WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH A DEGREE IN FORENSIC SCIENCE?

including forensic biology and forensic chemistry

 

  • What Forensic
    Science involves
  • Forensic
    Employers
  • Destinations of Kent
    Forensic Graduates
  • Getting
    a Job
  • Scenes of
    Crime Officer
  • Related
    Careers
  • Postgraduate
    Courses
  • Further
    Information

 

scientist

Employment in the Forensic Science Sector has grown at an unprecedented rate over the last ten years, due largely to advances in technology such as the National DNA Database, and an increased reliance on forensic techniques by police forces for minor crimes. There are about 5000 staff working in the UK forensic science industry. The Forensic Science sector recruits about 200 graduates a year, but there are currently about 1500 forensic science graduates being produced each year by UK universities, so there is strong competition for jobs (source Forensic Science Degrees: The Higher Education Perspective).

There have been a large number of applicants for advertised jobs in recent years. Forensic Alliance (now part of LGC), for example, received 500 applicants for 30 posts. (Source Occupational Mapping Study 2003 and SEMTA data 2004/Forensic Science Degrees: The Higher Education Perspective)

For information on the University of Kent Forensic Science degree course see the Undergraduate Prospectus. University of Kent Forensic Scientists have an excellent employment record because of the strong chemistry base to their course, and are also very employable in many other science careers as well as forensics - in particular analytical chemistry, and also of course in the wide range of jobs open to graduates of any discipline.

Most entrants begin as assistant scientists, moving on to become a forensic scientist and then a reporting officer, who has to go to court as an expert witness. Salaries start at about £16,000 for forensic science assistants and £18,000 for reporting officers and increase to about £25k after about 3 years. But senior reporting officers earn around £45k.

What work as a forensic scientist involves:

Actually Said in Court

Barrister: Can you describe the individual?
Witness: He was about medium height and had a beard.
Barrister: Was this a male, or a female?

Barrister: How many autopsies have you performed on dead people?
Coroner: All my autopsies are performed on dead people.

Barrister: Do you recall the time that you examined the body?
Coroner: The autopsy started around 8:30 p.m.
Barrister: And Mr. Dennington was dead at the time?
Coroner: No, he was sitting on the table wondering why I was doing an autopsy.

Barrister: Before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
Coroner: No.
Barrister: Did you check for blood pressure?
Coroner: No.
Barrister: Did you check for breathing?
Coroner: No.
Barrister: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
Coroner: No.
Barrister: How can you be so sure?
Coroner: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
Barrister: But could the patient have still been alive nevertheless?
Coroner: It is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law somewhere.

  • Recording findings and collecting trace evidence from scenes of crime or accident.
  • Analysing samples such as hair, body fluids, glass, paint and drugs in the laboratory.
  • Applying various techniques as appropriate; e.g. DNA profiling, mass spectrometry, chromatography.
  • Giving evidence in court but this would be at least several years after graduating

There are 3 main areas:

  • Chemistry Mainly crimes against property such as burglary, and arson. This includes the analysis of contact traces e.g. glass, paint and chemicals, also fire investigation, accident reconstruction and serial number restoration. However, approximately 80% of cases involve drugs analyses.
  • Biology. Mainly crimes against the person. Violent crimes such as murder, GBH and rape makes up most of the case types encountered and the majority of examinations involve swabs of blood and other body fluids, hair and clothing fibres. Both traditional serological and DNA testing is used. DNA work is increasing because of the  new nation-wide DNA database. Crimes from many years ago are now being re-examined because of new DNA evidence.
  • Drugs and Toxicology. Testing for restricted drugs, examining tissue specimens, drink and drug driving samples, and the criminal and non-criminal investigation of deaths due to overdoses, poisons and drugs.

Skills and qualities required

  • Great patience and concentration: much work is monotonous, painstaking, detailed and routine. Nothing like CSI!
  • High quality analytical work.
  • Excellent attention to detail.
  • Logical, unbiased and methodical in your approach to solving problems as you will have to give impartial evidence in court.
  • An inquisitive, open mind.
  • Work well in a team and independently.
  • Outgoing personality with strong verbal communication and presenting skills for reporting roles.
  • Confidence as reporting officers have to present evidence in court and be cross-examined by barristers. This makes up a quarter of the work.
  • Present complex scientific information in a clear, simple way than a member of a jury, with no scientific knowledge, can understand
  • It helps if applicants have business skills as well as being technically capable.
  • Crimes happen at any time, so you may need to be prepared for evening and weekend call outs. Also court work may involve being on call and unsocial hours.
  • You need a strong stomach, as some of the scenes of crime can be gruesome and upsetting.

