You may be familiar with forensic scientists thanks to television shows such as CSI and Burn Notice. The forensic experts on these shows investigate the crime scene to find evidence that will lead to the prosecution of the naughty crim. In reality, the job of forensic scientists isn’t too far off from their television portrayals.
Basically, the forensic scientists use whizz bang science to aid the law. They look for and provide evidence that will be used in the court of law. This, of course, entails an intricate examination of the scene of the crime, dissecting every possible angle to get a link to the criminal.
Although connected to the law, the nature of their work is very technical and extremely scientific. Forensic scientists use concepts from academic fields such as biology, chemistry, pharmaceuticals, and even engineering and mathematics.
The TV forensic experts usually work on bodies; in reality, forensic scientists work on anything and everything that is related to a crime.
Salary & benefits
An assistant scientist can earn an annual salary of no less than £14,000 but no more than £20,000.
However, as you gain experience and credentials (and once you get promoted to a forensic scientist), you can earn as much as £30,000 a year.
Senior positions entail a salary of more than £50,000 a year.
Since you will be involved in investigating crime scenes and working for the court of law, you may need to work beyond the normal working hours.
Your work, however, will be based mostly in laboratories and in crime scenes (which, of course, differ from case to case).
The work can be grueling, frustrating and, at least for new hires, emotional and disconcerting.
This job is extremely technical. Employers look for applicants with a background in applied and natural sciences, mathematics, engineering, medical science, and even environmental and agricultural science. A degree in forensic chemistry is not a definite requirement, but it will give you a definite edge.
Postgraduate units, although not required, are in reality preferred. Remember that the job will depend on technical knowledge and how it is applied to a practical setting. Your academic credentials represent what you know and how you might be able to perform the job. If you want to focus on this field, consider getting a doctorate in forensic science.
As for the soft skills, you need to show your persistence, your inquisitiveness, and your problem solving abilities. You need to be analytical and keen on the smallest details. The job of the forensic scientist can be grueling, so you should show that you can handle painstaking professional responsibilities.
Training & progression
The majority of potential employers provide training after the applicant is employed. These training courses usually focus on lab skills and techniques, although there is also emphasis on the court-related functions of the forensic scientists.
Those who take on more senior roles are usually required to take project management training courses.
Promotions largely depend on experience and technical credentials.In both promotion and employment, mobility may be an issue, since the areas of employment in this field depend on the existence of laboratories in an area.