Science, Technology & Environment

Forensic Scientist

Forensic scientists provide scientific advice to support criminal investigations by collecting and analysing physical evidence.

  • Entry-level education

    Bachelor's degree + post-graduate qualification / training

  • Job outlook

    1 2 3 4 5

What does a Forensic Scientist do?

Forensic scientists provide scientific advice to support criminal investigations by collecting and analysing physical evidence.

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Work activities

Forensic scientists use principles of biology, chemistry and maths, and a range of techniques, to obtain and analyse evidence from a variety of sources. Your main objective would be to look for evidence which would assist in legal investigations.

However, your duties could vary depending on your specialty, and may include some or all of the following:

  • examine samples, such as hair and body fluids in a laboratory
  • analysing fluid and tissue samples for traces of alcohol, illicit drugs or poisons
  • examine and compare materials such as fibres, plant material, paints, plastics, metals, soils and gunshot residue
  • undertake DNA profiling
  • analyse handwriting, signatures, ink and paper
  • attend and examine crime scenes
  • record findings and collect trace evidence from crime scenes or accidents
  • produce reports outlining test results and findings
  • give impartial scientific evidence or act as an expert witness in court.
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Key skills and interests

To become a forensic scientist, you would need:

  • an interest in science and scientific processes
  • a logical and analytical approach to your work
  • patience and concentration
  • curiosity and an enquiring mind
  • highly developed skills of observation
  • objectivity and personal integrity
  • a high degree of accuracy and attention to detail.
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Working hours and conditions

Working Hours

You would usually work standard hours each week, Monday to Friday. You may also need to be available on a shift or on-call roster for dealing with high priority work. Flexible or part-time hours may also be available.

Conditions

You would be based mainly in a laboratory, however you may also visit crime scenes, which could be unpleasant and challenging. You would wear special clothing to prevent contamination and protect you from hazardous substances.

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How to become an Forensic Scientist?

Entry Level Education

To become a forensic scientist you usually have to gain a bachelor's degree with honours in forensic science at university, followed by a postgraduate qualification in forensic science. Degrees in other areas, such as biology, botany, chemistry, physics, dentistry or medicine, may provide entry into various areas of forensic science. To get into degree courses you usually need to gain your senior secondary school certificate or equivalent. English, mathematics, chemistry, physics and biology would be appropriate subjects to study prior to university.

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Job outlook

  • 1 2 3 4 5

Forensic scientist job opportunities are expected to increase by an average rate of growth.

There is strong interest in forensic science careers and crime scene investigation jobs, partly as a result of popular television and movie depictions. This is a highly specialised occupation, and it is likely that interest will outstrip the supply of available roles.

Many forensic scientist jobs are subject to government and law enforcement budgets.

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