Options For Careers In Forensics

There are a myriad of careers in forensics for anyone interested in becoming qualified to apply. Forensic science is one of the most dynamic and diverse professions in the world with constantly changing technological advances keeping it there. Law enforcement professionals now rely quite heavily on the skill and reliability of forensic scientists but with this burden, the profession has had to create sub-divisions for ease of management. So what do you need to do and what are your options?

Firstly, you need to get a degree in forensics, computer science, chemistry and/or a bio-med degree will also be helpful depending on the area you wish to go in to. Some experience in law enforcement may help you and even replace a degree if your experience is considerable. However, you will always need specific training although this may be ‘on the job’ in some cases. A degree in forensics will give you a thorough grounding in the history of this fascinating science and your available options. This will help you to decide on the area in which you wish to specialise as it is highly unlikely that you will be able to cover all aspects of forensic science.

As mentioned, forensic science is a very dynamic field so whichever you choose, you can expect to be kept on your toes and required to think “outside of the box” whatever your area. Just don’t expect it to be as glamorous as it may be portrayed on your television screen!

Probably the best known of jobs in forensics is that of the forensic investigator. Here you will learn valuable ways to collect, store and analyse materials and fluids collected at the scene of a crime in such a way that they can be presented in court to support the investigations of law enforcement agencies. Great attention to detail is required to avoid an innocent person being accused of a crime they did not commit and much use will be made of technology in which to do this.

Other areas may concern forensic accountancy where detailed analysis of facts and figures is necessary to uncover crime. Forensic engineers may examine building materials and structures to look for deliberate shortcomings that could involve massive risks to human life and property. Forensic dentistry concerns the analysis of bite marks for example, to confirm or rule out that an individual was involved in a violent crime or present at a crime scene. Forensic nursing will obviously require a thorough medical training and entails strong observation skills and the ability to spot anomalies with the condition of patients. This work can involve working with sexual assault victims or even dead bodies.

Of the biggest up-and-coming and constantly evolving areas of forensics involves computers and the Internet. If you are a computer whizz, this may be for you. Tracking internet hijackers who take over and corrupt sites, recovering supposedly deleted data from individual computers or tracing pedophile rings are all essential in today’s electronic age. For this, you may be able to take a course in computer forensics online.

The above is just a sampling of careers in forensics and what you need to do. This is an incredibly complex area and as such, research is essential before you commit as once you embark on your journey, changes can be costly in terms of time and money.

Top 6 Computer Forensics Schools in United States

The data released by Internet World Stats shows that as at 30 June 2009, internet users in the world had increased to 1,668,870,408 users compare to 360,985,492 users in the year 2000. This indicates the popularity and importance of information technology (IT) to our everyday life. However, these also lead to an increase in internet and computer related crimes. As a result, we see an upward trend in the demand of computer forensics specialist over the years.

As this is still relatively new to many, difficulties may arise when it comes to choosing the right schools for those interested in pursuing the degree. Degrees are offered either online or on campus basis, or both. Below are some of the accredited schools offering this exciting field to pursue.

1) American International University, one of the most accredited schools offers Bachelor ‘s (BIT) Computer Forensics, Bachelor’s (BIT) Internet Security, and Master’s (MIT) Internet Security.

2) University of Phoenix offers Bachelor of Science in Information Technology Information System Security.

3) Strayer University Online offers computer forensics programs such as BSIS in Computer Security, BSIS in Security Administration and Diploma IS in Computer Security.

4) Kaplan University offers Bs in Criminal Justice Computer Crime, Bs in Criminal Justice Crime Scene Investigation, and Ms in Information Technology Information Security and Assurance.

5) Ellis University offers BS in Criminal Justice: Forensic Investigation.

6) South University offers Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice – Cyber Crime and Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice – Crime Scene Investigation.

The above schools also offer many other computer related degrees.

Computer Forensics Careers

The computer forensics industry is slated to be among the fastest growing industries over the coming decade. With so many households using computers today, the need for computer forensics is growing exponentially, for just about every reason you could think of. And many reasons you may not think of. Crimes include identity theft, fraud, child pornography, computer hacking and many more.

As stated, although you may have guessed the fields listed above, there are computer forensics fields that you may not have guessed either. Computer forensics is indeed not isolated to online crimes. Many instances involve the use of computer forensics to solve violent crimes such as homicides, rapes, kidnapping and even assault and stalking. Forensics examiners use computer, cell phones and other electronic device analysis containing evidence of crimes, suspects and their victims. So it comes as no doubt that with the increase in both computer-related and non-related crimes, the demand for computer forensics specialists in a number law enforcement capacities, as well as private consulting agencies, has skyrocketed, and is expected to continue.

What is Computer Forensics?

The definition of computer forensics is the gathering of digital evidence, pieces of information from computers and other personal electronic devices, including computers, laptops, cell phones, etc. This gathering of evidence many times involves searching for files, emails, calls or other correspondences, pictures or video, internet search history or many other types of data. This information may then be used as evidence for anything from locating suspects to providing evidence toward a criminal prosecution in a court of law.

What is Cyber Crime, Exactly?

Unfortunately, much of the work done today in the computer forensics labs of America’s law enforcement agencies is child pornography and exploitation. However, these agencies work harder each year, learning more about how to find the evidence needed to convict these criminals, as well as how to find additional suspects through new forensics methods.

Additional common crimes include identify theft and online fraud, especially with the rise of online commerce and companies such as eBay, Amazon and Overstock.com. Intellectual property theft is also a growing problem, however many foreign and developing countries struggle with this more than the US. unfortunately, as business becomes more international each year, American companies fall victim to intellectual property theft from countries such as China more and more. This then becomes an international matter, for federal agencies such as the CIA and the State Department.

What are some Career Options?

To put it quite simply, the most common areas to find computer forensics specialists are with local and state police, FBI, CIA and various consulting agencies. This brings about two main areas of practice: law enforcement and private forensic consulting agencies.

Law Enforcement

Although starting mostly with government and military cases, digital data began to be used for evidence more and more in the 1970s and 80s. Computer-related crimes have increased exponentially over the past decades, and law enforcement agencies have added forensics to just about every office in the nation. Most local and state police departments hire professionals ‘in house’ dedicated solely to computer forensic. The leader, however, is the FBI. The Computer Analysis and Response Team (C.A.R.T.) is tied to every law enforcement agency in the country, as they are the only one with jurisdiction between state lines. As computers and internet lines know no state boundaries, the FBI is in a leadership position to find and prosecute these criminals.

Private Consulting Agencies

Consulting agencies work mostly with corporations and business, however they work for individuals as well. Many of these investigations involve intellectual property theft, sexual harassment, corporate fraud and misuse of investor funds. These agencies can also be hired much like private investigators, to track anything from theft to embezzlement to adultery.

This is merely an overview of the types of investigations one would find with computer forensics careers. A degree in computer forensics or a closely related field such as computer science, information security or information technology is helpful, but not always necessary, depending on who your future employer is.