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Computer Forensics Careers

With the widespread technological advances and the exponential growth of the Internet in the last decade, employment opportunities in the computer industry have soared. Of course, with the capabilities of technology and the internet today, new types of crime have soared as well, from hacking and illegal downloading to bank fraud and insider trading. Computers are also being used in more traditional types of crime, such as murder and kidnapping, providing evidence for police and prosecutors to use in court. The need for a new career field has emerged that combines the computer industry and law enforcement: computer forensics.

A job in computer forensics consists of finding and analyzing vast amounts of information for evidentiary purposes in court. Common tasks for a computer forensics professional include recovering deleted information from computers, decrypting or recovering encrypted and deleted files, and tracking intrusions into computer systems and networks. Other responsibilities include investigation of computer-based crime: identity theft, cyber-harassment, illegal downloading, etc.

Computer forensics professionals work closely with law enforcement agencies and officials, and may even be employed by law enforcement, the courts, or lawyers. Criminal justice degrees are one of the fastest routes to a career in computer forensics, in addition to programs that focus on computer science or accounting. For those with criminal justice degrees, or already working in law enforcement, it is also an easy leap to enter a computer forensics program. Once the necessary computer skills are acquired, one can learn the investigation aspect of computer forensics through practical experience, or through programs that provide a computer forensics degree orcertification.

The computer forensics field is expected to expand rapidly in coming years, with an expected growth rate of between 22 and 27 percent. Most often, these jobs are with law enforcement agencies, lawyers, courts, and the like. Corporations attempting to cut down on fraud or who are large enough to justify their own investigative branch may also employ computer forensic professionals. Finally, private investigative firms often have a computer forensic professional on staff, and one may even contract out as a private investigator in this line of work. As expected, private employment tends to pay better than public employment in this field, resulting in a wide variety of salaries ranging from about $60,000 to about $120,000 nationwide.

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