By Jack Freeman
I was watching an episode of a popular detective drama, and the lead character came across one of the bad guy’s computers that was damaged in a fire…ok, it was more like a BIG explosion with bodies, buildings and cars flying everywhere (it was cable TV). Anyway, the hero was hoping to extract some much needed information from the damaged computer, which looked more like a flaming chunk of coal than an actual PC (thus, voiding the warranty).
So, our hero brings the computer to “the lab,” where a team of inordinately good looking, tech-savvy investigators comb through the wreckage and recover chunks of data that they can use to track down the bad guy and keep the world safe until the next episode. Welcome to the wonderful world of computer forensics, and the growing opportunities that await those with a computer forensics degree.
The Computer Forensics Degree Explained
Computer forensics – also known as digital forensics – is the discovery, collection, analysis, and reporting of evidence found on computers and networks. Think of it as CSI for computers. As such, a computer forensics degree will have a strong concentration on the technical aspects behind how computer data is created, serviced and stored. You can expect to learn a lot about data storage processes, cryptology, data security, digital forensic strategies and similar topics that will help you locate and salvage critical data. In addition, because strong analytical and communication skills are essential in this line of work, a computer forensics degree should include some coursework in these areas too.
Computer Forensics Degree Career Outlook
Computer forensics is a relatively new field. However, the rapid spread of computing – alongside the even faster growth of cybercrime, data breaches and other security risks – provides strong career prospects for graduates holding a computer forensics degree. In fact, the need for digital forensics experts is expected to grow nearly 20% in the next decade.
Indeed.com* lists the average computer forensics salary in 2013 as $89,000 per year, stating the average computer forensics salaries for job postings nationwide are as much as 32% higher than average salaries for all job postings nationwide.
Major employers in this field include large corporations, security consulting companies and government agencies, especially those involved in law enforcement and national security. Today’s computer forensics professionals are often called upon to help detect and track illegal activities, recover encrypted or lost data, and assist in the training of law enforcement.
A computer forensics degree (a.k.a. digital forensics degree) in something that can open many doors in this new, rapidly growing profession. Unlike CSI investigators in the field, computer forensics tends to be a desk job. However, it requires the same patience and attention to detail that any good investigator needs. So, if you have a keen interest in hunting down and analyzing the hidden details in today’s digital world, enjoy the thrill of conducting investigative work and have a high technical aptitude, then a computer forensics degree may be a good option for you.
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(And, if you don’t have the inordinately good looks that our TV heroes enjoy, that’s fine too.)