 

Last fully updated 2012

Employers

There are about 3,400 Forensic Science practitioners in the UK, of which the Forensic Science Service employs 2,500, LGC 700, Forensic Alliance 140, the Police 900, Fire Service 190 and Educational Institutions 60. Currently the Forensic Science Service has nearly 90% of the market share of the Forensic Science sector, with LGC about 6% and Forensic Alliance about 4%. LGC is experiencing a sharp rise in employment, while the Forensic Science Service is consolidating.

Independent forensic contractors

  • LGC (Laboratory of the Government Chemist) www.lgc.co.uk in SW London. LGC is an independent company: the UK's leading independent provider of analytical and diagnostic services offering chemical, biochemical, DNA, drug and forensic analysis. Services include analytical science, consumer protection, pollution and health, consultancy, validation, training and knowledge transfer. Also provides document examination for the Inland Revenue and DSS. LGC provide graduates with training in operational methods and quality procedures. Graduates are recruited by LGC as technicians, unless they have a BSc Chemistry or an MSc or PhD, in which case they are recruited as analysts or researchers. Recently merged with Forensic Alliance which had expertise in forensic entomology, botanical profiling and forensic palynology.
    Guardian article on working for LGC
    www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/jan/17/csi-oxford-lgc-forensics
    LGC forensics to cut 170 jobs (BBC 2013) www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-21744388
  • Horse racing Forensic Laboratory www.hfl.co.uk - now part of LGC
  • Forensic Access www.forensic-access.co.uk is a UK based company, operating internationally, providing lawyers and investigators with an unrivalled source of expertise from properly qualified and experienced forensic scientists.
  • Forensic Equity www.forensicequity.com internationally recognised provider of forensic science services to the defence, prosecution and government agencies, analysis and training. Real forensic case examples, giving students a good understanding of the complexities of cases and an insight into the different areas of forensics. From time to time, take on graduates looking to start a career in forensic science.
  • Cogent Forensic Consultants www.docev.co.uk
  • IntaForensics www.intaforensics.com UK digital forensic company. provides independent Computer Forensics, Expert Witness, Mobile Phone Forensics, and Forensic Data Recovery to the legal sector, police forces, local authorities and commercial organisations internationally. Regularly features jobs of interest to graduates. Also features blogs by forensics experts.
  • The Transport Research Laboratory.www.trl.co.uk The main centre for testing and research into vehicle and road users safety. Based in Berkshire. Have a graduate entry scheme.
  • Orchid Cellmark www.orchidcellmark.co.uk specialist in Genotyping and DNA Analysis in the fields of Forensic Science, Paternity Testing and Agricultural Genotyping. Orchid take between 20 and 40 graduates a year. Most graduates recruited have microbiology, genetics and biology backgrounds. Graduates normally start as DNA analysts and move on to become forensic examiners analysing crime scenes.
  • Burgoynes www.burgoynes.com   conduct scientific investigations into fires, explosions, chemical and hazardous marine cargoes, chemical, electrical and mechanical engineering incidents, road traffic accidents, personal injury and microbiological spoilage
  • HFL Sports Science www.hfl.co.uk provider of analytical chemistry and research services worldwide including forensic analysis. Test athletes and racing animals as part of forensic doping control processes and provide research and testing services on behalf of pharmaceutical, food, consumer products and healthcare clients. Now part of Quotient Bioresearch.
  • Foster and Freeman www.fosterfreeman.co.uk manufacture equipment used in police and forensic science laboratories worldwide for forensic analysis of documents, paint, glass, fibres.
  • Environmental Scientifics Group www.esg.co.uk Activities include forensic analysis, workplace and environmental monitoring, product and materials testing, and contaminated land analysis.
  • CY40R Criminal Forensics www.cy4or.co.uk/about/careers specialist in digital forensic services and edisclosure. Regularly recruit graduates
  • Advanced Simtech www.advancedsimtech.com Engineering Consultancy specialising in the application of Forensic 3D Laser Scanning. Welcome applications from students for both industrial placement and graduate roles. Mostly work for the Police (80% of our business) predominantly with collision investigation units: helping to identify the identity of drivers and working back from limited evidence to help determine what happens to the people in the vehicles. Also help Major incident teams who deal with Murders, serious assaults, suspicious falls, and hangings. Carry out simple visualisations or physics based reconstructions where we use computer models to predict the results of certain situations. Can demonstrate bullet trajectories and line of sight of any witness in or around the crime scene. CCTV analysis, turning 2D still images into 3D scenes to demonstrate where people were.

