9 October 2023

Science Careers: Work as a Forensic Scientist

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Thanks to the explosion in popularity of big-budget TV thrillers like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, whenever the words ‘forensic scientist’ are uttered they tend to bring certain images to mind…

Police tape and people in white boiler suits poring over a crime scene with a fine-tooth comb.

And with a forensic science internship or placement on your CV, you too could embark on this thrilling career.

Where can I get work experience in forensics?

While it’s difficult to find industrial placements, internships and insights in this field, due to the sensitive nature of the work and the impact it can have on legal cases, it’s possible to find other relevant work experience schemes.

If you are considering a career in forensic science, getting some professional work experience while you’re an undergraduate will drastically improve your chances of securing a graduate role.

So let’s take a look at your options…

Forensic science internships

Forensic science internships are one to four months long and offer the chance to get a taster of what it’s like to work in a particular industry.

Unlike placement years, which are integrated into your degree, internships are extracurricular and usually take place in the summer holidays.

Doing a forensic science internship will give you plenty of insight into the following:

  • Company culture, values and vision
  • Operating high-tech software and equipment
  • Working for a small, medium-size or large organisation
  • Collaborating across different teams

Forensic science placements

One of the best ways to boost your employability is to do a forensic science placement.

Placement years are structured programs that take place between your second and final year at university. They give you the opportunity to work full-time for an employer and gain industry-level experience in your chosen sector.

While a placement is typically optional, completing one successfully can seriously improve your employment prospects and fast-track you onto your dream career early on in life.

How much do forensic scientists make?

The salary of a forensic scientist will vary from company to company, but is ultimately defined by experience. The more experience you have, the more you will be paid.

The National Careers Service offers a guide on how much a forensic scientist can expect to earn at different stages of their career…

  • STARTER: £18,000 a year
  • EXPERIENCED: £25,000 – £35,000 a year
  • HIGHLY EXPERIENCED: £45,000 or more a year

Feeling pumped about a career in forensics and keen to make the big bucks? Have a look at the list below to discover the FIVE top paying jobs in forensic science.

  1. Forensic medical examiner
  2. Forensic engineer
  3. Forensic accountant
  4. Crime scene investigator
  5. Crime laboratory analyst

Which branch of forensics are you interested in?

Careers in Forensic Science

To succeed in this industry, you need to have a scientific background, (surprise), but alongside this you need to be multi-skilled, with natural observational and analytical talents, possess patience and the confidence to present and support your findings.

It’s safe to say this isn’t a career that will suit everybody. However, if you have these skills and are naturally inquisitive (think modern day Sherlock Holmes in a chemical suit) and want to play a crucial role behind the scenes in the legal process, this is a role that’s likely to appeal to you.

Forensic scientists come in all shapes and sizes, including…

DIGITAL FORENSICS: Involves the investigation (and often recovery of) evidence found in digital devices – mostly in cases to computer crime.

FORENSIC ANTHROPOLOGY:  The examination of human remains to help explain how somebody died or to solve a crime.

FORENSIC ARCHEOLOGY:  The study and examination of historic objects or human remains.

FORENSIC BOTANY:   The application of plant sciences in criminal investigations, normally to help connect a victim to a suspect or crime scene.

FORENSIC ENGINEERING:  Concerned with explaining the reasons why particular products or systems fail, in cases of personal injury or damage to property.

FORENSIC LINGUISTICS:  There are three main applications – the provision of linguistic evidence; understanding use of language in judicial processes; understanding language of the written law.

FORENSIC PATHOLOGY:   A field of pathology focused on ascertaining cause of death.

FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY:   The intersection between psychology and the judicial system – understanding the psychology behind criminal behaviour. 

FORENSIC TOXICOLOGY:  A forensic toxicologist performs tests on the tissue samples or bodily fluids to try and detect particular substances.

A day job like no other

Forensic investigators play a crucial role in the modern legal process. It is their mission to claw together all the evidence from a crime scene and present the facts impartially to the police or legal professionals like solicitors or barristers.

Part of this process could involve identifying and analysing material like blood, hair, fingerprints and clothing fibres and figuring out who they belong to.

The work carried out by forensic experts could therefore be critical to whether a suspect is locked behind bars or allowed to walk free.

Crime scene investigation

Best Student Employers in Science

Each year, we release the Best Student Employers, which is based on thousands of student-written reviews that are submitted to RateMyPlacement.co.uk.

Reckon you’d look good in one of those long white coats? Have a look at the list below to find out which employers have ranked the highest for science-related careers.

Across all of the Best Student Employers on RateMyPlacement.co.uk, 46% of their placement students and interns were offered graduate jobs. It’s so important – now more than ever – to get work experience before you graduate.

Want to know what kind of work experience is out there? Look no further than our Guide to Science Internships!