Forensic scientist

Career outlook for

Figures and forecasts for roles at the same level, which require similar skills and qualifications.

Average UK salary

Currently employed in Scotland

Jobs forecast

This information is supplied by LMI For All, where data is currently available for Scotland.

What's it like?

You would help to solve crimes by finding evidence that links a suspect to a crime scene.

You’d obtain and analyse evidence from a variety of sources - including blood and other body fluids, hairs, textile fibres, glass fragments and tyre marks - using forensic techniques and scientific principles.

You might go to crime scenes, which may be unpleasant, and methodically examine them to collect potential evidence. It’s very important to objectively analyse all the traces of physical evidence and prepare them for use in court cases.

Depending on your specialism, you could:

  • Identify blood groups and do DNA profiling
  • Analyse fluid and tissue samples for traces of drugs and poisons
  • Identify, compare and match various materials
  • Examine splash patterns and the distribution of particles
  • Analyse handwriting, signatures, ink and paper
  • Provide expert advice on explosives, firearms and ballistics
  • Recovering data from computers, mobile phones and other electronic equipment
  • Attending crime scenes, such as a murder or fire
  • Giving impartial scientific evidence in court

You’d also do research and develop new technologies for forensic analysis. You might supervise assistant forensic scientists in the laboratory.

It's a high-pressure job with urgent deadlines and the requirement to justify your findings.

Working conditions

Hours

You would usually work 37 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Some employers operate a shift or on-call system for dealing with high priority work. Flexible or part-time hours may also be available

Environment

You would be based mainly in a laboratory, however you may also visit crime scenes, which could be unpleasant and challenging. You would wear special clothing to prevent contamination and protect you from hazardous substances.

Travel

You may have to travel to crime scenes.

UK employment status

Full-time

Part-time

Self employed

Here are some of the skills that people in this job would be most likely to have:

  • Communicating with people
  • Working as part of a team
  • Communicating ideas through writing
  • Working on your own
  • Accuracy
  • Being logical
  • Time management
  • Paying attention to detail

Build your skills

Your skills can help you choose the career that’s right for you. You can build your skills through work, study or activities you do in your spare time.

To understand more, have a look at what are my skills?

Keep track of your skills in your account and find the jobs, opportunities and courses that suit you.

Click here to view / add your skills

Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you’ll need.

Qualifications

You would need an honours degree (SCQF level 9/10) in a subject such as forensic science, biology or chemistry although it will depend on what area of forensics you'd like to specialise in.

This is a small profession and entry is very competitive so many people have postgraduate qualifications such as a Master of Science (MSc) (SCQF level 11) in a relevant subject. 

Most undergraduate courses ask for at least four Highers at B or above (SCQF level 6); some universities may require AABB (first sitting) for entry.

The University of Dundee offers a BSc Life Sciences course with only requires two Highers at B including biology or chemistry and one other subject; this course has been developed for those with high academic potential who experienced disadvantage.

Useful subjects

  • Science subjects (required by most courses)
  • Maths
  • English
  • Technologies
  • Social studies
  • ICT
  • Psychology