 

Destinations of Kent Forensic Science graduates

Forensic Science Careers Chart

Physics careers Physics careers Physics careers Physics careers Physics careers Physics careers Physics careers Physics careers Physics careers Physics careers Physics careers Physics careers Physics careers Physics careers Physics careers Physics careers

DESTINATIONS OF KENT FORENSIC SCIENCE GRADUATES (EU Graduates)

These statistics only cover the first six months after graduation. The latest destinations for all subjects (1999-last year) including postgraduates can be found at www.kent.ac.uk/careers/fdrbases/destinations.htm  

YEAR

11 12 13
FURTHER STUDY
  • MSc MSc Research Chemistry - Kent (14), Forensic Science - Kent, MSc Forensic Chemistry - Kent, Southampton, MSc Physics- Kent (4), MSc Digital Forensics - Univ. of Kent, MSc Molecular Genetics - Leicester, MSc Molecular Neurosciences- Bristol, MSc Forensic Science - Kings (2), MSc Forensic Analysis- Kingston (2), MSc Toxicology - Surrey, MSc Analytical and Pharmaceutical Sci.- Loughborough, MSc Biomedical Science, MSc Medical Toxicology- Kings College, MSc Analytical Toxicology - Kings, MSc Nuclear Medicine - Kings College, MSc Pharmaceutical Analysis & Quality Control - King's College, MSc Pharmacology - Univ. of Aberdeen, Utrecht, MSc Chemical Biology - Southampton, MSc Forensic Archaeology - Reading, MSc Forensic Computing & Security - Derby, MSc Anthropology - Sheffield, MSc Forensic Investigation - Cranfield, MSc Forensic Ballistics - Cranfield, MSc Analysis & Control - IUCT Spain, MRes Security Science - UCL, Analytical Chemisty - Loughborough, Terrorism - Leicester
  • PhD Forensic Science - Kent (2), York, Glasgow, Chemistry - Kent (3), Molecular Toxicology - Surrey, PhD Chemometrics - Bristol, PhD Engineering Magnetic Nanosystems (Chemistry) - Univ. of Kent, PhD Forensic Facial Composites - Univ. of Kent, PhD Chemistry/Security Science - UCL, Chemical Engineering - Birmingham
  • Legal Training:- Graduate Diploma in Law - Nottingham Law School, College of Law - Guildford, CPE Law- City University (2)
  • Teacher Training PGCE Secondary Science - Christ Church (6)/Southampton/Huddersfield/ Bedfordshire Univ. PGCE Secondary Chemistry - Goldsmiths, Kings, PGCE Primary - Christ Church (2), Student Teacher/PGDE Sci. - Univ. of Strathclyde
  • Medicine Warwick, Bachelor of Dental Surgery - Univ. of Aberdeen
  • BA Photography - University of Creative Arts, BA Business St. - Kent

