As cyber criminals are rapidly growing and targeting our information systems and attempting to violate our privacy for financial gain or other personal or hate interests, the field of computer forensics is in high demand. Organizations look forward to computer forensics for their incident response team. Too many people out there refer to the discipline of computer forensics as data recovery. However, it is much more than that. Computer forensics is a full computer investigation with analysis as the ultimate goal. This means that it not only fulfills the needs of the file recovery option, but also works to find the artifacts and assess the value of information.
A typical computer forensics expert works for law enforcement agencies, working on Internet crime ("cybercrime") cases and examining computers that may have been involved in other types of crime to find evidence of illegal activity. The unique and sensitive nature of the work of cyber forensics professionals has made their job an extremely demanding must-have for many organizations dealing with users' confidential or personal information.
With endless opportunities in this field, the job market is also growing continuously. The global digital forensics market is estimated to be worth $7 billion by 2024. However, the average salary in the computer forensics field is $74,199 per year.
It is important to remember that the field of computer forensics encompasses a number of sub-specialties and as such the average salary of a forensic investigator depends not only on what they specialize in but also on a number of other factors including the following:
*level of experience;
*The type of industry (e.g. government or private sector).
Overall, the salary range for a forensic investigator employed in the private sector is obviously much higher than in government. For example, less experienced investigators with only an associate's degree make about $60,000 a year. Much more experienced investigators with the same degree (10 years or more) earn well over $95,000 on average.
An investigator with only a bachelor's degree and only about 5 years of experience makes about $50,000; while a person with a master's degree makes just over $95,000 per year. As you can see, the level and amount of education one has can have a major impact on the salary level one receives.
Unlike other industries similar to computer forensics, like eDiscovery, incident response, and risk management, the salaries are significantly less employee-friendly. These industries are just doing their job with no future growth, making them an ordinary job market. However, due to the rise of sophisticated digital crimes and terrorist attacks, the increasing security concerns in various industries and economic growth in developing countries are the main factors driving the global digital forensics market. However, the increasing complexity of mobile devices and increasing usage of cloud-based applications may restrain the market growth in the coming years. Advances in digital forensic tools would provide the market with a number of growth opportunities in the coming years.
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The growth of the computer forensics industry as a whole is forecast to explode, as will that of the cybersecurity industry, based on a number of key factors including:
- The rapid development of digital crimes;
- The advancement of mobile/wireless technologies;
- The ever-growing demand for cloud-based services from both consumers and businesses.
Government agencies that spend heavily on cyber forensics are hiring more staff with forensic backgrounds to prepare cyber incident response and recovery teams. However, as private sectors are also being targeted, the need for forensic scientists for information system recovery and recovery of lost or infected files is also increasing in private sectors.
The overall growth rate of the forensics market is shown in the figure above. As can be seen, this is an escalating trend, which means that the demand for professionals trained in this field is expected to continue to increase. The next section provides salary breakdowns for the major subfields of computer forensics.
Computer forensics specialties and salaries
In the field of computer forensics, the entry-level employee with less than 5 years of experience can expect an average total compensation of $58,000. While a mid-level employee with a few years of experience can expect average total earnings of $92,000, a top-level employee with 10 to 20 years of experience can expect average total compensation of $120,000.
The forensic scientists work in their specialty and have their position accordingly. AccordinglyLohnskal, the analyst's position in the field is the least paid than other positions, while the manager's position is the best-paid position in the field.
The various sub-specialties of computer forensics include the following:
- Computer Forensics Analyst:
Average salary: $68, 236.00
- Computer Forensics Investigators:
Average salary: $75,660.00
- Computer Forensics Specialist:
Average salary: $90,120.00
- Computer Forensics Technician:
Average salary: $68,121.00
- Specialist in digital forensics:
Average salary: $119,400.00
Therefore, as can be seen, the professionals specialized in the digital field are among the highest salaries (depending of course on experience, level of education and geographical location, which is described in the next section).
