Guide to studying Forensic Science
Forensic Science is an exciting area of study ‒ there's something undeniably intriguing about searching for the evidence that could solve a criminal case.
- What do graduates do and earn?
- How will you be assessed?
Forensic Science is the application of science to law, carried out through the collection, preservation and analysis of evidence.
The subject area covers a large number of sub-disciplines such as forensic chemistry, forensic accounting and forensic linguistics. There's a lot of variation in course content, as it involves examining many different types of evidence such as physical evidence, numerical evidence and audible evidence.
A Forensic Science degree could lead to an exciting career where no two days are the same. You'll be able to use your problem-solving skills to uncover secrets and help people through the results.
Courses include a lot of practical content where you can apply your learning to life-like settings. Many universities have dedicated facilities containing mock crime scenes that resemble scenarios a forensic scientist could encounter.
Some Forensic Science degrees also present you with the opportunity to take part in a work placement. This is an excellent opportunity to apply your education in a practical capacity.
A Forensic Science degree teaches you a series of skills specific to the subject, such as how to collect a number of different types of evidence and how to preserve and analyse them.
Given the subject's focus on the law, you're also likely to gain experience in giving evidence in court. This 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 you enjoy the science aspect more than the forensic side, you'll still have lots of hands-on experience that will help you along your new path of choice.
Aside from the obvious career path of becoming a forensic scientist, the scientific and law-oriented nature of the degree means graduates can enter a number of different careers upon leaving university.
Examples of these include in research, medical sales, the police force, biological testing and teaching.
In the infographic below, the first table shows what graduates of Forensic Science have gone on to do in the months after their graduation.
The second table shows the average salaries of undergraduate Forensic Science students entering employment. The three skill levels – high, medium and low – reflect the UK's Standard Occupational Classification's major groups 1–3, 4–6 and 7–9 respectively.
Source: HESA Graduate Outcomes Survey 2017/18
Generally speaking, applicants to Forensic Science courses will need to have studied Biology and/or Chemistry at A Level (or equivalent).
Always check the specific criteria for any course that interests you. Grades and other requirements vary from institution to institution.
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- Choosing A Levels
Forensic Science can be taken as either a single or joint honours degree. Single honours will tend to be a BSc, whereas the degree type awarded on a combined honours course will vary depending on the 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.
You'll be assessed in a variety of different ways, including practical and written exams, coursework, presentations, incident analyses and expert witness testimonies.
If you wish to study Forensic Science beyond undergraduate level you'll be able to focus on a more specific area of the subject. Possible specialities include cybercrime, forensic genetics and forensic mental health.