  • Cranfield Univ. MSc Forensic Ballistics
    Cranfield Univ. MSc Forensic Investigation
7 15 7
EMPLOYMENT
  • DNA Research Assistant - Forensic Science Service
  • DMPK Research Associate - Servier
  • Products Researcher - Proctor & Gamble (2)
  • Drug Development Scientist - Phoqus
  • Junior Drug Analyst - Concateno
  • Forensic Analyst - Pfizer
  • Forensic DNA Analyst - Forensic DNA Services
  • HPLC Analyst - Germains
  • Bioanalytical Scientist - Horse racing Forensic Laboratory
  • Organic Analyst - Harwell Scientifics
  • Graduate Scientist - Forensic Explosives Laboratory (Fort Halstead), Pfizer (3)
  • Scientific Officer - Home Office
  • MSAT Scientist - Lonza
  • Scientific Ass't - Eclipse Scientific
  • Laboratory Analyst/Analytical Chemist/Quality Analyst - LGC (2), GSK, Tether, STL Midlands, Pharminox, Covance, Cara Technology, Abbott Murex, Smith and Nephew, Orchid Cellmark, SGS, GlaxoSmithKlein (2), Pfizer , Melbourn Scientific, Alcontrol Laboratorie, Cara Technology, GW Pharmaceuticals, Reckitt Benkiser (2), Anglian Water, Eclipse Labs, Church & Dwight (2)
  • Environmental Analyst - ChemTest
  • Scientific trainee - Huntingdon Life Sciences
  • Technology Consultant - Robert Half Technology
    Surveyor & Engineer - Wessex Renewable Energy Ltd
    Data Cleaner - Dept of Twin Research & Genetic Epidemiology
    Outreach Demonstrator - Univ. of Kent
    Cell Facilitator - Catalent Pharma Solutions Gold Associate
  • Laboratory Manager - Cermato
  • Medical Laboratories: Clinical Scientist - Medical Toxicology Unit (Guys/St.Thomas), Trainee Biomedical Scientist (+ MSc) - Maidstone Hospital, Medical Laboratory Assistant - Norfolk Park Hospital, Biomedical Support Worker - Norfolk & Norwich Hosp.
  • Liquid Sample Handling Scientist - Pfizer (2)
  • Materials scientist - Pfizer
  • Chemist + Plasma-Optical Emission Spectroscopy Course - EXPRO Analytical Data Services
  • Pharmacology Associate - PharSafer Associates
  • Water Treatment Engineer - Spectrum Environmental
  • Quality Assurance - G-Forces
  • Laboratory Technician- Pfizer, De la Rue Lab, INT. Ltd, Kent County Council
  • School Laboratory Technician (3)
  • Administrator - Forensic Science Service, Delivery Co-ordinator - Forensic Science Service
  • Police:
    Trainee Police Officer - Nottinghamshire, Surrey,
    Crime Scene Investigator - Kent Police (3), Investigating Officer - Surrey Police,
    Scientific Officer
    - Kent Police,
    Communications Officer - Kent Police
    Trainee Police Centre Enquiry Officer - Thames Valley Police
    Community Support Officer
    - Kent Police, Metropolitan Police
    Administrator - Essex Police, Personnel Officer - Kent Police
  • Border Agency Officer - Civil Service
  • Ass't Language Teacher Japan - JET Programme
  • Teacher/PGCE Secondary Science - Bromley School Collegiate GTP
  • Teaching Assistant (2), GCSE Coach - Longfield Academy
  • Theatre Support Worker - NHS East Kent, Health Care Assistant - Chaucer Hospital/ NHS, Data
  • Tr. Tea Broker - Thompson Lloyd & Ewart
  • Administrator - Ambulance Service, Lloyds of London, Praxis Trust
  • Aviation Security Agent - ICTS Security
  • Staff Training and Support Officer - Sainsburys
  • Marketing Ass't - CPM
  • Regional Sales Manager - IGF Invoice Finance
  • Personnel Manager - Ability Outlet
  • Section Co-ordinator:Training - Marks & Spencer
  • Finance Assistant - Surrey County Council
    Healthcare Advisor - Alliance Boots
  • Optical & Dispensing Ass't - Tesco
  • Insurance Customer Service Advisor - Sterling Insurance
  • Graduate Tr. - Employment Relations Solicitors
  • Deputy Mngr - LIDL
  • Other employment. e.g. Technical Support - Skandia Life Insurance, CV Processor- Jobserve, Account Manager - Sanctuary Recruitment, SAS Consultant - Base 3, Social Carer (2), Sales Assistant - M&S, Burton, Laura Ashley, Halfords, Sainsbury, Floor Manager - Restaurant , Customer Services Ass't - Sommerfield, Admin Ass't - Denne Construction /Adecco/Newnham Borough, Admissions Ass't - Alleyn's School, Virtual PA & Business Assistant - Need More Time, Claims Advisor - RBS, Account Mngr - Vtesse Networks, Hobby Centre Mngr - Games Workshop, Graduate Intern - Vision Metric, Chalet Host, Bar Supervisor - Kent Union
28 29 42

