3 Basic Steps to Start Your Career in Forensic Science

Are you absolutely captivated by true crime documentaries (e.g. Making a Murder or The Keepers) on Netflix? Do you don your detective cap and take out your notebook when you start watching Forensic Files on TV? Have a massive poster of Benedict Cumberbatch in his Sherlock garb on your wall? That last one may just be us… but if this truly sounds like you, then you’ve absolutely come to the right place.

Whether you’re about to graduate from your forensic science class in high school, an elite MSc programme in anything from nursing to forensic archaeology, or you’re in law enforcement and are considering a career change, here are three steps to beginning your future career in forensic science.

1. Narrow down your options.

Most people are aware that forensic science is an umbrella term — it encompasses a large number of disciplines and careers. As someone who works in “forensics”, you could be working in anything from a mortuary to out in the field. The first way to kickstart your career is to narrow down your interests and figure out precisely what it is that drew you into the study of forensic science in the first place. Our advice: be absolutely honest with yourself! If you were attracted to some of the more grisly aspects of homicides, then perhaps you’d be well-suited to a profession that isn’t for the squeamish: forensic pathology. Were you captivated by a documentary that examined the science behind DNA analysis/serology? Then maybe you’d be suited to work in a crime lab.

Here are some questions to help kickstart your soul-searching:

  • What were the parts of my high school, MSc or further education that I truly enjoyed?
  • When I watch a crime documentary or a true crime show, what aspect of the process am I drawn to?
  • What process, methodology or technique am I truly fascinated by?
  • Can I see myself working in a mortuary, in the field or in a crime lab?

2. How committed are you to further study?

Once you’ve determined what area fascinates you the most, it’s time to determine how much you’re willing to spend studying — some career paths are more intense in this regard than others. Remember, you might be able to choose a career that it is a little challenging and lengthy on the training/education side, but still provides the exposure you need to the subject you love.

One good example is becoming a forensic pathologist. In order to become a pathologist, you’ll need to attend medical school and then complete a further training programme in pathology. Needless to say, this career path will require a lot of time and financial commitment over a substantial number of years. However, becoming a pathologist’s assistant/mortuary technician involves the completion of a certificate course and then a diploma — and might be a good way to break into the field.

3. Enlist some backup.

Nobody knows a particular field better than the people who work in it. Once you absolutely know where you’re headed, it’s important to find a guide or mentor who can help you work out your way! Here are the sub-steps in this category that we’d recommend:

  1. Start the search. Use Google or another search engine to research people who have careers similar to the one you want to pursue.
  2. Create a spreadsheet with their names. Capture their research interests or area of study, and make sure to note their email address.
  3. Collate. Once you’re finished listing about 20-30 people, rank them by how interesting their area of study appears to you.
  4. Select the top five. Write a list of a few questions, including whether they’d be open to shadowing or providing work experience.

And there you have it: three very basic steps that you’ll need to pursue a career in forensic science. We’ll be writing a ton more about this subject in coming days — including ways to kickstart your career — so make sure to stay tuned!

We’d love to hear from you. Did we miss a step? Is there something you’d like to add? Please leave your comments below. We’d love to hear from you.

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