Highest average salaries by geographic location
Average salaries by geographic location:
Alabama Computer ForensicsSalaries: $83,000
Alaska Computer ForensicsSalaries: $72,000
Arizona Computer ForensicsSalaries: $66,000
Arkansas Computer ForensicsSalaries: $84,000
California Computer ForensicsSalaries: $76,000
Colorado Computer ForensicsSalaries: $69,000
Connecticut Computer ForensicsGehälter: 84.000 $
Delaware Computer ForensicsSalaries: $75,000
District of Columbia Computer ForensicsGehälter: 91.000 $
Florida Computer ForensicsSalaries: $73,000
Georgia Computer ForensicsSalaries: $86,000
Hawaii Computer ForensicsSalaries: $59,000
Idaho Computer ForensicsSalaries: $69,000
Illinois Computer ForensicsSalaries: $80,000
Indiana Computer ForensicsSalaries: $74,000
Iowa Computer ForensicsSalaries: $76,000
Kansas Computer ForensicsSalaries: $70,000
Kentucky Computer ForensicsSalaries: $69,000
Louisiana Computer ForensicsSalaries: $74,000
Maine Computer ForensicsSalaries: $56,000
Maryland Computer ForensicsSalaries: $81,000
Massachusetts Computer ForensicsSalaries: $87,000
Michigan Computer ForensicsSalaries: $78,000
Minnesota Computer ForensicsSalaries: $69,000
Mississippi Computer ForensicsSalaries: $85,000
Missouri Computer ForensicsSalaries: $75,000
Montana Computer ForensicsSalaries: $61,000
Nebraska Computer ForensicsSalaries: $71,000
Nevada Computer ForensicsSalaries: $72,000
New Hampshire Computer ForensicsSalaries: $65,000
New Jersey Computer ForensicsSalaries: $84,000
New Mexico Computer ForensicsSalaries: $93,000
New York Computer ForensicsSalaries: $91,000
North Carolina Computer ForensicsGehälter: 76.000 $
North Dakota Computer ForensicsSalaries: $76,000
Ohio Computer ForensicsSalaries: $75,000
Oklahoma Computer ForensicsSalaries: $72,000
Oregon Computer ForensicsSalaries: $78,000
Pennsylvania Computer ForensicsSalaries: $73,000
Rhode Island Computer ForensicsSalaries: $75,000
South Carolina Computer ForensicsGehälter: 64.000 $
South Dakota Computer ForensicsSalaries: $70,000
Tennessee Computer ForensicsSalaries: $77,000
Texas Computer ForensicsSalaries: $74,000
Utah Computer ForensicsSalaries: $66,000
Vermont Computer ForensicsSalaries: $70,000
Virginia Computer ForensicsSalaries: $87,000
Washington Computer ForensicsSalaries: $77,000
West Virginia Computer ForensicsSalaries: $97,000
Wisconsin Computer ForensicsSalaries: $60,000
Wyoming Computer ForensicsSalaries: $85,000
The chart above shows the average salary level for computer forensic scientists in all 50 states. As you can see, the average salary ranges from $60,000 to $80,000. It is very interesting to note here that there is no specific one that is shown. In other words, there is no specific geographic segment that demands a higher salary level. Rather, everything depends on the state. For example, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York, New Jersey and Virginia have the highest salary levels. Lower-paying states include Arizona, Idaho, Maine, and Montana.
According to PayScale's survey, the median salary for computer forensic scientists is $74,199. However, it also varies from city to city depending on the needs. Los Angeles leads in paying the highest average salaries for computer forensic scientists, offering salaries up to 46% of the average, while Washington ranks secondndPosition in paying average salaries at a rate 45% higher than the average salary. Chicago and New York are March 3rdrdand 4thPosition in paying the highest median salaries for computer forensic scientists with the high rate of 10% and 1% of the median salary respectively.
Other Salary Considerations
The other considerations that drive computer forensic scientist salaries are the qualification factors. It depends on the skills and specialization how much salary your organization offers. The high interest domain, the one that the global community is working on the most and the hottest technology, will pay you relatively more than any other subdomain in this space.
Professionals can improve their salaries and skills by earning certifications such as CISSP, EnCE (EnCase Certified Examiner), CFCE (Certified Forensic Computer Examiner), CHFI (Computer Hacking Forensics Investigator), or CCE (Certified Computer Examiner). Salaries range from $80,000 to $120,000 per year depending on certification.
Because computer forensics is such a broad field, there are many types of certifications that are available. However, “hot” ones that are in demand include:
- Der Global Information Assurance Certification Forensic Examiner (GCFE);
- Der Global Information Assurance Certification Forensic Analyst (GCFA);
- Die GIAC-Reverse-Engineering-Malware (GREM);
- The GIAC Network Forensic Analyst (GNFA);
- Die GIAC Advanced Forensics (GASF);
- The Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI);
- Der Certified Cyber Forensics Professional (CCFP);
- Der Certified Digital Forensics Examiner (CDFE);
- Der Certified Network Forensics Examiner (CNFE).
