Corporations, banks and government agencies depend on computer forensic investigators to prevent and solve computer and cyber crimes, including identity theft, email harassment, illegal downloading and database theft. Computer forensic investigators also recover documents and help law enforcement officers solve crimes committed by sex offenders and sociopaths. They earn salaries averaging just under $60,000 annually.
Salary and Qualifications:
The average annual salary for a computer forensics investigator was $58,000 in 2013, according to the job site Indeed. While many private investigator jobs do not require degrees, computer forensic technicians are usually required to have bachelor's degrees in criminal justice, computer science or even accounting. Some may become certified in the field through the International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners or similar associations, especially if they have extensive law enforcement backgrounds. Employers usually prefer hiring those with industry experience -- three or more years of computer investigation experience, for example. Other essential requirements for the job are resourcefulness, honesty, communication and problem-solving skills.
Average salaries for computer forensics investigators varied the most within the West region in 2013, according to Indeed, where they earned the highest salaries of $62,000 in California and lowest of $38,000 in Hawaii. These investigators made $49,000 to $70,000 per year in Maine and New York, respectively, which were the lowest and highest earnings in the Northeast. In the South region, they earned the least in Louisiana and most in Washington, D.C., at $49,000 and $68,000, respectively. Those in the Midwest earned $43,000 to $64,000, with the lowest salaries in Nebraska and South Dakota and highest in Illinois.
Computer forensic technologists can earn higher salaries working for certain types of employees, especially where private investigators and detectives earn more. For example, private investigators who worked for management, scientific and technical consulting firms earned the highest salaries of $73,860 as of May 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. They also earned comparatively high salaries of $73,180 at electric power generation, transmission and distribution companies -- versus the average industry salary of $50,780 for all private investigators. Computer forensic investigators may also earn more working for management consulting or electric power companies. They earn more in New York, California and Washington, D.C., because living costs are typically higher in these states and districts.
The BLS predicts a 21 percent increase in jobs for private detectives and investigators, including those in computer forensics, from 2010 to 2020, which is faster than average. Technological advances have created more opportunities for cyber crime, which should increase demand for computer forensic investigators. Companies are also conducting more background checks on prospective employees, which may also increase job opportunities for these computer investigators.