A Career In Forensic Science
On-the-job training tends to be best catered for by suppliers of forensic science services to police and other law enforcement agencies as it is in these organisations that there is the breadth and depth of casework to provide the necessary experience. Such training generally includes a combination of specialist in-house courses and practical caseworking - all forming part of a professional apprenticeship. Relevant addresses to write to include:
For further information contact:
The Forensic Science Service, Forensic Science Service HQ, Sixth Floor, Priory House, Gooch St North, Birmingham B5 6QQ (Tel: 0121 607 6800)
Careers info from FSS including entry and salary
Forensic Alliance Ltd, F5 Culham Science Centre, Abingdon, Oxfordshire OX14 3ED (Tel: 01235 551800)
Laboratory of the Government Chemist, Queens Rd, Teddington, Middlesex TW11 0LY (Tel: 0208 943 7455)
Document Evidence, 172 Holliday St, Birmingham, B1 1TJ (Tel: 0121 643 0990)
Forensic Explosives Laboratory, Dstl, Fort Halstead, Sevenoaks, Kent
Tayside Police Forensic Science Laboratory, PO Box 59, West Bell St, Dundee DD1 9JU Science Laboratory (Tel: 01382 596575)
Grampian Police Forensic Science Laboratory, Grampian Police Office, Nelson St, Aberdeen (Tel: 01224 386700)
Lothian & Borders Police Forensic Science Laboratory, 11 Howden Hall Rd, Edinburgh EH16 6TF (Tel: 0131 666 1212)
Strathclyde Police Forensic Science Laboratory, Strathclyde Police HQ, 173 Pitt St, Glasgow G2 4JS (Tel: 0141 532 2318)
Forensic Science Northern Ireland, 151 Belfast Rd, Carrickfergus, BT38 8PL, Ireland (Tel: 028 9036 1888)
Forensic Science Laboratory Garda HQ, Phoenix Park, Dublin 8, Eire (Tel: +353 1-6662900)
Careers in forensic pathology, UK
The Forensic Science Society has taken every care to ensure that the information given in this leaflet is correct but takes no responsibility for any errors or omissions.
Registered Charity Number: 209592
What is Forensic Science?
Forensic science is simply the application of science to the law. In criminal cases forensic scientists are often involved in the search for and examination of physical traces which might be useful for establishing or excluding an association between someone suspected of committing a crime and the scene of the crime or victim. Such traces commonly include blood and other body fluids, hairs, textile fibres from clothing etc, materials used in buildings such as paint and glass, footwear, tool and tyre marks, flammable substances used to start fires and so on. Sometimes the scientist will visit the scene itself to advise about likely sequence of events, any indicators as to who the perpetrator might be, and to join in the initial search for evidence. Other forensic scientists analyse suspected drugs of abuse, specimens from people thought to have taken them or to have been driving after drinking too much alcohol, or to have been poisoned. Yet others specialise in firearms, explosives, or documents whose authenticity is questioned.
In civil cases forensic scientists may become involved in some of the same sorts of examinations and analyses but directed to resolving disputes as to, for example, the cause of a fire or a road accident for which damages are being claimed.
Forensic scientists can appear for either side - prosecution or defence in criminal matters, and plaintiff or defendant in civil ones. They tend to present their findings and opinions in written form either as formal statements of evidence or reports. Sometimes they are required to attend court to give their evidence in person.
Forensic Medicine and Forensic Dentistry
By analogy, this is the application of medical and dental knowledge to legal problems. Forensic medical examiners, who deal with the living and forensic pathologists, who deal with the dead, are qualified medical practitioners who, having completed their training as doctors, choose to specialise in either field. Forensic odontologists are qualified dentists who have undergone additional training and who provide expert evidence on dentistry.
Scientific Support within the Police Forces
Civilians are now employed by many police forces to provide a variety of technical services. These include photography, the collection and comparison of fingerprints, vehicle examination and the detailed examination of scenes of crime. Scene examiners, often referred to as SOCOs (Scenes of Crime Officers), will normally have some scientific training.
The majority of forensic scientists in the United Kingdom are employed by the Forensic Science Service (in England and Wales), by specific police forces (in Scotland), and by regional government (in Northern Ireland), and by private companies which also specialise in providing primary forensic science services to the police such as Forensic Alliance Limited and the Laboratory of the Government Chemist. Aside from these, there are a number of other organisations which focus on specific areas of forensic science such as fire investigation, questioned documents, and advising the defence.
Training to Become a Forensic Scientist
There are two main elements in the training required to become a general forensic scientist. The first involves academic courses, and the second, on-the-job training usually with one of the main suppliers of primary services to police.
Requirements in respect of academic qualifications depend on the ultimate goal. For instance, to become an assistant forensic scientist or equivalent or a technical specialist, you are likely to need at least four good passes at GCSE including English and either science (Biology/Chemistry) or Maths, and at least one A level in a science subject. To become a case-reporting forensic scientist and/or a forensic science researcher, you will usually require at least a good first degree in Biology, Chemistry or related subject.
The Forensic Science Society is not yet in a position to recommend any specific forensic science undergraduate courses. Rather, it suggests a good degree in a basic science subject followed up by a postgraduate/MSc qualification in forensic science or direct employment.