What Is the Salary for Someone in Digital Forensics?
Digital forensics specialists recover deleted or encrypted data from computers to assist in legal investigations. Salaries for these professionals depend on the industry in which you're employed, the state where you work and your education. Read on to learn more about a digital forensics career and to find out how much you might earn. Schools offering Computer Forensics degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
A digital forensics investigator is a specialist in the recovery, analysis and presentation of data found on computers being used as evidence in official investigations. These professionals determine the details of an intrusion into a computer system and complete various tasks, such as recovering important data from files that have been encrypted or deleted, retrieving erased email and finding deleted passwords.
Because of the relative newness of the field of digital forensics - also called computer forensics - finding salary information is difficult. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes computer forensics positions in its category for forensic science technicians (www.bls.gov). In May 2012, these professionals earned an average salary of $55,730. In addition, PayScale.com reported a median salary of $66,846 for forensic computer analysts in February 2014. Factors that affect the salary of a digital forensics professional include geographic location, industry, education and work experience.
Salary by Industry
According to the BLS, most forensic science technicians were employed by local and state governments in May 2012. These employers offered average wages of $55,950 and $51,100. A much smaller number worked for the best-paying federal government, which offered an average salary of $94,800. Forensic science technicians working for medical and diagnostic laboratories made $66,390 on average, while those working for psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals were paid a much lower average wage of $41,200.
Salary by Location
In May 2012, California and Florida employed the most forensic science technicians of all states and offered respective average salaries of $72,000 and $46,850, according to the BLS. On the other hand, the District of Columbia and Arizona were states with the highest job concentration and paid respective average wages of $73,010 and $54,930.
In addition to the District of Columbia and California, the best average pay was found in Michigan ($70,650), Massachusetts ($69,360) and Virginia ($66,360), according to May 2012 BLS salary data. The worst average pay was between $34,140 and $45,520. Some locations with pay in this range included Utah, Maine, Georgia, Kentucky and South Carolina.
Cybercrime is on the rise, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's 2008 Internet Crime Report, www.ic3.gov. This has led to an increased need for Digital Forensics specialists, and several organizations have been established to provide training and certification for professionals in the field.
One of the most well-known of these organizations is the International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists, www.iacis.com, which offers two avenues for achieving Certified Forensic Computer Examiner Certification. Those interested can complete either a two-week internal certification training program or undergo a testing process, which results in external certification. Law enforcement officers also can undergo required training and testing to receive Certified Electronic Evidence Collection Specialist Certification.
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