Forensic science

Whether you’re more Bones or CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, forensic scientists collect, analyse, and prepare the evidence that can solve a crime.

If you study forensic science, you’ll be taught biosciences and criminal psychology in specially-made crime scenes, and learn about the latest technologies for things like DNA, fire, and explosives analysis. You’ll also learn about how to prepare evidence for court.

You could end up working in a medical school or research department, public health lab or a company that deals in a specific area of forensic science, like fire investigation. You can work your way up to chartered status as a forensic practitioner, specialising in one area of forensics, and/or being employed as an expert witness. You could also progress to being a casework examiner, supervising others and conducting research and articles.

It’s a competitive but potentially rewarding career. You’ll also need some resilience when dealing with potentially bloody or gruesome crime scenes.

The impact you could make
  • Get under the skin of a notorious criminal to understand the psychology behind their behaviour, and better analyse the evidence that will convict them.
  • Give evidence in court that will bring about justice for the victims of a crime.
  • Use your degree to become a crime scene investigator or a detective.
What you could study
  • Organic and inorganic chemistry
  • Physical chemistry
  • Practical chemistry
  • Molecular and forensic genetics
  • Essential skills in forensic science
  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • Psychology and criminal behaviour
  • Forensic biology
  • Fire analysis
  • Interpretation and presentation of forensic evidence

Study options

Options to study in this field include:

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Example module
"Crime Scene Investigation and specifically blood spatter analysis/blood pattern analysis."
Second year forensic science student, University of Lincoln
Example assignment
"Determining the weapon in a ballistics shooting scenario and making a court document for it."
Second year forensic science student, University of Kent

Subjects it's useful to have studied first

Some forensic science courses or apprenticeships will have requirements for previous qualifications in certain subjects. Entry requirements vary, so always check with the provider.
Hard skills you'll develop
  • Scientific techniques
  • Laboratory work
  • Crime scene investigation
  • Collection, examination, and interpretation of evidence
Soft skills you'll develop
  • Project and time management
  • Analytical thinking
  • Presentation
  • IT skills
  • Data management

Careers: Where it can take you

Find out more about your career prospects from studying forensic science. The following information is based on a typical biological scientist role.
Available jobs
44,821 vacancies in the past year
6.72% growth over next eight years
Average salary
Up to £55,954

Career options

Forensic science

Forensic scientist

Crime scene investigator 

Laboratory work

What is a… ballistics expert?

You may or may not have heard of a ballistics expert, but they undergo specific training to learn how to examine and analyse evidence from firearms and other ammunition that can be used in criminal investigations. As a ballistics expert you’ll look at bullet holes, shell casings, and firearms residue, as well as analysing things like how a shot was fired and from what direction. You’ll collect, analyse, and prepare your data for use in court, likely working alongside other experts and investigators from the police and other agencies. 

Getting in: Entry requirements

Find out more about what you'll need to study forensic science at university or as an apprenticeship.

Average requirements for undergraduate degrees

Entry requirements differ between university and course, but this should give you a guide to what is usually expected from forensic science applicants.

A levels
Scottish Highers
Other Level 3/6 qualifications (e.g. Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma) may be accepted as an alternative

Considering an apprenticeship?

Applying for an apprenticeship is just like applying for a normal job. Here’s what you need to know:
  1. Deadline

    Apprenticeships don't follow the same deadlines as applying to uni, the deadline is down to the employer.
  2. Where to apply

    You apply directly through the employer.
  3. No limits

    You're not restricted to one apprenticeship application; you can do as many as you like.
  4. Apply to university and apprenticeships

    There's nothing stopping you applying to university through UCAS, while also applying for apprenticeship vacancies.

Let's talk about... science apprenticeships (Sponsored by Manchester Metropolitan University)

Explore further

Go deeper into topics around forensic science with the following:
  1. Medicine, Science, and the Law

    Use this official journal for the British Academy of Forensic Sciences (BAFS) to learn about research and forensic practice and understand current issues in the field of forensic science.
  2. Forensic Files

    Listen to this podcast, which looks into infamous deaths and legal cases, examining the role of forensic detention in solving crimes. 
  3. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation

    For a fun, dramatised version of what it ‘might’ be like to be a crime scene investigator, there are 15 series of this television programme to choose from.
  4. Crime Scene Investigator live experience

    For a taste of what it ‘could’ be like to solve a crime scene mystery, take a look at this interactive game.

Application advice

Whether it's personal statement tips or what to write in a cover letter for an apprenticeship application, our advice will help you get ahead in your forensic science journey.
Skills, experiences, and interests to mention
  • It’s hard to get work experience inside a forensic science lab, but where else have you had experience, and what did you learn? Have you been in a hospital or science lab? When have you conducted experiments of your own, or learned somewhere how to analyse and evaluate results?
  • Show you understand the industry by referencing resources you’ve looked at or read, and what you’ve gleaned from them. Where do you see yourself ending up, and what attributes do you have that would lend themselves to a role like that?
  • What hobbies do you have that might illustrate your patience and ability to concentrate? Maybe a craft like knitting or crochet, model-building, or something else with fine motor skills and attention to detail?
  • How can you demonstrate you work well as a team, and individually? Think about work situations you’ve been in, sports you play, or projects you’ve done at school.

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