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Forensic computer analyst

Forensic computer analysts investigate computer-based crime (cyber crime).

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £20,000 to £60,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: Variable per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll usually need a background or qualification in IT or a related field. Employers may also look for industry certification awards.

You could take a forensic computing qualification at university. Courses with industry placements would be helpful.

You could start this career as a support technician, network engineer or developer. With experience and training, you may then be able to move into a more specialised security or analyst role.

You could also do a higher level apprenticeship in information security.

Computer Forensics World has more information on how to become a forensic computer analyst.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • excellent IT skills
  • a creative approach to solving problems
  • attention to detail and a methodical approach to work
  • the ability to spot trends and patterns in large amounts of data
  • a well organised and methodical approach to work
  • excellent communication and presentation skills
  • the ability to work under pressure and to deadlines

3. What you'll do

You’ll be involved in a range of investigations, like:

  • hacking, online scams and fraud
  • political, industrial and commercial espionage
  • terrorist communications
  • possession of illegal pornography
  • theft of sensitive company information

One of your first tasks on a project will be to secure the IT system or hardware so that it can’t be tampered with. 

You’ll then use forensic methods and specialist computer programs to:

  • find, recover and copy data from disks that may have been hidden, encrypted or damaged
  • reveal digital images that have been altered to mask the identity of a place or person
  • analyse mobile phone records to trace devices to a particular location
  • follow electronic data trails to uncover links between individuals or groups
  • carefully document each stage of your investigation
  • present technical findings to managers, law enforcement organisations and clients
You’ll work for the police or security services, a bank, or for an IT firm that specialises in computer security.

You might also work in a broader security role, like acting as a cyber security consultant to companies and organisations.

4. Salary

Starter: £20,000 and £25,000

Experienced: £25,000 and £35,000

Highly Experienced: £40,000 and £60,000

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

The number of hours you work will depend on the type of investigation and how complex it is. In some cases you may have to work overtime.

Most of your work will be office-based, but you’ll also meet with colleagues and other agencies working on the case. 

You may also go to court to give evidence as a technical or expert witness.

6. Career path and progression

With experience, you could progress to senior analyst, head of security or security consultant.

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Last updated: 22 March 2017