Forensic scientists prepare traces of physical evidence for use in courts of law.
Salary range: £20,000 to £45,000
How to become a forensic scientist
You can get into this job through:
- a university course
- an apprenticeship
- applying directly
You can do a degree or postgraduate qualification in:
- forensic science
- a related subject like chemistry, biological science, physics or medical sciences
It may help to choose a university qualification accredited by The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences.
You’ll usually need:
- 2 or 3 A levels, or equivalent, including chemistry
- a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study
- equivalent entry requirements
- student finance for fees and living costs
- university courses and entry requirements
You may be able to start by doing a laboratory scientist higher or degree apprenticeship.
It will help if you do your aprenticeship with a company that provides forensic science services, or with a police force that has its own in-house lab facilities.
You’ll usually need:
- 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a higher or degree apprenticeship
You can apply directly to forensic services providers if you’ve got a lot of lab experience, and qualifications in science, especially chemistry.
If you want to specialise in recovering data from computers and mobile phones, you’ll need relevant experience and qualifications. Useful subjects include computing, electrical engineering, electronics or physics.
You can find out more on careers in forensics from The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences.
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
- the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
- the ability to think clearly using logic and reasoning
- knowledge of public safety and security
- excellent written communication skills
- the ability to work on your own
- legal knowledge including court procedures and government regulations
- to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
Restrictions and requirements
You’ll need to:
What you’ll do
In this role you could be:
- blood grouping and DNA profiling
- analysing fluid and tissue samples for traces of drugs and poisons
- examining splash patterns and the distribution of particles
- analysing handwriting, signatures, ink and paper
- providing expert advice on explosives, firearms and ballistics
- researching and developing new technologies
- recovering data from computers, mobile phones and other electronic equipment
- attending crime scenes, like a murder or fire
- giving impartial, scientific evidence in court
You could work on the streets, in a laboratory or in a court.
Your working environment may be outdoors in all weathers and emotionally demanding.
You may need to wear protective clothing.
Career path and progression
With experience, you could move into management and direct other forensics staff as a forensics manager or casework examiner.
You could also work as a reporting scientist, acting as an expert witness in court.