How to Become a Cybercrime Investigator [+ Salary & Career Guide]
Are you interested in becoming a cybercrime investigator? In this comprehensive career guide, we explore this popular position, including job responsibilities, salary ranks, popular companies that are hiring — and much more.
What Does a Cybercrime Investigator Do?
As the name would imply, this position is one who investigates cybercrime. But there’s a lot more to it, including the application of highly technical skills and following the latest cybersecurity trends and news. Here are a few explanations:
“A cybercrime investigator is a highly-skilled and specially-trained investigator or detective. Sought after in both the private and public sectors, these investigators bring the skills needed to unravel today’s sophisticated internet crimes. Billions of dollars are lost every year repairing systems hit by cyberattacks. Some take down vital systems, disrupting and sometimes disabling the work of hospitals, banks, and emergency call centers around the country. The cybercrime investigator gathers the information necessary to stop cybercriminals from continuing their nefarious activities.” Cybersecurity Guide
“[Cyber crime investigators] look at damaged file systems on computers, hack into an organization’s computer networks to test security systems that are already in place, and maximize optimal computer system performance levels. Computer crime investigators are also able to recover and gather electronic evidence and data from computers that can be used in prosecuting crimes, such as crimes against children.” CareerExplorer
According to the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies, common job duties include:
- Finding and navigating the dark web
- Processing crime scenes
- Conducting interviews of victims/witnesses/suspects
- Examining recovered data for information
- Determining whether a security incident violates a law and requires specific action
According to Infosec, a cybercrime investigator may often work as part of a consulting business, providing services to a variety of law enforcement agencies, companies and organizations. Or they could work directly for an organization or agency. Investigators may also choose to specialize in a particular area — such as as theft, cyberstalking, drug smuggling, human trafficking or child abuse.
Steps to Becoming a Cybercrime Investigator
The first step in becoming a cybercrime investigator is typically a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, cybersecurity or computer science, according to Cybersecurity Guide.
As the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies points out, certifications are encouraged but aren’t mandatory. Experience, however, is definitely key.
It’s also important to keep up to date on the latest cybersecurity news and trends, especially since the industry is constantly evolving. Read the latest journals and papers and familiarize yourself with the latest information.
“Cybercrime and computer forensics are a continuously changing field with new techniques coming into play. You should be prepared to continuously update your knowledge base of the field,” according to Infosec.
Infosec goes on to explain that you could also become involved with professional cybersecurity organizations, such as the BCS Cybercrime Forensics Specialist Group and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE). Internships can also help you get a foot in the door.
Cybercrime Investigator Hard Skills
To give you an idea of what companies are looking for, here are some examples pulled from recent LinkedIn job postings for cyber investigators:
- Experience with evidence documentation (for use in court)
- Experience in E-crimes, intelligence analysis, threat and/or cybercrime research, and open-source intelligence gathering
- Proficiency in SQL
- Cloud computing experience
- Experience working with federal, state and foreign law enforcement or national security agencies
- Exposure to software development lifecycle
- Experience with IT investigations and digital forensics
- Knowledge of information security basics
Cybercrime Investigator Soft Skills
The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies lists curiosity, persistence, strong communication, information use and critical thinking among the desired soft skills for this position. Other popular soft skills for all types of jobs include problem-solving, self-direction, drive, adaptability/flexibility, teamwork, dependability, conflict resolution, leadership and integrity.
Education Required for a Cybercrime Investigator
A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or cybersecurity is typically required, according to Cybersecurity Guide. A bachelor’s degree in computer science may also be desirable. An advanced degree is usually not a must, but it may give you an edge over the competition and demonstrate your career dedication and willingness to learn more about the cyber industry.
The position of cybercrime investigator doesn’t necessarily require any particular certifications, but as the Cybersecurity Guide points out, the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certifications may be helpful.
Infosec says: “There are also certification courses that can help to show prospective employers that you have the skill set to work in cybercrime investigation. This includes dedicated training courses that take you through a number of relevant certifications such as the IACRB Certified Computer Forensics Examine (CCFE).”
The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies (NICCS) also offers several certificate programs in digital forensics/cybersecurity.
Cybercrime Investigator vs. Similar Titles
There is definitely overlap when it comes to cyber-related positions, so it’s not surprising that search results for this position will generate listings with similar titles. A search for cybercrime investigator will turn up a variety of job titles, including:
- Cyber investigator
- Cyber fraud investigator
- Internet crime investigator
- Cyber threat investigator
- Dark web analyst
- Computer forensics investigator
- Surveillance investigator
- Compliance investigator
- Policy enforcement investigator
- Financial crimes investigator
- Fraud investigator
- Criminal investigator
- Threat intelligence analyst
- Information security analyst
- Senior cybersecurity analyst
How to Move Up the Cybercrime Investigator Ranks
If you have limited (or no) experience, obtaining a relevant undergraduate degree and an internship are good places to start. Experience is definitely an important factor in moving up the ranks, and even though certifications and an advanced degree are typically not required, they are considered a good step toward advancing your cybercrime investigator career.
Companies Hiring Cybercrime Investigators
A quick search of cybercrime-related positions on popular job sites will generate thousands of postings. Cybercrime investigators are no exception, although it’s important to point out that the search term “cyber investigator” turns up more results on both LinkedIn and Indeed. As we mentioned, you will also see search results with varying job titles, such as cyber fraud investigator, cyber threat investigator, senior cybersecurity analyst, senior cyber forensics investigator — and many more.
Here is a sample of companies across a wide variety of industries that are hiring for these types of positions:
- Fidelity Investments
- Peleton Interactive
- U.S. Department of Transportation
- U.S Secret Service
- Verizon Media
- MGM Resorts International
Cybercrime Investigator Career Outlook
The outlook for information security analyst, which is a related position, is very promising: Employment is projected to grow 31% from 2019 to 2029 (much faster than the average for all occupations), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Demand is expected to be very high.
Cyberseek’s Supply/Demand Heat Map shows 464,420 total cybersecurity job openings with a “very low” supply of cybersecurity workers.
How Much Does a Cybercrime Investigator Make?
Salary will depend on the type of position, experience needed, the location of the job itself and many other factors, but the national average for a cybercrime investigator is $90,725, according to ZipRecruiter. The 2020 median pay for an information security analyst, which is a similar position, was $103,590, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. News & World Report lists the median salary for an information security analyst at $99,730.
FAQs About Cybercrime Investigator Careers
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