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Advice for joining the computer forensics field

Can you please answer the following career questions?

1) What type of training and experience would you recommend for entering the field of computer forensics?

2) Which sector -- private or public -- would provide greater employment opportunities?

3) What is the current need for computer forensic investigators? What do you think is the future of this occupation?


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You touch on an exciting and interesting technical field -- namely, computer forensics. A long time ago, Craig Burton, former VP of marketing at Novell, and a principal at the computer industry analyst outfit known as The Burton Group, said about networking standards, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, "The nice thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from."

Alas, this is also true these days for computer forensics certifications in particular and training programs in the same area in general. Thus, being choosy and tightly focused when looking for certs or training in this area is extremely important. This means talking to graduates of such programs, doing your homework, performing cost comparisons, and looking long and hard at hands-on labs, training and learning opportunities therein.

That said, my recommendations would be to find a good training program and figure out a way to pay for it and get going into this field. (Don't be surprised if you find yourself committing to expenditures of $5,000, $10,000 or more along the way.) In the meantime, you'll want to do some reading in this area as well. I'd urge you to start with the Kruse and Heiser, Chris Prosise and John R. Vacca books -- all easily accessible by searching on "computer forensics" at Amazon.com or your favorite online bookstore. Eoghan Casey's Handbook is also a worthwhile investment.

Far be it from me to steer you toward the private or public sector. To make that decision -- since there are lots of job opportunities available in both sectors for trained, qualified people right now -- you'll have to trade off money and stress (private side) against stability and some degree of bureaucracy (public side) to find the niche that best fits your personality and workplace preferences.

The current need for computer forensics people is such that most experts say there are three or more jobs begging for every qualified professional and more growth is expected in the future. Also, I'd rate current need as strong and predict that in a world where terrorism of all kinds is clearly on the rise, including cyberterrorism, that computer forensics is probably a good career investment for the long haul as well as the short haul. As to how long that haul might be, I'm comfortable saying it should be good for five to ten years at the minimum, perhaps longer.


For more info on this topic, please visit these SearchSecurity.com resources:
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  • Ask the Expert: What is the future of computer forensics?

    This was first published in November 2003

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