Careers & Education

The level of education you will require for a career in forensic science is greatly dependent on the area of forensics you are looking to get into. For a position as a lab-based forensic scientist employers will almost always require you to have a Bachelor’s degree in a scientific subject, and for certain positions candidates may be required to have completed a Master’s degree course or hold a PhD. Despite the vast array for forensic science courses available, a degree in chemistry or a similar subject is generally preferred, though some forensic science degrees that are especially chemistry-based are suitable. A forensic science degree may be an ideal choice if you are looking for a career in crime scene investigation, though degrees are not necessarily required for such roles.

I frequently receive emails enquiring as to which are the “best” universities or colleges for forensic science programs. The factors making one university ‘better’ than another are completely subjective, so it is advisable that students conduct their own research to find out which university is more suited to them. However the UK’s Forensic Science Society has a list of accredited universities, institutions that meet the society’s own standards.

UK Universities offering forensic science courses:
Visit the UCAS website for a full list of courses.

US colleges and universities offering forensic science courses:
Visit this site for a list of some available courses.

Work Experience
In applying for positions, many employers will often require the candidate to have previous work experience in a forensics role or in a laboratory environment. Due to the nature of the work, it is not generally possible to seek work experience in a forensic analysis lab or in crime scene investigation. However any form of laboratory work experience, either paid or voluntary, will be beneficial, such as in a hospital, pharmaceutical laboratory or a school science department. If you wish to seek employment in scene of crime investigation, work experience with police forces may provide you with a certain amount of experience plus the opportunity to network with potential employers. Many police forces have schemes offering various volunteering positions.

Some degree programs offer the option of a year in industry, where students are able to take a year out during their studies to work with a forensic science service provider or another similar organisation. Following such a path will provide you with a year of beneficial experience, and perhaps even a guaranteed job following the completion of your degree if the company is impressed by your work.

The competition in forensic science has recently greatly increased, therefore work experience is essential in distinguishing yourself from other candidates, preparing you for working life, and demonstrating your determination and initiative.

Before applying for any vacancy it is vital that the candidate ensures that their CV/resume is updated and appealing. This should include all relevant work experience and pertinent modules of your degree. Any research projects you have been involved in should be detailed, as well as practical experience, such as using particular analytical techniques.
Entry into forensic science will often begin with a trainee or assistant position, with the possibility of promotion or seeking more advanced positions after gaining experience. Laboratory based roles will vary, but generally involve the analysis of samples using various physical and analytical techniques. The scientist may be required to give evidence during legal proceedings, which will include producing a report detailing their work and findings and perhaps appearing in court to answer questions and clarify points in their report. Companies will often offer expert witness training to assist in this.

Vacancies in forensic science will be listed in a variety of places. Individual organisations often list vacancies on their websites, and websites such as New Scientist Jobs and other recruitment sites may hold the listings. However a large number of jobs are not advertised, therefore it may be advisable to make applications to companies enquiring as to whether or not there are any upcoming vacancies.

Careers & Education FAQ
What are the best subjects to study before going to college/university?
All core sciences will be greatly beneficial, so biology, chemistry and in some cases physics should be your top choices. Maths and computer sciences will also prove beneficial in this career path. Other subjects could be of use depending on the particular career path you wish to follow.

I have a criminal record. What are my chances of getting hired?
Unfortunately if you have a criminal record, it is unlikely that you will be able to work in forensic science. Due to the nature of the work, employers are unlikely to be willing to hire someone with criminal convictions, especially since they no doubt have other suitable applicants with no record.

How much money do forensic scientists earn?
The salaries earned by those in this area differ greatly, depending on what job you are doing, the country in which you are living, and your qualifications and experience. They are also frequently changing. To gain an idea of the salaries for different jobs, look at recent job postings for positions you are interested in.

Do I have to have a degree to work in forensics?
If you want to work in a scientific position, then you will most likely need a degree in a scientific subject. For some positions involving crime scene work, employers do not necessarily require you to have a degree. However with the high demand for forensic science positions, university/college education is advisable.

Can I get work experience in forensic science?
Unfortunately this is unlikely. Due to the nature of the work, employers do not tend to take on students and other members of the public in voluntary positions. However see the work experience section above for some ideas on other useful experience you may be able to obtain.

Job Vacancies & Employers
Listed below is a selection of forensic science organisations and recruitment services listing current vacancies in forensic science. The majority of these listing are in the UK.

New Scientist
Defence Science & Technology Laboratory
Forensic Access
Forensic Equity
Cy4or Digital Forensics
Home Office Centre for Applied Science & Technology
HM Revenue & Customs
Orchid Cellmark
Police Jobs: Scene of Crime Officers
Forensic Science Society Jobs
Forensic First Ltd
Key Forensic Services Ltd
Forensic Science Laboratory Ireland
Department of Justice Northern Ireland
Career Jet Forensics Jobs
Indeed Forensic Jobs