SELF EMPLOYED Photographer - MacMac Photography, Freelance Poker player

- - -

VOLUNTARY WORK Metropolitan Police - Special Constable

- - -
NOT AVAILABLE to work e.g. time out travelling/ill/retired/Starting work shortly 2 3 4
STILL LOOKING for work or study 6 months after graduation 7 4 1
UNKNOWN 14 20 21
TOTAL 58 71 75


BSc Forensic Biology Destinations

 
  • Clinical Research Study Site Coordinator - Chapman
  • NHS - Senior Assistant Healthcare Scientist
  • Ass't Healthcare Scientist - East Kent Microbiology Service
  • R & D Scientist - Lonza Biologics Plc.
  • LGC - Scene of Crime DNA Analyst
  • Kent Police - Forensic Information Ass't
  • Embryologist/ACE Diploma in Embryology - London Fertility,Gynaecology & Genetics Centre
  • Quality Control Technician - Genesis Diagnostics
  • Dev't Agronomist/Certificate in Crop Protection - BASF plc/Rothamstead Research Institute
  • Junior Account Executive -
  • Trainee Teacher/GTP - KCC/University of Brighton
  • University of Kent - Outreach Project Worker
  • University of Reading - Temporary Worker
  • TMP World - Response Co-ordinator /Interviewer,
  • Property Negotiator - Foxtons
  • Telephone Marketing Agent - Homesales
  • Chelmsford Hospital Medical SecretaryPersonal Assistant
  • Account Executive - Resolute Comm'ns
  • Sales Assistant - Mountain Warehouse
  • Bar Ass't - Wetherspoons
  • 4 Travelling

Further Study

  • MSc Conservation Biology - Kent
  • MSc Computer Science - Kent
  • MSc Biochemistry - University of Kent
  • MSc Forensic Anthropology & Archaeology - Cranfield University
  • MSc DNA Profiling - Central Lancashire Univ.
  • MSc Microbiology - Birkbeck
  • MSc Genetics of Human Disease - UCL
  • Kingston University PGCE Primary
  • Cert. Teaching English as a Foreign Language
  • Pilot training course

Forensic Chemistry Destinations

  • 3M Healthcare - QC Analyst
  • G-Pharm - Analytical Technician
  • Laboratory Ass't - David Norris Analytical Labs
  • Laboratory Analyst - David Norris Analytical Labs
  • Analytical Chemist - David Norris Analytical Laboratories
  • Analytical Scientist - TFK
  • Analytical Shift Chemist - Industrial Chemicals Group
  • Chemical Analyst
  • Morrisons - Sales Ass't
  • Doctor's Surgery- Filing Clerk


 

Further Study

  • PhD Chemistry - Kent/ Research Chemist - Functional Materials
  • PhD Chemistry - University of Kent (4)
  • PhD Flavour Chemistry - Univ. of Reading
  • MSc-R Chemistry - Kent (2)
  • MSc Analytical Toxicology - Kings College London
  • MSc Instrumental and Analytical Methods in Chemistry - University of Warwick
  • MSc Criminology & Psychol - Middlesex Univ.
  • Bath Spa Univ. - PGCE Sci.
  • Yamasa Academic Intensive Japanese Programme

 

Tips for getting jobs

  • Get work experience e.g. in a hospital laboratory or as a school laboratory technician which will allow you to give evidence for attention to detail and accuracy. Scientific recruitment agencies also offer paid laboratory work - CPL, Cranleigh, Labstaff, Sci-temps and Technology People Solutions have had vacancies for forensic scientists in the past.
    It is difficult to get real life crime scene work experience as health and safety legislation prevents this, as does the sensitivity of crime scene investigations. Working as a special constable would be one way to gain an insight into police work.
    Some placement year students may work as a scenes of crime officer with a police force (see tab above), but this may not always be paid. See the Placements and Summer Work tab on our Science Careers page for many other work experience opportunities.

  • Skills developed by a forensic science degree include analytical and problem-solving skills and technical skills such as pipetting and spectrometry.
    The main selection criteria
    for forensics jobs focus on technical, analytical, teamwork and communication skills.
    Personal qualities required include integrity, objectivity, attention to detail and an enquiring mind. See our Skills Pages 
    Most successful applicants will have 2:1 or better degrees and some will have Masters degrees or PhDs.

