Skip to content
Main Menu
Our programmes
Browse by Category
Our programmes
View all programmes
Our programmes
Medicine & psychology
Our programmes
Engineering & architecture
Our programmes
Business & finance
Our programmes
Law & politics
Our programmes
Culture & media
Our programmes
Our programmes
Browse by Ages
Our programmes
Ages 12-14
Our programmes
Ages 15-18
Who we are

We are now almost fully booked for Summer 2024 and expect to close registration in the next few days.

We are now almost fully booked for Summer 2024 and expect to close registration in the next few days.

A forensic scientist in blue gloves holding a test tube and swab and a

28 February 2024

How to Become a Forensic Scientist: The Ultimate Guide



Are you an aspiring forensic scientist wondering how you can start preparing for your future career?

This comprehensive guide on becoming a forensic scientist will tell you all you need to know about entering the field. We’ll cover what qualifications you’ll need, how to get work experience, the key skills required and what you can be doing now to give yourself the best chance of success. 

Read on to find out more, and see how InvestIN can help students gain the ultimate work experience in forensic science.

How to become a forensic scientist

There are three paths you can take to become a forensic scientist:

  1. Through a university course
  2. Through an apprenticeship
  3. By applying directly

Let's look at each of these in more detail below:


Students looking to get into forensics through university should complete a degree or postgraduate qualification in:

  • Forensic science
  • A related subject, such as chemistry, biological science, physics or medical sciences

Forensics is a competitive field, so be sure to look for degrees accredited by The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences

You can learn more about choosing a university in our helpful guide.

Entry requirements

To study forensic science, or a related degree, you'll likely need two or three A levels, or equivalent, including chemistry. To get onto a forensics postgraduate course, you'll need an undergraduate degree in a relevant subject.

If you’re looking for some guidance, read our article on what A levels to choose.


Apprenticeships offer another route into forensics: research scientist degree apprenticeships and laboratory scientist degree apprenticeships are two notable examples. 

It's ideal if you can complete your apprenticeship with a company that provides forensic science services. You can also look into police forces that have their own in-house lab facilities.

Entry requirements

To get onto a higher or degree forensic science related apprenticeship, you'll likely need four or five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent.

Applying directly

If you have lab experience and science qualifications, particularly chemistry qualifications, then you can apply directly to forensic services providers.

Advice for prospective forensic scientists

Consider what area of forensics you'd like to specialise in. For instance, if you're interested in recovering data in computers and phones, you'll need to gain relevant experience and qualifications. Subjects like computing, electrical engineering, electronics and physics will all support you in this field.

The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences provides professional development and advice for members, so be sure to join and make the most of the information available.

Work experience

Jobs in forensic science laboratories will likely require some work experience or laboratory work, although they don't tend to offer work experience opportunities themselves. However, there are plenty of related areas you can look to. These include:

  • Hospitals
  • Research centres
  • Biological research and development
  • Internships
  • Summer schools

There's a lot of competition for jobs in the field, so it's important you look for opportunities before applying. It's worth looking out for short-term contracts and agency work, as these may lead to full-time roles further down the line. You could also get in touch with related employers to ask about shadowing opportunities.

We offer the ultimate work experience in forensics for students looking to build a career in the field. Find out more today, or contact us if you have any questions.

What are some common employers?

Common employers for forensic roles include:

  • Commercial companies that provide services to the police and other agencies
  • Forensic science units within police forces
  • Government departments, like the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and the Centre For Applied Science and Technology (CAST)
  • Forensic Science Northern Ireland (FSNI), an agency within the Department of Justice
  • Medical schools
  • University research departments
  • Public health laboratories
  • Companies dealing in specialist areas like fire investigation

Be sure to check the websites of all the employers listed above, in addition to industry publications. If you're planning on becoming a forensic scientist through a university degree, your institution may have direct links to some employers, so make it a priority to check for contacts.

Professional development

Each employer will offer different training, while the specialty you choose will also determine how your development looks. However, your learning will likely be a combination of short courses and practical case work wherever you are. You'll cover things like lab skills and proficiency tests, blood pattern analysis, statement writing and more. You may also receive more general training in presentation skills, project management, health and safety and more.

There are regular updates and discoveries in the field, so it's important you keep up to date with the latest news and developments. Attending events, lectures, workshops and more will be helpful, while regular reading of industry publications will help you keep your finger on the pulse.

If you're interested in a particular specialty, you can choose to study things like archaeology and anthropology, so consider what you're interested in.

As you develop, you can progress through the levels of membership the CSFS offers. These include associate, member and fellow, with each requiring its own level of experience and expertise. You can apply for chartered status as a forensic practitioner (ChFP) once you have at least five years of experience. Achieving this is a measure of your expertise in your chosen area, and demonstrates that you have the competencies of an expert/professional witness.

