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How do I get a Computer Forensics Certification?

John Lister
John Lister

Having credible computer forensics certification is a vital part of the job. There is more to it than simply a case of learning the skills required to carry out the job professionally. Computer forensics experts will often need to give evidence for one side in a court case. As the opposing lawyer will seek to discredit an expert, it is vital that they have recognized certification from a credible accreditation body.

With the United States, there are numerous organizations which offer computer forensics certification. These vary from those which deal specifically with a particular type of equipment or computer program, through to those which offer more comprehensive certification. The price of such certification varies immensely, ranging from a couple of hundred dollars for a test to a course costing several thousand dollars.

Computer forensics is a specialty within the computer science field.
Computer forensics is a specialty within the computer science field.

There are several questions you should ask before pursuing a particular computer forensics certification. One is the background and authority of the organization which offers the certification. Another is how many people already have the certification: too few and it might be of little relevance in the real world; too many and it might be seen as too easy to obtain. You should also ask about the equipment and the specific techniques and programs which the certification covers and check that this is up-to-date and used widely in the industry. Finally, you should research potential employers and find out what certification they either require or consider an advantage among candidates for jobs.

Many universities offer practical training in computer forensics.
Many universities offer practical training in computer forensics.

In some countries, such as the United Kingdom, it is common to get computer forensics certification through a full-fledged degree course. Several universities offer a three-year degree course which combines practical training in the disciplines of computer forensics, specific training in using relevant equipment, and academic tutoring on subjects such as the ethics of computer forensics. There are also post-graduate courses aimed at students from all backgrounds, though those with a strong knowledge of information technology have a particular advantage.

At the moment, people working in computer forensics are not usually required to have a private investigator license. However, there has been some debate as to whether this is necessary, and some states in the US do have such a requirement. This requirement will not usually affect the technical abilities needed to become a computer forensics expert. However, it may add additional requirements such as demonstrating an understanding of privacy laws, and may cause problems for people with criminal records.

Discussion Comments


@NathanG - At a technical school where I live they have a one year information security training program. Once you complete it you get a certificate.

Presumably with this credential you would be eligible to be hired on as an information security analyst at a corporation, although I tend to think that in practice you would need an actual computer science degree in addition to the certificate.

In either case, I think that with this credential you could go on to pursue a computer forensics certification as well, and you would definitely have an edge over other job candidates as the article points out.


@nony - I don’t know that I’m hung up on any time frame myself. The article mentions some places requiring three years while others may take different approaches.

I do agree with your premise that a fundamental part of the training would involve becoming an information security expert in general. I don’t know if that would mean becoming a hacker per se, but you would definitely need to be up on hacking techniques in order to effectively glean evidence from the crime scene – and also to know where to look for it.


I believe that a course of training spanning at least two years would be the minimal needed for a credible computer forensics investigation. The reason I say this is that part of the tools for the computer forensic specialist would doubtless include understanding computer security systems as well as hardware and software components.

In other words, you would be expected to know the kind of stuff that any computer expert would know about computer systems, and you won’t get this knowledge in less than a two year course in my opinion.

I realize that there is other stuff you need to learn for the forensics exam; understanding the nature of legal investigations would be part of it. However, at a minimum you need your baseline of computer security skills, and this will take some time to acquire.

Therefore I would personally avoid any of the so-called “boot camp” type courses you find online which aim to teach you all you need to know in two weeks or less.


@ceilingcat - I think it's probably even more important for a computer forensics professional. Imagine being in court and giving testimony, only to be discredited because you don't have the proper certification?

I can imagine that an entire case could probably be blown because of something like this. And the forensics professional could be totally credible and providing real testimony too! But if the opposing sides lawyer is able to discredit them, a jury probably won't accept the testimony.


I don't work in computer forensics, but I just wanted to say that having a certification can be vital to getting a job. It doesn't matter if you have experience sometimes, too!

I have a friend that was working in a doctors office a medical assistant for years. She was laid off awhile back and she hasn't been able to find a job. And here's why: she isn't certified. She only has on the job training. All the doctors offices that are seeking medical assistants want certification. If you don't have certification, they won't even let you in the door!

I'm pretty sure this same thing would hold true for other industries too.

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    • Computer forensics is a specialty within the computer science field.
      By: diego cervo
      Computer forensics is a specialty within the computer science field.
    • Many universities offer practical training in computer forensics.
      By: gordand
      Many universities offer practical training in computer forensics.