  • You will need to make speculative applications for jobs as many entry level jobs are not widely advertised. Our vacancy database will sometimes have vacancies as will New Scientist jobs on-line. Also register with scientific recruitment agencies

Applications and interviews

Owen ‐ Forensic Scientist: Graduate Career Story from HECSU

How did you become a Forensic Scientist?

‘After I graduated I spent six months looking for a job, but couldn’t find anything in my area so I got a temporary job with a pharmaceutical company. I spent seven months temping before deciding that I needed to get a postgraduate qualification in toxicology if I wanted to pursue a career in forensic science. I then began studying for my MSc and attended a number of lectures which were given by professionals who worked for a large multinational manufacturer. I made an effort to talk to them after the sessions and they gave me their details. Using my industry contacts I was able to secure some temporary work with the organisation, which I took up as soon as I graduated. I started as a temporary employee covering maternity leave, but when my colleague returned to work the company decided to keep me on a temporary contract and after two years of temporary work my role was made permanent. I’m currently a product safety scientist and I don’t have any plans to leave at the moment as I’m very happy where I am.’

How have you drawn on the experience you gained at university in your subsequent work?

‘My job requires a working knowledge of toxicology so I often draw on the subject knowledge I acquired during my postgraduate studies. The experience I gained during my first degree has been particularly useful when it comes to interpreting and reviewing study reports.’

Do you have any careers advice for the students who graduated this year?

‘If you have the chance, get to know external contacts and ask your lecturers to introduce you to people in the industry as these are the people who will be interviewing you when you apply for a job. Also, remember that team‐work is a really important aspect of corporate life. Many people are qualified to do a certain role, but few are able to show that they can work as part of a team. It is absolutely essential that you can prove to a potential employer that you are able to work well as a member of a team.’
Graduate Career Story from HECSU

Scenes of crime officers (SOCOs)

Police forces employ civilians as Scenes of Crime Officers (SOCOs) who work with police in the investigation of serious crime. They are sometimes called crime scene investigators (CSIs) or crime scene examiners. They are usually civilians but in some police forces may be police officers in uniform or plain clothes. They are among the first to arrive at a crime scene and their job is to retrieve, examine and investigate physical evidence that may help to trace and convict criminals. They determine from the crime scene whether assistance from specialists, such as a forensic scientist, is needed. Police forces employ up to 80 SOCOs each.

The scenes worked on can vary widely, from volume crime such as burglary and vehicle crime, and major crime such as rape or murder. The main elements of the work are photography, fingerprinting, forensic examination and the collection of evidence such as blood samples, hair, fibres and paint samples. The evidence is collated and recorded by the SOCO and is used by an investigating officer to determine the facts of the crime. They may have to give evidence in court and are often required to attend post mortems.

Conditions of work

Usually work 37 hours a week, including shifts, weekends and public holidays. They are often part of a rota which provides cover 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They may also be called out in emergencies. You work indoors and outdoors in all weather conditions. Conditions can be extremely unpleasant and, at times, hazardous. Depending on the situation, standing, walking, lifting, climbing ladders and working at heights may be required.

Skills Required

  • able to cope with and deal tactfully with sensitive situations involving trauma and death.
  • keen observational skills: an eye for detail.
  • a methodical approach to work.
  • be physically fit.
  • interest in/aptitude for science
  • able to work from your own initiative and as a member of a disciplined team
  • strong communication skills for written and spoken reports and liaison with professional colleagues
  • computer skills
  • flexible attitude for learning new techniques and using new technology.
  • qualifications and experience in photography are useful, and may be required by some forces.
  • The necessity to travel to crime scenes means a driving licence is normally required.

Entry Requirements

Some police forces require a minimum five GCSEs with English, maths and a science subject preferred. Other forces require A levels and a few ask for a relevant degree. Contact individual forces for their requirements: see our Police careers web page

You will need to be healthy, physically fit and pass a medical examination. All forces require good eyesight, including normal colour vision.

More and more graduates are applying for these jobs which receive large numbers of applications - often over 100 per vacancy. Fill in the application form very carefully as attention to detail is vital in police work.

