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Digital Forensic Analyst

Introduction

As a Digital Forensic Analyst, you will be responsible for the forensic examination of digital devices. Supporting the investigating officers through the seizure of digital equipment, you will extract and view data taken from these digital devices, and present your findings in a way that is understandable by non-technical people (people who aren't as great with computers as you are!).

Work Activities

As a Digital Forensic Analyst, you will be responsible for the forensic examination of digital devices. Supporting the investigating officers through the seizure of digital equipment, you will extract and view data taken from these digital devices, and present your findings in a way that is understandable by non-technical people (people who aren't as great with computers as you are!).

The different types of digital devices that you may be called upon to examine include:

  • mobile phones
  • computer hard drives
  • digital CCTV systems
  • digital storage media
  • audio storage devices.

You will classify and perform tests on specific pieces of evidence which you have collected. Each piece of evidence must be carefully stored and recorded. You'll need to make a detailed record of your findings - and you will be expected to present your evidence in court.

Analysts often work on cases involving online cyber crime. You will examine the digital evidence in order to uncover evidence of illegal activity. You'll use your digital forensic skills to hunt for files and information that may have been hidden, deleted, encrypted or lost. When equipment is damaged, you must dismantle and rebuild the system in order to recover lost data. This will require great patience and technical skill.

You must carefully record all the steps you have taken to gather the missing evidence. Everything may have to be studied and examined in a court of law.

Other duties you may perform as a Digital Forensic Analyst include:

  • giving presentations and carrying out internal training sessions
  • working as part of a large team involved in the same investigation
  • answering technical queries from non-technical staff and Police Officers
  • using forensic based IT software, including EnCase and FTK

Technology changes fast, so you will need to keep on top of all the latest technological developments, particulary in the world of cyber crime. You will need to be one technological step ahead of the criminals!

Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.

Personal Qualities and Skills

To be a Digital Forensic Analyst, you'll need:

  • to be accurate, methodical and thorough in your investigations.
  • patience, attention to detail and problem-solving skills.
  • have great IT skills - try and become familiar with forensic software apps
  • have good analytical skills
  • to be able to work to deadlines
  • be willing to keep up to date with any changes in technology
  • have excellent communication skills, and to be able to explain technical issues, to non-technical people.
  • the ability to explain your findings clearly in court, to people like lawyers and jurors.
  • report-writing skills.
  • teamwork skills to work alongside people like the police and scenes of crime officers.

Pay and Opportunities

Pay

The pay rates given below are approximate.

As a Digital Forensic Analyst, you can expect to earn in the range:

  • Starting: £25,000 - £30,000
  • With experience: £37,500 - £43,000
  • High flyers: Up to £50,000 per year.

Hours of work

Digital Forensic Analysts usually work a basic 37.5-hour week, which might include early starts, late finishes and call-outs.

Where could I work?

Employers are local police forces throughout England and Wales.

Self-employment

Digital Forensic Analysts can become self-employed consultants.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Sources of vacancies include:

  • The Forensic Science Society's (FSSoc) website.
  • Official police magazines, and regional police service websites.
  • Specialist job boards for scientific and police recruitment.
  • General job board websites.
  • Some government-related websites, such as CAST and Dstl.
  • National newspapers.

Social media websites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, are a great way to network, find vacancies and get in contact with possible employers. Make sure that your profile presents you in a professional manner that will appeal to potential employers.

Take a look at our General Information Article 'Finding Work Online'.

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

So, how do you become a Digital Forensic Analyst?

Generally, Digital Forensic Analysts need at least a good first (undergraduate) degree in Computer Studies or a related IT based subject.

However, other entry routes are available - take a look at the options below.

GCSEs

It is unlikely that you could become a Digital Forensic Analyst with just GCSEs. However, you could consider getting a lower level position and training on-the-job. You might be able to get onto an Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship in IT, Software, Web and Telecoms Professionals, and gain experience. It'll be up to you to learn new skills, and to show that you can apply for a Digital Forensic Analyst role.

