Forensic Science

What is Forensic Science?

The application of science in the field of law is known as forensic science. Combining science and the law, forensic science is an exciting and rewarding career path to go down, with many different routes and areas of specialisation.

As such, forensic science is a competitive field to enter and understanding what it takes to become a forensic scientist will be important in giving you that competitive edge to enter this field and for continued career progression.

How to Become a Forensic Scientist

How to become a forensic scientist
To become a forensic scientist, there are different routes you can take. This includes:

  • A university course
  • An apprenticeship

If you have a lot of lab expertise and certifications in science, especially chemistry, you may also apply directly to forensic services providers.

University Course

You can earn a bachelor’s degree or a postgraduate diploma in forensic science or a related field such as chemistry, biology, physics, or medicine.

It may also be beneficial to select a university degree that is approved by The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences.

Entry Requirements: Typically, you’ll need 2 or 3 A levels, or equivalent, including chemistry and a bachelor’s degree in a related topic for postgraduate study.

Apprenticeships

You might be able to begin by undertaking a degree apprenticeship as a research scientist or a laboratory scientist. It will also be advantageous if you complete your apprenticeship with a firm that provides forensic science services or with a police department that has its own in-house lab facilities.

Entry Requirements: Typically, you’ll need 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent for a higher or degree apprenticeship.

Skills and Knowledge

If you’re interested in becoming a forensic scientist, you’ll need to possess a wide range of skills and knowledge. Here are some of the key skills that employers will be looking for:

  • The ability to do meticulous, analytical work with great care and attention to detail
  • A thorough, rational, and unbiased approach to issue resolutions
  • Patience and the capacity to remain cool under pressure
  • Good writing and spoken communication abilities, as well as the ability to explain scientific concepts to those who aren’t specialists
  • Knowledge of judicial processes and government rules
  • Should be able to successfully utilise a computer and the major software programmes

There are also restrictions and requirements to apply for forensic science roles. You will need to pass a criminal record and an enhanced background check.

Types of Forensic Science

Forensic science covers a broad area and your job role and responsibilities will depend on which area you are working in. 

Chemistry: Frequently entails dealing with property crimes such as burglary and arson. You’d be analysing and inspecting items like paint or chemicals, as well as conducting fire investigations and accident reconstruction.

Biology: Often, this entails dealing with crimes against individuals like murder or assault. You’d be analysing body fluids, hair, and clothing linked to crimes. Conducting DNA testing and examining minute contact traces are also involved.

Toxicology and drugs: This includes checking alcohol and drug driving samples, as well as investigating fatalities caused by overdoses and poisoning. You’ll be testing for illegal substances, examining tissue specimens for toxin detection, and analysing blood and urine samples for alcohol.

There are also several sorts of forensic science careers in which you might specialise. Here are a few examples:

Bloodstain pattern analysts  – analysing blood samples to acquire information about crime scenes.

Forensic ballistics specialists – assist investigators in determining the type of gun used in a crime.

Polygraph examiners – Obtain information by employing “lie detectors.”

Forensic anthropologists – identify human remains

Career Tip

You’ll need necessary expertise and certifications if you wish to specialise in data recovery from computers and mobile phones. Computing, electrical engineering, electronics, and physics are all useful courses.

Career Progression

As you gain expertise, you may be able to advance to management and supervise other forensics personnel as a forensics manager or casework examiner. 

You might also work as a reporting scientist and testify in court as an expert witness.

A Day In The Life

As a forensic scientist you could be carrying out a variety of tasks. The different types of forensic science means that each role will require you to perform different tasks.

Roles and responsibilities

Here are some of the roles and responsibilities of a forensic scientist:

  • Blood grouping and DNA profiling
  • Analysing fluid and tissue samples for drug and toxin traces
  • Examining handwriting, signatures, ink, and paper
  • Advising on explosives, guns, and ballistics
  • Examining splash patterns and particle dispersion
  • New forensic technology research and development
  • Data recovery from PCs, mobile phones, and other electronic devices
  • Attend a crime site, such as a murder or a fire
  • Provide objective, scientific evidence in court by by presenting the outcomes of your study in writing form or by offering oral evidence

Working Environment

As a forensic scientist, you may work on the streets, in a lab, or in a courtroom. Your working environment might be outside in all weather conditions. Although you will normally work regular office hours, you may be required to work shifts or be on call. Because crimes can occur at any moment, you must be willing to work evenings and weekends.

Although the majority of the work is done in laboratories, competent forensic scientists may be required to attend crime scenes. The ratio of work in the laboratory, court, and office varies depending on the function. Although there isn’t much travel involved in general, you may be required to travel to attend conferences and training.

When attending a crime scene, you must wear protective clothing to avoid contamination of the scene and, in some cases, to protect yourself from dangerous items.

At times, the job may be difficult and upsetting, especially when visiting murder sites. You must be comfortable presenting and defending your evidence in court while being cross-examined.

Salary

Forensic scientists can earn roughly £20,000 per year. This can rise to between £25,000 and £35,000 with expertise and senior-level salaries might surpass £45,000.

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