This guide will outline some of the key career options with forensic science. It also covers some other popular career areas requiring any science degree discipline. It contains useful websites and signposts you to relevant resources.
It helps to have at least six months' relevant work experience but it can be difficult to obtain this in a forensic setting due to the confidentiality of court-based evidence. Instead, try getting experience in other settings such as a medical lab technician or school lab technician. These roles enable you to gain transferable skills for future job applications, such as attention to detail and accuracy. As these jobs are not widely advertised, you will need to make speculative applications by sending your CV and cover letter directly to schools and hospitals. Read the careers guide on Finding Work for more information on speculative applications.
Both My Career Hub and New Scientist Jobs occasionally have this type of vacancy. Join the LinkedIn group ‘Forensic Science at Manchester Metropolitan University’, a forum for current students, staff and alumni of Forensic Science at Manchester Metropolitan University to connect and share information.
Your main role would be to look for evidence to link a suspect with a crime scene but your degree content will influence the duties you may undertake. For example, with forensic biology, you may be involved in blood grouping and DNA profiling or with analysing fluid and tissue samples for traces of drugs and poisons. With forensic chemistry, your key duties could be to examine splash patterns and the distribution of particles or to provide expert advice on explosives, firearms and ballistics.
Forensic scientists are employed by commercial companies such as Cellmark Forensic Services, SOCOTEC and eurofins Forensic Services, which provide forensic science services to the police and other agencies. Other employers include: forensic science units within local police forces, such as the Metropolitan Police Specialist Crime and Operations (SC&O); government departments such as the Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and the Centre For Applied Science and Technology (CAST)
There is an excellent job profile housed on Prospects Forensic Scientist.
This covers a diverse range of work such as chemical or forensic analysis, process development, product validation, quality control, drug formulation and development. In job applications, you will need to highlight the chemistry modules from your Forensic Science degree. For help look at the jobs section on Royal Society of Chemistry. They also produce the monthly Chemistry in Britain magazine. For detailed job information on job roles see: Prospects Analytical Chemist.
This includes Histopathology/Forensic Pathology and Clinical Forensic Medicine ("police surgeon"). To enter you must first qualify as a doctor and there are some fast-track 4 year courses for science graduates
These courses vary in length and structure, but are shorter than standard undergraduate medical degrees and normally last four years.
Medical schools with a graduate entry programme to medicine:
Check individual university websites for entry requirements.
Forensic Toxicologists deal mainly with medico-legal aspects of drugs and poisons, their prime 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.
For more information look at Prospects Toxicologist.
Some police forces like the Metropolitan Police have an in-house forensic team but the majority in England and Wales use independent Forensic Service Providers (FSPs). In Scotland, police have their own forensic labs. There are over 43 forces in the UK including non-geographic services like the British Transport Police and Civil Nuclear Constabulary. For further information see the links at the end of this guide.
Crime scene investigators, sometimes known as scenes of crime officers or forensic scene investigators, work alongside police officers in the investigation of serious crime. As a crime scene investigator, you will be involved in securing and protecting crime scenes, and collecting evidence from crime scenes, post-mortems and other incidents, such as fires and suspicious deaths. You will also be responsible for processing and categorising evidence, so that it can be used in criminal investigations. This might include gathering photographic evidence or physical samples from the scene, such as weapons, fingerprints, clothing or biological evidence.
Crime scene investigators need keen observation and problem-solving skills for their scientific, investigative work with the police.
Competition for vacancies is strong, previous employment involving dealing with the public and with sensitive situations is an advantage. Working as a special constable would be one way to gain an insight into police work. Most scenes of crimes officers in the UK are employed in the public sector by individual police forces around the country.
For more information visit: https://www.prospects.ac.uk/job-profiles/crime-scene-investigator
The key responsibility of this role is to take photographs at scenes of crime and hospitals for use as evidence in court. The job requires tact to deal with distressed victims and the work may be disturbing at times. This is a type of scientific photography so skills of using a range of specialised equipment is needed plus an understanding of anatomy. A BTEC or similar course in photography will equip you with these skills. Most of the training is on the job. The first step into this role would be to contact police forces to ask if you could talk to a working forensic photographer about their job.
Some ideas are:
Many graduate employers will be keen to recruit students from a science background as you have so many transferrable skills, for example you can:
With these skills, you can consider a broad range of careers. Here are a few ideas:
A Postgraduate Certificate of Education Course (PGCE) lasts one year and you can train either in a school or in university. There is a shortage of science teachers, and enhanced bursaries are available for training. You will need to show an interest in teaching so a couple of weeks of school based work experience is recommended. Premier Plus can help you arrange your school experience and will support you when preparing and applying for teacher training: Get Into Teaching.
You can also teach science in Colleges of Further Education, private schools and the Armed Forces. For more information read our teaching guides:
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Forensic Science includes some study of the law and it is possible for a forensic scientist to become a solicitor or barrister, although this requires at least one-year further full-time study. Conversion courses are available such as the Graduate Diploma in Law available at Manchester Met. For more information read our law careers guides:
Manchester is home to one of the most vibrant digital and technology communities in Europe. There is currently a skills shortage in digital forensics and security, with skills such as programming being especially in demand. There are conversion courses available, such as the MSc Computing at Manchester Met aimed at graduates from a non-computing discipline.
Demand for graduates in engineering, data science, cybersecurity, and software engineering is growing in the economy and conversion courses are now available starting in the 2019-20 academic year. For example, the three available at Manchester Met are MSc Rail Engineering, MSc Automotive Engineering and MSc Nuclear Engineering. Check with each institution for their entry requirements.
Employers are attracted to Forensic Science graduates due to the range of transferable skills outlined above that you have acquired in your academic studies. There are many traineeships available for new graduates irrespective of degree subject. Some of the key places where these vacancies are advertised include:
Covers many specialist areas including environmental health and trading standards. Degree discipline is less important than personal qualities and skills. Relevant work experience in a council is an advantage, many gain entry by temping. The additional benefit of this approach is that you can access internal job bulletins.
The National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP) is a two year Graduate scheme.
Many Local Authorities run their own in-house graduate training schemes. For vacancies look at Local Government Jobs.
The Civil Service is made up of a large number of different departments, which implement government policies and deliver services to the public. Some examples include:
The Civil Service is a significant employer nationally and almost three-quarters of civil servants work outside London and the South East.
Job roles in each department vary widely and you could work in occupations, such as training, social research, marketing and international development etc. For vacancies go to Civil Service Jobs.
The Civil Service Fast Stream is an accelerated leadership development programme where you gain a variety of experience through different placements or postings.
Whether you’re starting your first year of study or you’re about to graduate, researching your career options is the first step to finding your graduate role. Visit our website for information and resources to help you explore your options.
It is always best when job hunting to use a variety of methods and resources, just as you would for finding work experience. Advertised vacancies form only a part of those available as not all organisations advertise their opportunities. This means that sending your CV and a professional cover letter speculatively to key employers that are of interest can be a great way to find out about further opportunities that are open to you. Further ways of finding opportunities include:
There are a wide number of agencies available and the following ones form a starting point as they have had vacancies for forensic scientists in the past.
Companies who provide forensic services to the police and other agencies include:
These include medical schools, university research departments and public health labs.
Newspapers, journals and professional bodies to aid your search for opportunities:
Many science graduates from Manchester Met opt to do postgraduate study for a PhD or Master’s degree. Research for a PhD will require dedication and determination to conduct self-motivated study for a period of three or more years. See the Postgraduate Study section on the Prospects website.
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For more information visit: mmu.ac.uk/careers.
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