Computer forensics salaries are remarkably good due to the sharp increase in demand for the expertise. The industry is very demanding as it requires extensive technical skills to perform. However, the threat of the cyber world is the main reason for the popularity of forensic scientists and their higher salaries. Individuals planning a move into computer forensics can expect a significant salary increase and good career growth.
Read more about the field of computer forensics:
Computer Forensics Job Outlook: Become an expert in the field
Computer Forensics: Criminal Police Investigations
What is the salary of a forensic computer analyst? ›
The average Entry Level Forensic Computer Analyst salary in the United States is $67,437 as of January 26, 2023, but the salary range typically falls between $62,536 and $73,642.Does computer forensics pay well? ›
Forensic computer analysts gather and inspect digital evidence, using it to build legal cases or develop strategies for cybercrime prevention. PayScale notes that the average annual salary for forensic computer analysts is about $73,900.What does a computer forensic analyst do? ›
This role analyzes digital evidence and investigates computer security incidents to derive useful information in support of system/network vulnerability mitigation. Personnel performing this role may unofficially or alternatively be called: Computer Forensic Analyst.How much does a computer forensic analyst make an hour? ›
How much does a Computer Forensics Analyst make? As of Jan 26, 2023, the average hourly pay for a Computer Forensics Analyst in the United States is $52.85 an hour.What is the lowest salary of a forensic scientist? ›
How much does a Forensic Scientist make? The average Forensic Scientist salary is $70,364 as of January 26, 2023, but the salary range typically falls between $64,237 and $78,553.Is computer forensic hard? ›
Computer forensics is hard, and it requires you to have a solid and varied IT background. If you decide to pursue a career in this field, it is essential to keep up with new technology trends. It is the responsibility of investigators in this field to investigate digital data collected as evidence in criminal cases.Is forensic job stressful? ›
Working as a forensic scientist can often be stressful. Often, the first 48 hours after a crime are critical, making for working conditions under tight deadlines. Additionally, you may be exposed to violent crime scenes or images.Is computer security and forensics hard? ›
Computer forensics can be a stressful field, as you often need to find information quickly for a criminal investigation and criminals can be highly skilled at technology.What skills do you need to be a forensic computer analyst? ›
- Technical Aptitude. ...
- Attention to Detail. ...
- An Understanding of Law and Criminal Investigation. ...
- Communication Skills. ...
- Comprehension of Cybersecurity Fundamentals. ...
- Analytical Skills. ...
- A Desire to Learn. ...
- Ability to Work with Challenging Material.
The four phases of digital forensics
Data are identified, labeled, recorded, and acquired from all of the possible sources of relevant data, using procedures that preserve the integrity of the data.
How long does a forensic computer analysis take? ›
A typical case with no surrounding factors could take anywhere between 6-12 months for results to be obtained. Once this has happened, they still have to be reviewed by the officer in the case and a decision made as to how the material will be graded.Is computer forensics the same as cyber security? ›
Computer forensics and cyber security may seem similar, but these career paths both have their own unique differences. Computer forensics deals with locating data that was compromised during a cyberattack, while cyber security aims to prevent cyberattacks before they occur.What is the best major for forensic analyst? ›
Students interested in forensic science careers can pursue degrees in forensic science, criminal justice, and legal studies. To find success, they must supplement their legal knowledge with an understanding of biology, chemistry, and computer programming.What certification is most in demand? ›
- Full Stack Web Development.
- Cloud Computing.
- Digital Marketing.
- Business Analytics.
- Data Science.
- Artificial Intelligence.
As of Feb 7, 2023, the average annual pay for a Forensic FBI in the United States is $87,136 a year.What is the highest salary for forensic science? ›
Highest salary that a Forensic Analyst can earn is ₹10.0 Lakhs per year (₹83.3k per month).Is forensic analyst a hard job? ›
Work Environment Challenges
They also examine potentially hazardous substances such as bodily fluids and must follow strict safety protocols. While many forensic analysts work a standard 40-hour week, they must sometimes work long hours or be on call to respond to a crime scene at a moment's notice.
Here are the highest paying jobs of 2023:
- Anesthesiologist: $208,000.
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon: $208,000.
- Obstetrician and Gynecologist: $208,000.
- Surgeon: $208,000.
- Orthodontist: $208,000.
- Physician: $208,000.
- Psychiatrist: $208,000.
