How much does the CDFE exam cost?

The CDFE exam, or Certified Digital Forensics Examiner exam, is an important certification for aspiring digital forensics professionals. Many are wondering, what is the cost to take the CDFE exam? In this comprehensive guide, we will provide all the details around CDFE exam pricing, including the costs for exam registration, exam prep materials, and renewals.

CDFE Exam Overview

The CDFE exam is administered by the Cyber Forensics Certification Board (CFCB). It is designed to test an individual’s knowledge of digital forensics methodologies, standards, tools, and best practices. Passing the CDFE exam demonstrates that a professional possesses the required skills to conduct examinations of digital evidence and provide forensic investigation reports that will hold up in court.

Some key facts about the CDFE exam:

  • The exam contains 150 multiple choice questions.
  • Exam takers are given 4 hours to complete the exam.
  • A score of 70% or higher is required to pass.
  • The exam is available year-round at approved testing centers.
  • The CDFE credential is valid for 3 years.

Overall, the CDFE exam is designed to validate extensive knowledge in areas like Windows forensics, data acquisition, evidence analysis, mobile device forensics, and legal issues around investigations. It has become a highly respected certification in the digital forensics field.

CDFE Exam Registration Cost

The first cost to take into account is the registration fee for the CDFE exam itself. This exam fee covers your seat at the testing center and exam administration.

The current cost for first-time CDFE exam registration is $499 USD. This fee must be paid at the time you schedule your exam appointment.

For those needing to retake the exam, the retake cost is lower – $399 USD each additional attempt.

When registering, you can locate nearby testing centers and schedule the date and time to take the 4-hour CDFE exam.

CDFE Exam Prep Materials

While the base CDFE exam registration fee allows you to take the test, most individuals invest in additional study materials to prepare for the difficult CDFE exam.

There are a variety of CDFE exam prep options:

  • CDFE Certification All-In-One Exam Guide – This CDFE exam study guide from McGraw-Hill thoroughly covers all exam topics and includes practice questions. The retail cost is approximately $60-$70.
  • CDFE Online Training Course – There are many CDFE online training courses available from vendors like InfoSec Institute. Expect to pay around $1,000-$1,500 for access to an online CDFE prep course.
  • CDFE Practice Tests – You can purchase practice exams from providers like Boson to mimic the real CDFE exam. Plan to budget $80-$100 for access to CDFE practice tests.
  • CDFE Boot Camp – Some companies offer CDFE exam prep boot camps, which are intensive 3-5 day courses. Boot camps range from $2,500-$3,000.

Self-study with prep books and online training courses are likely sufficient for many CDFE exam candidates. But those with limited digital forensics experience may benefit from an immersive boot camp program.

CDFE Exam Renewal Costs

The CDFE credential is valid for 3 years from the date it is earned. To maintain certification, CDFE holders must renew the credential every 3 years.

The CDFE exam renewal cost is $349 USD. Renewal can be completed up to 6 months prior to the expiration date.

In addition to the renewal fee, current CDFE certification holders must submit 40 continuing education credits earned over the 3-year period. These credits demonstrate ongoing learning. Credits can be earned through activities like training courses, attending conferences, completing research, and publishing on forensic investigation topics.

Estimating Total CDFE Exam Costs

Given the various expenses outlined above, what is the total estimated cost to earn and maintain the CDFE credential?

Here is an overview of the typical costs associated with the CDFE certification:

Expense Cost
Initial exam registration fee $499
Exam prep materials (books, online course) $1,200
Total initial credential cost $1,699
CDFE renewal every 3 years $349

As shown above, the initial cost for exam registration and prep materials averages around $1,700. The ongoing renewal cost every three years is $349.

These estimates demonstrate that earning the CDFE requires a reasonable financial investment. However, the credential offers excellent value given the doors it can open to lucrative digital forensics careers. Starting salaries for CDFE certified professionals often exceed $80,000-$90,000.

Is CDFE Certification Worth the Costs?

For aspiring and current digital forensics experts, the costs to obtain CDFE certification are well worth the investment. Here are some key benefits that make CDFE worth the price:

  • Increased earning potential – Possessing the CDFE credential can result in higher salaries, bonuses, and job opportunities.
  • Enhanced skills and knowledge – The learning required to pass the CDFE exam expands critical forensics capabilities.
  • Career advancement – The CDFE validates specialized expertise and can accelerate progression to lead forensics roles.
  • Industry recognition – Hiring managers view CDFE as a premier certification for digital investigations.

Additionally, research indicates that information security professionals with top certifications like CDFE earn 25-30% more than their non-certified peers. The boost in lifetime earnings far outweighs the CDFE costs.

Preparing for the Investment in CDFE

Earning CDFE certification is certainly worth the investment. However, careful planning is required to cover the costs.

Here are some tips to prepare for the investment:

  • Save up the exam registration fee over time so you can pay for it when ready to schedule the test.
  • Leverage employer tuition reimbursement benefits if available.
  • Compare costs across prep material providers to find deals.
  • Inquire about CDFE exam vouchers, discounts, or financial assistance programs if money is tight.
  • Split costs over multiple years when renewing certification.

By following these tips and giving thought to the costs involved, professionals can put themselves in the best position to earn the prestigious CDFE credential.


Obtaining CDFE certification requires an investment of about $1,700 up front, with $349 required every 3 years for renewal. While not insignificant, the costs are reasonable given the expertise gained and doors opened to rewarding digital forensics careers. For those new to the field, CDFE is an invaluable certification to validate capabilities and boost earning potential. Even experienced professionals can benefit from the continuous learning and industry recognition that CDFE provides. Given the high demand for qualified forensics experts, CDFE remains a smart investment for any looking to excel or advance in the field.