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Forensic scientist

Forensic scientists prepare traces of physical evidence for use in courts of law.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £20,000 to £45,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 37 to 40 per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll usually need a degree or postgraduate award in forensic science. You may also be able to get into this career with a science-based degree like chemistry, biology, life sciences, applied sciences or medical sciences.

If you want to specialise in electronic casework (recovering data from computers, mobile phones and other electronic equipment), you may need experience and qualifications in computing, electrical engineering, electronics or physics.

To start as a forensics lab support assistant, you’ll need A levels, a BTEC or an HND in science. 

You’ll usually need colour-normal vision. 

The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences (CSFS) has more information about careers in forensic science.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • a logical and analytical approach
  • patience and concentration
  • highly developed observation and scientific skills
  • a high degree of accuracy and attention to detail
  • strong written and spoken communication skills

3. What you'll do

Forensic scientists use a range of techniques to find and study evidence from a variety of sources, like blood and other body fluids, hairs, textile fibres, glass fragments and tyre marks.

Your main role will be looking for evidence to link a suspect with a crime scene, but you may also specialise.

Your day-to-day tasks may include:

  • blood grouping and DNA profiling
  • analysing fluid and tissue samples for traces of drugs and poisons
  • examining splash patterns and the distribution of particles
  • analysing handwriting, signatures, ink and paper
  • providing expert advice on explosives, firearms and ballistics
  • researching and developing new technologies
  • recovering data from computers, mobile phones and other electronic equipment
  • attending crime scenes, such as a murder or fire
  • giving impartial scientific evidence in court

4. Salary

Starter: £20,000

Experienced: £25,000 to £35,000

Highly Experienced: £45,000 or more

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You’ll usually work 37 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Your employer may use a shift or on-call system for dealing with high priority work. 

You’ll be based mainly in a laboratory, but may also visit crime scenes, which could be distressing

You’ll wear special clothing to prevent contamination and protect you from hazardous substances.

6. Career path and progression

With experience, you could move into management and direct other forensics staff as a forensics manager or casework examiner. 

You could also work as a reporting scientist, acting as an expert witness in court.

Last updated: 06 October 2016