Salary Survey Extra: Deep Focus on GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst

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Salary Survey Extra is a series of dispatches that give added insight into the findings of both our annual Salary Survey and our smaller Salary Survey PLUS polls. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.

The GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst credential can be a stepping stone to an exciting information security career.According to statistics compiled by the National Computer Security Survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, nearly 70 percent of U.S. businesses detected at least one cybercrime … in 2005. There hasn’t been a follow-up survey since that time, but it’s probably safe to say that the comparable finding, if available for, say, 2015, would be far higher.

Of critical importance to the investigation of many cybercrimes is the forensic analysis conducted by a qualified expert. Among the means of gaining the expertise needed to conduct such sifting of electronic minutiae is the GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst (GCFA) credential that checked in at No. 36 in our most recent Salary Survey 75 list.

GIAC-certified individuals can be found in countries around the world, but all but a bare handful of the GCFA holders who responded to the Salary Survey live and work in the United States, meaning that we weren’t able to compute salary figures for non-U.S. GCFAs. There’s good new for GCFA holders in the United States, however, where the average annual salary in 2016 was $122,000, with a median annual salary of $115,000.

In keeping with the pattern followed by most information security credentials, most of the GCFA holders in the survey (93.7 percent) are men. Most are also smack dab in the heart of middle age, with 45 percent of respondents landing between the ages of 45 and 54, while a further 31.9 percent are between the ages of 35 and 44. That leaves outliers in the age 25-to-34 bracket (5.6 percent of respondents), the age 55-to- 64 bracker (12.5 percent), and the age 65-to-74 bracket (5 percent).

The highest level of education attained by most GCFA holders is a university degree, either a master’s degree (37.5 percent of respondents), bachelor’s degree (31.3 percent), or a doctorate (3.1 percent). The rest of those surveyed topped out either with a high school diploma (13.1 percent of respondents), or an associate’s (2-year) degree (15 percent).

Full-time employment among GCFA holders is impressive at 97.5 percent, with the remaining 2.5 percent in part-time jobs. Among regular full-time workers, most (56.3 percent of respondents) have a busier-than-standard work week, putting in between 41 and 50 hours per week. The rest are either extra busy, spending more than 50 hours per week on the job (20.6 percent of those surveyed); locked into a standard 40-hour schedule (19.4 percent); or bearing a lighter load of between 31 and 39 hours worked per week (3.7 percent).

GCFA holders are only rarely found in management positions at the places where they work, with just 20 percent employed as either managers (12.5 percent), or directors (7.5 percent). For most GCFA holders — 68.8 percent of respondents — the senior specialist tier is where they hang their collective hat, though we did hear from some who are mere specialists (11.3 percent).

As indicated by the average age of GCFA holders in the survey, it takes a while to rise to the level of information security proficiency needed for forensic analysis. There’s a strong veteran presence among respondents, with 70 percent having worked in a role that directly utilizes one or more of their certified skills for more than 10 years. Among the rest, 11.3 percent have been at it for between 9 and 10 years, 7.7 percent have been thus engaged for between 6 and 8 years, and 12 percent have been in the game for between 3 and 5 years.

Finally, here’s the view of GCFA holders on key questions from the survey about how certification impacts job performance:

At my current job I use skills learned or enhanced through certification: 
Several times a day: 62.5 percent
Several times a week: 16.3 percent
Several times a month: 14.4 percent
Occasionally: 3.6 percent
Rarely: 3.2 percent

Since becoming certified, I feel there is greater demand for my skills. 
Strongly agree: 50 percent
Agree: 25 percent
Neither Agree nor Disagree: 18.8 percent
Disagree: 6.3 percent
Strongly Disagree: [No responses]

Becoming certified has increased my problem-solving skills.
Strongly agree: 15 percent
Agree: 56.3 percent
Neither Agree nor Disagree: 23.7 percent
Disagree: [No responses]
Strongly Disagree: 5 percent

Becoming certified has increased my workplace productivity.
Strongly agree: 16.9 percent
Agree: 50.6 percent
Neither Agree nor Disagree: 25 percent
Disagree: [No responses]
Strongly Disagree: 7.5 percent

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CertMag Staff

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Certification Magazine was launched in 1999 and remained in print until mid-2008. Publication was restarted on a quarterly basis in February 2014. Subscribe to CertMag here.

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