See the subjects section, for a list of relevant GCSE subjects, that could help you to get in.

Or you could decide to move onto study A levels, or an equivalent level 3 qualification. In order to study A levels, you will usually need five GCSEs or equivalent. If you intend to study A levels, then start to think about which subjects you would like to study. IT based subjects at GCSE and A level would help you to stand out from the crowd.

If you intend to leave education straight after completing your GCSEs, you will need to start looking for suitable job vacancies. If you are under 18 you will need to find a job that includes training, part-time study, or apply for an apprenticeship.

A levels

If you have completed at least two A levels, including one in a relevant subject, then you might be able to start work as a Digital Forensic Analyst. See the subjects section, for a list of relevant subjects.

You will need to show that you have good background knowledge of IT.

Or you could choose to go onto university, to study a relevant degree. At university you will learn some of the skills, techniques and technologies, that employers need.

Another option is to get onto a Degree Apprenticeship in a relevant area.

You will need to start carefully planning which A levels you are going to study. IT based subjects at GCSE and A level would help you to stand out from the crowd. Then once you are studying for your A levels, you will need to start looking for suitable job vacancies, or applying to universities through UCAS.

Degree

Some employers require you to have a degree before you become a Digital Forensic Analyst. Specialist degrees in Computer and Digital Forensics are available at a few universities - a list of degrees accredited by The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences is available on their website.

www.csofs.org/Accredited-course-search

In order to get onto a degree course you will usually need at least two A levels. An A level in an IT based subject would be a great help.

Another option is to get onto a Degree Apprenticeship in a relevant area.

So now is a great time to start planning your route through to university. IT based subjects at GCSE and A level would help you to stand out from the crowd. Also, try to get as much experience of working with IT and databases as you can. This could be through work experience, a part-time job, or maybe at school or college.

Training

Continuing professional development might involve research, teaching, and going to conferences, workshops and seminars.

Rehabilitation of Offenders Act

Working as a Digital Forensic Analyst can be an exception to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This means that you must supply information to an employer about any spent or unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings, if they ask you to.

This is different from other careers, where you only have to reveal information on unspent convictions if you are asked to.

Qualifications

To get onto an Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you’ll usually need five GCSEs at grade C or above, possibly including English and Maths.

To get onto a Degree Apprenticeship, you will usually need at least 2 A levels.

For entry to a relevant degree course, the usual requirement is:

  • 2/3 A levels (IT based subject would be useful)
  • GCSEs at grade C or above in 2/3 other subjects (IT based subject would be useful)
  • English and Maths at GCSE.

Alternatives to A levels include:

  • BTEC Level 3 qualifications (a subject such as Applied Law will help you to stand out from the crowd).
  • the International Baccalaureate Diploma.

However, course requirements vary so check college/websites very carefully.

Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A-level.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.

Courses

If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter a degree course, you might be able to start one after completing an Access course, for example, Access to Science. You don't usually need any qualifications to enter an Access course, although you should check this with the course provider.

A foundation year before the start of an IT based degree is available at some universities and higher education colleges for students who don't have the science A levels usually needed for entry to the course.

Further Information

Civil Service Jobs

Website: www.civilservice.gov.uk/jobs

Skills for Justice

Skills for justice, community safety, armed forces and legal services

Address: Distington House, 26 Atlas Way, Sheffield S4 7QQ

Tel: 0114 2611499

Email: info@sfjuk.com

Website: www.sfjuk.com

Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences

Address: Clarke House, 18A Mount Parade, Harrogate, North Yorkshire HG1 1BX

Tel: 01423 506068

Email: info@forensic-science-society.org.uk

Website: www.forensic-science-society.org

Forensic Science Northern Ireland (FSNI)

Northern Ireland Enquiries

Address: 151 Belfast Road, Carrickfergus BT38 8PL

Tel: 028 9036 1888

Website: www.fsni.gov.uk

Scottish Police Authority

Scottish enquiries

Website: www.spa.police.uk

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