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What is a Forensic scientist? The School Leaver Guide

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What is a Forensic scientist?

Forensic scientists contribute crucial, impartial evidence for use in legal cases and courts. The role involves finding and analysing physical clues like blood, fibres or substances. If you have an interest in both science and law enforcement this could be the perfect role for you.

The role also contains specialisms. Some forensic scientists, for example, might focus on drugs and toxicology, while others might be experts in human biology.

What does a Forensic scientist do?

Within specialisms including chemistry, biology, and drugs and toxicology, a forensic scientist may undertake the following tasks:

  • Analyse samples of blood, hair, glass, drugs or other materials in a laboratory

  • Attend and analyse crime scenes

  • Apply forensic techniques to crime scenes

  • Record and analyse findings

  • Present finding

  • Research and develop new forensic techniques

Skills & interests required for a Forensic scientist

  • The ability and patience to undertake painstaking investigative and analytical work in minute detail

  • A logical scientific mind-set

  • A good team player

  • Good at meeting deadlines

  • Good written and oral communication

Working hours

The working hours of a forensic scientist vary from role to role. It’s not unusual for some forensic scientists to work normal office hours while others will be contracted for shift or on-call work. Crime can happen at any time so evenings and weekends are needed too.

Work base

Between laboratories, offices, courts, police stations and other locations. Different roles have different focuses but the role can comprise multiple bases.

Salary ranges & earning potential

Salaries start around £20,000 per annum but for experienced forensic scientists earnings can exceed £45,000.

Perks & benefits

If you love science and have an interest in law enforcement a job as a forensic scientist could be a fulfilling job. You will have the chance to help to protect the public while also engaging in demanding scientific processes.

Education requirements

You will, typically, need a degree in a scientific subject or a specific degree in forensic science. Other degree areas can aid access to some specialisations. It is recommended that those undertaking a course in forensic science check that it is accredited by The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences.

Competition is intense for forensic science jobs too, so further study may be necessary!

If you want to work as an assistant forensic scientist you can take on roles as long as you have at least four good GCSEs and a scientific A-level or equivalent qualification. However the competitive nature of this jobs market means that even assistants have degrees in many cases.

Useful subjects to study at school

  • Chemistry

  • Forensic Sciences

  • Maths

  • Biology

  • Physics

Useful resources

The Chartered Society of Forensic Scientists