There is one question that is asked time and time again. “How do I get into digital forensics?”
I find that I’m answering this question several times a week at the moment so I thought rather than writing the same reply to each email or forum post that I would just write a small post. Most of this comes from an email that I sent to one such inquirer last week. Hope someone finds this useful.
I work for Disklabs in the midlands but I’ve previously worked for CY4OR and Zentek. The December before I graduated I started calling as many forensic companies as I could find, asking them if they hired graduates. I managed to get an interview with CY4OR and they took me on just a few days after my final exam at University. I’m not saying that this is the right approach but it worked for me. My brother was on the exact same course at university. We both got comparable grades but he waited to look for a job until after graduation. If memory serves correctly it took more than a year, and a heck of a lot of miles, to find a forensics job.
Sadly, at the moment, the picture is looking grim. The tender for the Metropolitan Police is going to be announced soon and, as this is a very lucrative contract, most companies are not hiring in case they do not win the contract. Also many police forces have stopped outsourcing work due to budget cuts. This has seriously impacted the field. I know of several companies that have ceased trading in the last year or so because there is simply not enough work to keep them afloat. The outcome of this is that there is a surplus of experienced, qualified forensic investigators in the field who are all looking for work. One company that I know advertised for a single position and had something like 10 applications within an hour of posting the position. That is how desperate the situation is at the moment.
I know of a few people who graduated last year and are still looking for their first job in the field, and these are people who are quite well connected to others in the field through Twitter, Facebook, and the like. But I believe that if you excel and you know what you’re doing you should be able to get a start somewhere. The problem is making yourself more appealing to a potential employer. My best advice is to get some training. Finish your degree but don’t just stop there. Find a way to pay for an EnCase passport and attend their courses. If you do that it means that you know how to use the software and can go straight in to a job and start working right away without the company having to spend money training you. Anything you can do to help a potential employer save money will be in your favour and, if you can do the work you already have won half the battle. I would even suggest going to a local forensic company or police force and asking if you can volunteer your time there for free while you finish university. If you offer to work for free I don’t know many people that would turn you down and it would give you some much needed experience. Also, if you prove yourself to be good at the job they’ll be more likely to hire you once your degree is over.
Also, so something extraordinary. Write a paper about something new, get noticed. Write a blog. Connect with people on Twitter. Get involved in the community. By doing this you will gain respect and trust from your future peers. Don’t do a podcast though, I’ve got enough competition as it is 😉
One thing you have to bear in mind is that you have to be prepared to move to work, potentially a large distance. Don’t limit yourself to a single geographical area because there aren’t that many forensic companies anyway. Maybe even look abroad.
I realise that might read this an become depressed. Sadly things really aren’t great at the moment in the field. They might improve in the future but there’s no harm in doing everything I’ve mentioned anyway.
Finally David Sullivan specialises in recruitment for forensics companies. He’s written a blog post on Forensic Focus about finding a job. Its here: http://www.forensicfocus.com/david-sullivan