group of workers was projected by the BLS to grow by 11% during the 2012-2022 decade.

Education Requirements

At minimum, a would-be digital forensics investigator should earn a bachelor's degree in computer science or information technology. Even a degree in a related field that deals with data systems, like engineering or accounting, is looked upon favorably. There are some certificate programs available in computer forensics, but these are more beneficial for those who already have professional investigative experience and are looking to switch careers. Bachelor's and master's degree programs in computer forensics are rare.

Investigative techniques for digital specialists are usually taught on the job through employee training programs. Private digital investigators, however, need to be licensed in their state. Some professional organizations, like the High Technology Crime Investigation Association or the International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners (ISFCE), also offer professional training and continuing education programs.

Professional certification is available for those with professional training and/or experience. One basic comprehensive certification is the Certified Forensic Computer Examiner (CFCE) from the International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists (; another is the Certified Computer Examiner from the ISFCE (

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics