1. Have a degree in biology, chemistry or a related subject
Some universities offer specialist forensic science degrees, which would be a perfect stepping stone for a job in forensics! Make sure to take a look at the accredited courses listed under the Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences if you haven't yet gained a degree in a relevant subject.
An undergraduate or MSc in science or forensic science is a great start - it is an inevitably competitive industry, so a strong degree and further study will do you wonders when trying to secure employment. It shows initiative, passion and determination, all of which are desirable qualities in a forensic scientist.
Depending on the course you choose, the usual entry requirements are:
- 2/3 A Levels, including biology or chemistry
- GCSEs at grade C/4 and above in your A-Level subjects
- a further 2/3 GCSEs (A*-C or 9-4), including English and Maths
Be sure to check your specific university's course requirements, as they may vary.
2. Build on your desirable skills
It's important to remember that academia isn't everything for a job in forensics - you'll need to be a well-rounded scientist to do your job to the highest quality. Here are some of the candidate qualities that employers look for:
- Confidence in your own judgement: you've got to be certain and sure of your decisions and conclusions.
- Objectivity and sensitivity when dealing with confidential information: you will need to know how to safely handle sensitive information, especially since you will be working around crime scenes and affected families.
- Ability to work under pressure: working behind and within an investigation is an intense role, therefore you must be able to deliver high-quality work regardless of pressure or time constraints.
- Meticulous attention to detail: you will need to consistently think outside the box, and have a scrupulous approach to every task you do.
3. Search for relevant forensic science work experience
This is one of the best ways to impress an employer! If you have work experience in a laboratory or research centre, you will show your potential employer that you have learnt and gained practical skills that you can build on throughout job in forensics.
Due to the nature of forensic science, don't worry if you can't find work experience in a forensic analysis lab or in a crime scene investigation department - any form of laboratory work experience will be beneficial. It is also a great way to get used to the laboratory setting and to establish your own working style as a forensic scientist.
4. Pick your niche, and never stop learning
As a forensic scientist, there are job roles available that appeal to a variety of interests, skills and backgrounds. Make sure you know which niche you prefer - where do your skills and qualities align? Where do you want to make a difference within forensic science? These are the questions to ask yourself, and these will guide you in how to get a job in forensics. Some avenues include:
- Laboratory work - research, analysis and evaluation of data and evidence
- Computer crime - evaluating cases of fraud within technology
- Crime scene investigation - collecting evidence and reviewing scenes
- Crime intelligence analysis - studying criminal data to determine trends and connections between crimes
- Toxicology - the measurement and analysis of potential toxins and medications present within a person's body
- Forensic biology - analysing cellular or tissue samples, as well as physiological fluids