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Guide to Studying Forensic Science
What is Forensic Science?
- Ever since CSI: Crime Scene Investigation first hit our screens in the year 2000, Forensic Science has become more and more popular among prospective students looking to become the next Gil Grissom or Horatio Caine. But it's not all dramatic cliff-hangers and labs so high-tech that they make a branch of Dixons look like a scene from a period drama.
- Over the course of a Forensic Science degree you'll study a wide range of aspects of the discipline – wide being the operative word, as Forensic Science can involve the examination of dozens of different types of evidence. Whether its physical evidence, as in forensic chemistry, numerical evidence, as in forensic accounting, audible evidence, as in forensic linguistics, Forensic Science encapsulates a huge number of subdisciplines.
- Despite this variation, one thing remains constant across all Forensic Science: the application of science to law, carried out through the collection, preservation and analysis of evidence.
Specific or general skills developed
- A Forensic Science degree will teach you a series of skills specific to the subject, such as how to collect a number of different types of evidence and how to then preserve and analyse them.
- Given the subject's focus on the law, you are also likely to gain experience in giving evidence in court. While this skill isn't something that you'd hope to use in your personal life, it could prove very useful if you choose to pursue an alternative career in law enforcement.
- Forensic Science students also spend a great deal of time in the lab, so if you decide that you enjoy the science aspect more than the forensic side, you'll still have a wealth of hands-on experience under your belt to help you along your new path of choice.
Why study Forensic Science?
- While a degree (and, for that matter, a career) in Forensic Science may not be quite as exciting and glamorous as television makes it out to be, there is still something undeniably intriguing about searching for the evidence that could help solve a criminal case.
- Many universities have dedicated facilities containing mock crime scenes. Some of these will also extend to entire houses that have been set up to resemble a real-life scenario that a forensic scientist could encounter
- Some Forensic Science degrees will also present you with the opportunity to take part in a work placement. While a mock crime scene is an impressive substitute, nothing can quite compare to the real thing, and placements are an excellent opportunity to apply your education in a practical capacity.
What degree can I get?
- Forensic Science can be taken as either a single or joint honours degree.
- Single honours Forensic Science will tend to be a BSc, whereas the degree type awarded on a combined honours course will vary depending on the university subject taken in conjunction with Forensic Science. A degree in Archaeology with Forensic Science, for example, will award a BA, whereas Forensic Science and Applied Biology would earn you a BSc.
What qualifications do I need?
- Even if most Forensic Science degrees you've seen tend to have similar entry requirements, you should always make sure to check the specific criteria for any course that interests you.
- Generally speaking, applicants to Forensic Science degrees will need to have studied Biology or Chemistry at A level/Higher.
- Many universities will make points-based offers, so make sure you understand how to calculate your predicted total and what this translates to in the new UCAS points system.
Use the CUG Course Chooser to search through Forensic Science courses.
What are the postgraduate opportunities?
- As is usually the case with postgraduate degrees, those who study Forensic Science beyond undergraduate level will be able to focus on a more specific area of the subject. A quick look at postgraduate Forensic Science courses in the UK suggests a number of possible specialities, including Cybercrime, Forensic Genetics and Forensic Mental Health.
Graduate job prospects
*Professional employment refers to a job or occupation which normally requires a degree.
**Non-professional employment refers to a job or occupation which doesn't normally require a degree.
What are the job opportunities?
Aside from the obvious career path of becoming a forensic scientist, the scientific and law oriented nature of a Forensic Science degree means that graduates of the subjects can enter a number of different careers upon leaving university. Examples of these include:
- Medical sales
- The police force
- Biological testing