Forensic scientist

Science, mathematics and statistics

Career outlook for forensic scientist

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

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


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


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.


You may have to travel to crime scenes.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Resilience
  • Cooperating
  • Verbal communication
  • Written communication
  • Observation
  • Researching
  • Attention to detail
  • Taking initiative
  • Time management
  • Understanding

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Getting in

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


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