Careers and Employability Service

I want to work in Forensic Science


    General Information

    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

      • 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.




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Last Updated: 18/08/2017