Data & network

Forensic scientist

Forensic scientists prepare traces of physical evidence for use in courts of law.

Annual Salary

£20,000 to £45,000

Average UK salary in 2018 was £29,588 (source Office for Statistics)

Working hours

37 to 40

3%
Future employment

There will be 3% more Forensic scientist jobs in 2023.
In your local area

What's it all about?

In this role you could be:

  • blood grouping and DNA profiling
  • analysing fluid and tissue samples for traces of drugs and poisons
  • examining splash patterns and the distribution of particles
  • analysing handwriting, signatures, ink and paper
  • providing expert advice on explosives, firearms and ballistics
  • researching and developing new technologies
  • recovering data from computers, mobile phones and other electronic equipment
  • attending crime scenes, like a murder or fire
  • giving impartial, scientific evidence in court

You could work on the streets, in a laboratory or in a court.

Your working environment may be outdoors in all weathers and emotionally demanding.

You may need to wear protective clothing.

University

You can do a degree or postgraduate qualification in:

  • forensic science
  • a related subject like chemistry, biological science, physics or medical sciences

It may help to choose a university qualification accredited by The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences.

You'll usually need:

  • at least 2 or 3 A levels, including chemistry
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study

Apprenticeship

You may be able to start by doing a laboratory scientist higher or degree apprenticeship.

It will help if you do your aprenticeship with a company that provides forensic science services, or with a police force that has its own in-house lab facilities.

You'll usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent qualifications, for a higher or a degree apprenticeship

Further Information

If you want to specialise in recovering data from computers and mobile phones, you'll need relevant experience and qualifications. Useful subjects include computing, electrical engineering, electronics or physics.

You can find out more on careers in forensics from The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences.

£20,000 to £45,000

Starter salary: £20,000

Experienced salary: £25,000 to £35,000

These figures are a guide.

37 to 40

You’ll usually work 37 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Your employer may use a shift or on-call system for dealing with high priority work. 

You’ll be based mainly in a laboratory, but may also visit crime scenes, which could be distressing



You’ll wear special clothing to prevent contamination and protect you from hazardous substances.

With experience, you could move into management and direct other forensics staff as a forensics manager or casework examiner. 

You could also work as a reporting scientist, acting as an expert witness in court.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • the ability to think clearly using logic and reasoning
  • knowledge of public safety and security
  • excellent written communication skills
  • the ability to work on your own
  • legal knowledge including court procedures and government regulations
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

You'll need to:

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