What skills are required for forensic science?

Key skills and knowledge for careers in forensics include:

  • Attention to detail
  • Patience and the ability to work under pressure
  • An acceptance of criticism and desire to improve
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving skills
  • Knowledge of public safety and security
  • Strong communication skills, both written and verbal
  • The ability and motivation to work on your own
  • The ability to work in multidisciplinary teams
  • The professionalism and sensitivity to work with confidential information
  • Legal knowledge related to the field, such as court procedures and government regulations
  • Strong computer skills

Have a think about how you can start developing these skills now. InvestIN’s Young Forensic Science Summer Experience is a great way to build key professional skills and knowledge.

For more general employability skills, view our guide.

What do jobs in forensics involve?

Typical daily tasks in forensics include:

  • Blood grouping and DNA profiling
  • Analysing fluid and tissue samples for traces of drugs and poisons
  • Attending crime scenes
  • Providing scientific evidence in court
  • Recovering data from electronic equipment
  • Analysing things like handwriting, signatures and ink
  • Examining splash patterns and particle distribution
  • Providing expert advice related to your specialty
  • Coordinating with outside agencies, such as the police
  • Sorting through evidence, often in miniscule quantities
  • Recording findings and collecting evidence from scenes
  • Analysing and interpreting data 
  • Presenting findings to various teams
  • Researching and developing new forensic techniques

Where do forensic scientists work?

Your working environment will vary between laboratories, courtrooms, sites, crime scenes, and more. Some environments will be emotionally demanding, and you may be required to wear protective clothing.

What career progression opportunities are there?

There are a variety of roles you can progress to in forensics, including:

  • Managing other forensics staff
  • Examining casework
  • Reporting scientist or expert witness

Career prospects in forensics are good, and promotions are based on experience, responsibility and appraisal reports. 

To become a reporting officer, you'll likely need between two and five years' experience after entry. This role involves taking on your own cases, dealing directly with the police and collecting evidence in a statement. Reporting officers may also act as an expert witness.

Beyond this, casework examiners coordinate work in a particular area of expertise. The role also involves supervising others, visiting crime scenes, carrying out research and potentially publishing articles.

More managerial and research based roles are also available.

Get ahead with InvestIN

We offer students a unique opportunity to experience their dream career before they've even left school, giving them invaluable insights and contacts to help them succeed. All our programmes are designed to help students get a head start, helping them learn and grown in confidence in their chosen field. Our forensic programme is just one of several unique experiences on offer. You may also be interested in:

Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions.


What is a forensic scientist?

Forensic science involves the use of science in courts of law. Forensic scientists use their knowledge to support the prosecution or defence in criminal and civil investigations. They primarily search for and examine contact trace material associated with crimes, such as:

  • Blood
  • Hairs
  • Fibres from clothing
  • Drugs
  • Paint and glass fragments
  • Flammable substances used to start fires
  • Tyre marks

Forensic scientists' findings are generally presented in formal statements or reports used in court. However, some cases require a forensic scientist to attend court in person to provide evidence as an expert witness.

How much do forensic scientists earn?

According to the National Careers government website, forensic scientists earn between £18,000 and £45,000 per year, with salaries rising with experience.

How long does it take to become a forensic scientist?

A degree in forensic science or a related field will take at least three years to complete, while degree apprenticeships can take between three and six years to finish. Unless you already have lab experience relevant qualifications, the minimum amount of time it'll take to become a forensic scientist is three years.

What qualifications do you need to be a forensic scientist?

To get into forensic science via university, you'll need a degree in forensic science or a related subject. Entry requirements for these degrees vary between institutions, but generally you'll need two or three A levels, or equivalent, including chemistry. 

To get into forensic science via an apprenticeship, you'll need to complete a relevant course, like a research scientist degree apprenticeship or a laboratory scientist degree. Entry requirements for these higher or degree level apprenticeship tend to be four or five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent.

Is forensic science hard to study?

Studying forensic science can be challenging, as it requires a lot of skills, such as strong problem-solving and scientific knowledge. However, it's a captivating subject to learn, and opens up exciting and meaningful career opportunities.

Read our guide on motivating yourself to study.

What are the different types of forensic science?

Types of forensic science include:

  • Forensic engineering
  • Forensic toxicology
  • Forensic pathology
  • Forensic anthropology
  • Forensic odontology
  • Digital forensics
  • Forensic entomology
  • Forensic DNA analysis
  • Forensic geology
  • Forensic arts


Accredited Course Search, The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences

Forensic Scientist Job Profile, National Careers



Related Articles