Degree vs. certification: Late-career cybercrime analyst/investigator
Cybersecurity is a great career choice for those who have passion for information security and helping others with it. The role of cybercrime analyst/investigator takes this passion for information security a bit further and hybridizes it with cybercrime investigation techniques, concepts and practices and makes the professional a formidable force against malicious attackers.
This role requires either a degree or certification to be hired, but one path may be better for your than the other. This article will detail both the degree and certification paths to becoming a cybercrime analyst/investigator in the late career and will conclude with my recommendation about which path to take.
Have you ever wanted to combine information security skills with crime-fighting skills to help organizations deal with the ever-growing menace of cyberthreats?
This sort of hybrid dream job is no dream, and it is not a grimy gumshoe gig either. Rather, this cybersecurity specialization draws on these skill sets to tackle some of the most daunting cybercrime challenges, often where conventional cybersecurity skills fail to prevail. Organizations and their security teams never lose a minute of sleep when this happens because they know their cybercrime analyst/investigator is up to the task.
This role is often referred to by many different names, including:
- Cybercrime analyst
- Cybercrime investigator
- Computer crime analyst/investigator
- Computer forensics analyst
- Cyber forensics analyst
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted this role to grow by 28% between the years of 2016 and 2026. With a statistic like this, you can rest assured that there will be jobs in this role around for years to come.
The first path to the late career of this role is that of the degree. There is no hard-and-fast rule for what degree is required, but the real-world breakdown looks something like this. Of organizations seeking this role, those requiring specific degree levels are as follows:
- Associate’s (AA) degree/sub-bachelor — 7%
- Bachelor’s degree — 70%
- Graduate (master’s) — 23%
The clear winner here is a bachelor’s degree from a four-year college or university for most. But for the late-career stage, a professional will probably want to earn a master’s degree. This will justify the extra pay demanded by this well-seasoned career position, which is predicted to be 40% more than those in the entry-level stage for their career.
Keep in mind that organizations have their own individual needs and may require more education for one reason or another, so always check with the organization you are about to apply to regarding their specific requirements.
With this decision all but made for you, the harder one still lies ahead — what should your major be? This is even more open-ended than the last decision, and there is definitely no hard-and-fast rule for what the degree should be in. Some well-represented degree majors include:
- Information security/systems
- Computer science
- Criminal justice
- Computer forensics
Those pursuing a master’s degree to complement this late-career position may want to consider a master’s degree in cybercrime. The University of South Florida (among other schools) offers degrees in Cybercrime, unlike their bachelor’s degree counterparts. More information is available here.
The second option for those looking to get into the late-career stage of being a cybercrime analyst/investigator is earning a certification or two.
This point of a career is interesting in that it is a cumulation of all of the previous efforts toward it. In other words, if you were to want to do anything to forward your career, now is the time. Below is a selection of relevant certifications for the late-career cybercrime analyst/investigator.
Certified Computer Forensics Examiner (CCFE)
Hosted by Infosec Institute Certification, CCFE certifies the knowledge and hard skills of computer forensics as well as the soft skills of relevant legal issues. These exams cover nine domains of knowledge:
- Law, Ethics and Legal Issues
- The Investigation Process
- Computer Forensic Tools
- Hard Disk Evidence Recovery and Integrity
- Digital Device Recovery and Integrity
- File System Forensics
- Evidence Analysis and Correlation
- Evidence Recovery of Windows-Based Systems
- Network and Volatile Memory Forensics
- Report Writing
(ISC)2’s Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification is another commonly requested certification for the late-career cybercrime analyst/investigator. CISSP focuses more on information security skills than cybercrime investigation skills; however these related skills have been found to be valuable, as there is a significant overlap of skills in real-world situations.
CISSP requires five years of work experience to qualify for this certification exam, but those in the late-career stage should have this experience in spades at this point.
GIAC®️ Certified Forensic Analyst
This GIAC hosted certification verifies to organizations that the late-career cybercrime analyst/investigator has the knowledge and skills to engage in advanced cybercrime forensics. These skills include advanced incident response, digital forensics, timeline analysis, memory forensics and anti-forensics detection, among many others.
Complex digital forensics investigations are the proverbial bread and butter of cybercrime analysts/investigators, and this certification will help prove that you have the advanced skill set to proficiently perform them.
Late-career cybercrime analysts/investigators need to have a sizeable accumulation of knowledge and skills to excel in this role. The best path to take is to take them both and push them as far as they will go. This means earn that master’s degree — ideally in Cybercrime.
There are many certifications that can be applied towards the late-career cybercrime analyst/investigator role, and most in the late-career stage probably have at least. Earning the three certifications above and coupling them with an advanced degree will put you in the best position to both earn this role and be successful at it, too.
- Cybersecurity Career Pathway, CyberSeek
- Average Forensic Computer Analyst Salary, PayScale
- GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst (GCFA), GIAC
- How to Become a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Business News Daily
- Certified Computer Forensics Examiner (CCFE), Infosec Institute
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