Police forces will carry out a security check of your background and employment history. Previous employment involving dealing with the public and with sensitive situations is an advantage. Many SOCOs are police officers who have retrained. It may interest those wanting a non-lab. based forensic role.

Kent Police

The minimum qualifications usually are:
  • 5 GCSEs, incl English, Maths and one Science
  • A nationally recognised forensic qualification (preferred)
  • A photographic qualification
  • A full, clean driving licence
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Resilience to work an on call shift pattern
  • Ability to manage distressing and complex situations

Adverts for these roles rarely go out for external advertising and are circulated internally to existing staff before going external to the public: this is a role that many people are interested in and is likely to be filled internally. However, if there are no suitable internal applicants then it will be advertised externally to the public on www.kent.police.co.uk under 'Join us' - CSI will be classed under Police Staff. One option is to join the Force in a different role and to try and apply for a Crime Scene Investigator role when they are advertised internally.

Training

New recruits receive an induction programme and training on police computer systems, spending up to one month working with experienced SOCOs.

All new SOCOs receive nine weeks residential training on the Initial Crime Scene Investigator Course via the National Police Improvement Agency (NPIA) www.npia.police.uk/en/6469.htm This covers a wide range of skills, from assertiveness, photography, dealing with trace evidence (for example, fingerprints and biological samples to bomb training and successful trainees get a Diploma in Scientific Support. All SOCOs also receive courtroom training. Some police forces have exchange programmes with forensic labs. There is a strong emphasis on improving practical skills, such as the use of the latest equipment and instrument maintenance. Other training includes vehicle crime, bloodstain patterns, DNA analysis and the preparation of evidence.

On successful completion of the initial course you would be posted to your police force on a one to two year development programme. Following this on-the-job training period you would attend a further two week course, covering skills and techniques in more detail.

The NPIA provides it's training in conjunction with Durham University and also offers the National Fingerprint Examiner training programme for those specialising in this field. SOCOs dealing with volume crime may attend a three week basic training course at NPIA, and then take a four week conversion course after gaining some experience. The NPIA also offer specialist short courses for SOCOs, including fire investigation, dealing with major disasters, facial identification techniques and management training.

Forces that require entrants to hold a relevant degree may have less stringent training. Employees may also study towards the Forensic Science Society diploma.

Advancement

is to senior and principal officer with management responsibilities. The NPIA offers a Diploma in Crime Scene Investigation which is useful for those hoping for promotion to senior positions. The initial training programmes can be credited to count towards this diploma.

Starting salaries are around £15,000 to £18,000 a year. With experience, this can rise to around £25,000 a year. Senior crime scene investigators can earn more than £35,000 a year. There may be an additional allowance for working shifts.

Further Information

  • Crime-Scene-Investigator.net www.crime-scene-investigator.net covers the main aspects of crime scene investigation, including crime scene management, photography, documentation and search procedures.
  • National Police Improvement Agency (NPIA) www.npia.police.uk/en/6469.htm
  • Kent Police www.kent.police.uk now do their own fingerprinting analysis and of course employ scenes of crime officers
  • Police-jobs.co.uk www.police-jobs.co.uk jobsite for serving and former police officers, civilian police staff and criminal justice sector practitioners. Temporary, contract and permanent investigation and law enforcement jobs.
  • G4S Policing Solutions www.policingsolutions.co.uk provides police jobs and skills to UK Police Forces, Local Authorities, Regulatory bodies and Government Departments.
  • Crimes and Clues www.crimeandclues.com good information on crime scene investigation and forensic science.

Related Careers

Forensic Photographer

Forensic photographers take photographs at scenes of crime and hospitals for use as evidence in court. They may also work for law firms to build up evidence for cases in areas such as personal injury. It is a type of scientific photography and forensic photographers use a range of specialised equipment including infrared and ultraviolet films, and microphotography equipment. Digital equipment is increasingly being used. They require an understanding of anatomy and may work with investigating police officers, doctors and medical illustrators to prepare presentations for use in court. The job requires tact to deal with distressed victims of crime and the work may be disturbing at times.

Training and Entry

The usual route in is to do a BTEC or similar course in photography and then apply for jobs with police forces as they arise. Most of the  training is on the job. There is a 2 week course at the NPIA for police employees - see www.npia.police.uk/en/6469.htm The first step would be to contact police forces to ask if you could talk to a working forensic photographer about the job. See our creative jobhunting section www.kent.ac.uk/careers/sk/CJ.htm for how to do this.