Forensic scientists make $71,351 per year on average, or $34.3 per hour, in the United States. Forensic scientists on the lower end of that spectrum, the bottom 10% to be exact, make roughly $45,000 a year, while the top 10% makes $112,000. Location impacts how much a forensic scientist can expect to make.What is the monthly salary of forensic science? ›
Average salary for a Forensic Professional in India is 4.2 Lakhs per year (₹35.0k per month).
What are the 3 C's in computer forensics? ›
Precision in security requires the data to be integrated in order to produce context, correlation and causation. We call it the "Three C's of Security." What do we mean by precision?How many C's are in computer forensics? ›
There are three c's in computer forensics.Does computer forensics require math? ›
To successfully produce evidence, one needs to have a strong background in mathematics, statistics, science, technology and writing. Digital forensics is a fascinating field requiring a multi-disciplinary approach.Do forensic scientists get PTSD? ›
The most common mental disorders developed by those who experience trauma are anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder. There is a gap in the literature on the mental health of forensic scientists, who also experience a higher amount of trauma than the average person.Are forensic scientists happy? ›
A solid majority of forensic science technicians enjoy their work environment, probably contributing to overall higher satisfaction with working as a forensic science technician.Is forensic high demand? ›
Career Outlook for Forensic Technicians
However, openings in this profession are expected to grow 11 percent between 2021 and 2031, adding 2,000 new jobs around the country (BLS 2022). This growth rate is much faster than the projected average for all occupations (5 percent).
The volume challenge
As the number of devices and volume of data grows, the field of digital forensics becomes faced with the volume problem. Now, more than ever, investigators can accumulate unprecedented volumes of data. However, automation tools to store and analyze such data are lagging.
The two challenges faced in a digital forensic investigation are complexity and quantity. The complexity problem refers to the data collected being at the lowest level or in raw format. Non-technical people will find it difficult to understand such data.
Both privately owned businesses as well as government entities such as the FBI, CIA, and NSA all need well-trained computer forensics investigators and analysts. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of computer forensics is expected to grow by about 9 percent by the year 2028.What is the highest paying forensic job? ›
Forensic Medical Examiner
Perhaps the highest paying position in the field of forensic science is forensic medical examiner. The path to this occupation is much longer than most other roles in the field. That's why the pay scale is significantly higher than others as well.
Is it hard to become a forensic computer analyst? ›
You can get a bachelor's degree in any IT, cyber security, or digital forensics field. Is It Hard to Become a Forensic Computer Analyst? It isn't hard to become a forensic computer analyst. With the right qualifications, knowledge, and skills, you can land a job as a forensic computer analyst with a good company.What is the highest paying job in computer forensics? ›
What is the average forensic computer analyst salary by job role? As with most professions, titles for forensic computer analysts can vary by organization and industry. The highest-earning related job titles were information security engineer ($76,000 – $114,000) and information security manager ( $108,000 – $160,000).How do I become a forensic computer analyst? ›
A bachelor's degree in computer forensics or a similar area is generally required to become a computer forensics investigator. This degree will provide you with a foundation in investigation and computer use, emerging technologies, and techniques used in the industry.What is highest paying job in USA? ›
|Rank||Occupation||2021 Median Wages|
|Employment column two Annual|
|1||Obstetricians and Gynecologists||$208,000+|
|1||Ophthalmologists, Except Pediatric||$208,000+|
|1||Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons||$208,000+|
Forensic science technicians work in laboratories and on crime scenes. At crime scenes, forensic science technicians typically do the following: Analyze crime scenes to determine what evidence should be collected and how. Take photographs of the crime scene and evidence.What is the difference between cybersecurity and computer forensics? ›
Cyber security helps to prevent cybercrimes from happening, while computer forensics helps recover data when an attack does occur and also helps identify the culprit behind the crime. It helps to think of cyber security professionals as a security company, and to think of computer forensics experts as investigators.What is the highest paid computer job in the world? ›
- Big Data Engineer.
- Software Architect.
- Blockchain Engineer.
- DevOps Engineer.
- Cloud Architect.
- Full-Stack Developer.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) Engineer.
- Product Manager.
- CISA – Certified Information Systems Auditor.
- CISSP – Certified Information Systems Security Professional.
- CCE – Certified Computer Examiner.
- CFCE – Certified Forensic Computer Examiner.
- GIAC – Global Information Assurance Certification.
Paths to Become a Computer Forensics Analyst
According to Cybersecurity Guide, you typically need a bachelor's degree in computer science, computer forensics, cybersecurity or a related field. Many companies/organizations prefer professionals with at least few years of experience, even if you have a related degree.