Forensic Medicine

The careers here include Histopathology/Forensic Pathology, Clinical Forensic Medicine ("police surgeon") and Forensic Psychiatry. First you must qualify as a doctor, but there are now some 4 year fast-track courses for graduates to allow you to do this. See www.kent.ac.uk/careers/ScienceJobs.htm#DOCTOR for details of how to become a doctor after graduation.

Toxicology and Pharmacology

Forensic toxicologists deal mainly with medico-legal aspects of drugs and poisons, their main responsibilities are to establish and explain the circumstances of legal cases where drugs or other chemicals are implicated.

Pharmacology is related to toxicology and involves the study of the effects of drugs and chemical compounds on humans and animals. Working as part of a team including chemists, biochemists, geneticists, microbiologists, molecular biologists, toxicologists and pharmacists, they work in research, development and clinical trials of drugs.

See our toxicology and pharmacology page www.kent.ac.uk/careers/workin/toxicology.htm for detailed information.

Analytical Chemist

Analytical chemists are involved in work as diverse as chemical or forensic analysis, process development, product validation, quality control, toxicology, drug formulation and development. Because of the strong chemistry base of their course, University of Kent forensic science graduates have an excellent chance of gaining employment in this. Involves:

  • analysing samples from various sources to provide information on compounds present or quantities of compounds present, using analytical techniques and instrumentation such as gas and HPL chromatography, ion chromatography, electro-chromatography and spectroscopy techniques like Raman.
  • preparing samples.
  • interpreting data and reporting results.
  • developing new methods for analysing chemicals.
  • maintaining instruments.
  • liaison with customers and staff.
  • Royal Society of Chemistry www.rsc.org produces Chemistry in Britain magazine monthly - has jobs section on-line.
  • See www.prospects.ac.uk/student/cidd for detailed job information

Teaching

A Postgraduate Certificate of Education Course (PGCE) lasts one year. It's not that difficult to obtain a place on a science PGCE provided that you can show some evidence of interest in teaching such as voluntary work at a school. Remember that you can also teach science in Colleges of Further Education, private schools and the Armed Forces. There is a shortage of science teachers, who are eligible for an enhanced bursary during training.  See www.kent.ac.uk/careers/siteach.htm

Law

Forensic degrees include a substantial amount of legal study and it is possible for a forensic scientist to become a solicitor or barrister, although this would normally require two years further full-time study. See our law careers page.

Other Science Careers

These include patent work, food science, medical sales, information science, scientific publishing and many others. See www.kent.ac.uk/careers/ScienceJobs.htm for details.

Careers Outside Science

Forensic Science graduates are attractive to many employers because of their personal transferable skills rather than the specific skills that they have gained during their degree course. These skills include the ability to

  • communicate with others in a clear and articulate manner;
  • present ideas and arguments verbally in presentations and seminars, and informal discussions;
  • work with others in the preparation and presentation of group work;
  • identify and propose solutions to problems;
  • work independently;
  • use computing skills to store, retrieve and produce material for coursework, drawing on skills such as word processing, databases and spreadsheets;
  • gather and analyse relevant information from a wide variety of sources;


Jobs using these skills include:


See www.kent.ac.uk/careers/workin.htm for information on a wide range of other careers open to you and our Choosing a Career section

Postgraduate Study

Many science graduates from Kent opt to do postgraduate study for a PhD or Masters degree. Research for a PhD will require dedication and determination to see things through over a period of 3 or more years. See our Postgraduate Study section at www.kent.ac.uk/careers/postgradmenu.htm

King's College and Strathclyde are the two main postgraduate courses. Both get about 200 applications a year but only take about 30 graduates each, so there are about six applicants per place. A relevant Master's degree in Forensic Science should strongly increase your chances of getting a job in the forensics field, but remember that these courses cost a lot of money and that funding may not be easily available.

 

Further information

 

As you can see, University of Kent Kent Forensic Science graduates are very employable and can enter a wide range of careers. Once you have read this, visit the Careers Centre (in Keynes Driveway). You can browse in the Careers Centre as you would a library or ask at reception if you need help.

Bruce Woodcock - Careers Adviser for Forensic Science