7 Best Forensic Science Degree-Level Programmes You Should Consider

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What’s an aspiring forensic scientist to do?

The upswing in the popularity of shows like CSI, NCIS and our personal favourite, Dexter, has helped forensic science programmes make increasingly frequent appearances in University course prospectuses — but which programmes, if any, will provide you with the firm foundation in forensics to establish a career?

We’ve spoken to professionals working within the criminal justice system to get knowledge from the front-line; and we’ve answered some of the most pressing questions we know you’ll have in selecting your future course.

 

It’s not in the dictionary: defining your career goals.

Let’s start — somewhat confusingly –  at the end: unless you’re set on developing groundbreaking new techniques as a forensic science researcher (with some coffee breaks in the laboratory office thrown in for good measure), you should have a well-defined career goal in mind.

Dreaming about being in the lab, comparing footwear marks, fingerprints, and quantities of drugs against criminal databases? If so, research a career as a Forensic Submissions Officer. Have an urge to be crossing the police tape, venturing into the crime scene, taking swabs and photographing nasties? Then you’re probably a Scenes of Crime Officer (SoCO) in the making.

Making the decision early will help you narrow down what options you want to focus on.

 

Spoiled for choice, but not for jobs.

An insider tip? Specialise early. In the somewhat-dismal era of austerity we now live in, forensic roles are being trimmed to keep officer numbers high. Specialists in areas like DNA analysis are certainly considered a cut above the rest when applying for jobs.

 

The best degree-level programmes.

What follows is our comprehensive list of competitive degree-level programmes to consider.

 

1. Chemistry Degree (BSc).


Yes, chemistry is hard. It’s been said that it’s applied maths, or physics without the fun. Either way, it’s hard-earned, it’s elite, and because of that: it’s going to put you ahead. You’ll also learn how to be methodical (invaluable) and how to properly package things (a little joke — but also essential, and potentially lifesaving).

 

2. Biology Degree (BSc).


As above, biology is difficult, and certainly involves chemistry (there’s no escaping it, apparently). Still, with a degree like biology, you’re going to understand the chemical world as it applies to organic material and — trust us, it’ll prove essential in your future career.

 

3. Law or Criminology With Law (and supplementary forensic science modules).


A law degree not only looks good on paper, but will give you an unparalleled foundation in the legal system you need to talk the talk. We recommend that anyone looking to get into forensics professionally take a basic foundation in criminal law at the very least.

It’ll assist you in putting the legal system in context: giving perspective to the courtroom as the holy grail of forensics. You’ll also learn invaluable lessons in exhibits, cross examination, and the system of precedent which assists judges in applying UK law. Think about doing bonus forensic modules here as you’ll need to show a foundation in forensics when applying for jobs.

 

4. Forensic Science.


Somewhat strangely, it’s at number 4 on our list. Why? As an article in The Guardian is quick to point out, a 2005 a select committee report found “extensive evidence that a large proportion of forensic science courses on offer provide poor preparation for a career in forensic science.”

We suspect this is because a large amount of universities offering such courses have only limited experience in applied forensics. The message here is fully research the course and the tutors (be sure of their forensic background, and ask all relevant questions before applying).

 

5. Digital Forensics (or forensic computer science).


Blood, bodily fluids and gore isn’t your thing (we can’t image why)? You ought to consider a career in digital forensics. This industry is booming: with the proliferation of mobile phones, laptops and the ubiquitous Facebook, the forensic examination of computers is only going to become more critical to the criminal investigation.

If the prospect of steady employment is most important to you, a forensic computing degree would be our star pick in terms of landing you a well-paid job, as it’s faster than any other forensic pathway.

 

6. Forensics with Criminology, Psychology or Law.


This is truly the best of both worlds: it’s the forensics degree with the legal underpinnings you need to take it just a bit further. Don’t rule out a law degree with forensic modules, however, as we feel this would be a better bet for your employment prospects.

 

7. Crime Scene Science.


Teeside University offers a three year course which should certainly put you ahead of the curve if your specific desire is employment within a police service.

So there you have it: seven pertinent recommendations for degree-level courses for those of you wanting to pursue forensics. We also have a comprehensive list of all UK degree-level courses in forensic science here.

 

Your Turn: Have something to add to this list? Think we’ve overlooked an important course? Let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.

Comments

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20 Comments

  • Rahul Vaidya says:

    I am interested in “Digital Forensics (or forensic computer science)”, I have total 15 +yrs experience in IT. Please share all details for his course soon.

    • Hello Rahul, thanks for your comments. We have a series of articles on the new field of Cyber Forensics, beginning with this one; http://bit.ly/1kM3WwN. We also plan to add to our SYWTBA series (“So you want to be a” …) with information about becoming a Forensic Cyber Detective. Keep watching us!

  • Brooklyn Murphy says:

    Hi,
    I have a large interest in the area of Forensic Anthropology and Pathology. I am still in high school and would like to know of any courses you might suggest. I have been looking into and studying Forensics since I was six years old. My interest has done nothing but grow over the last couple of years. I have no problem being around or examining remains that are as some call, “still fresh” or bloody, fleshy, and gory. I have a great passion in this particular area, but would need to qualify for a job where I may examine remains, find cause of death, but still be able to go out into the field trying to help catch the person responsible. I believe in justice, while I still want to be the one in the lab being able to examine remains I want to help bring whoever may have caused this unjust act to justice. Any information you can give me to help me further my knowledge, and continue learning would be a great help, but I would really like to know your thoughts on programs and courses I should take to be able to land a job in this field.
    Thanks,
    Brooklyn

    • Brooklyn Danielle, you’ve come to the right place. We have several articles about different aspects of forensic science, including articles that detail how a student – even a high school student – would prepare him or herself for a career in forensics. Pay particular attention to our SYWTBA series (So You Want To Be A…) which describes what you should study and how you should focus your education.

      We also have several articles about different colleges and universities which have programs in forensics. So, rather than write a couple thousand words to you about what we think you should do (which we have already written) – we suggest that you start here in our article treasure trove.

      Don’t forget to read comments – we have some very brilliant readers who have made valuable contributions. Next, follow your interests. Since one of the most valuable skills for a forensic scientist is research, eking out facts that are pertinent, and making comparisons – you might exercise those skills by looking for schools in your area of interest – and geographic area if that is important to you – and both bring them to your high school guidance counsellor for their assistance and resources, and contact the admissions officers of the schools you like.

      In addition, look into joining a police auxiliary or internship program if one is available near your home in Brooklyn. That will begin to build your skill set in law enforcement, which will help you when you apply for a job as a CSI and request field work.

      Good luck!

  • nehal says:

    I am a B.Sc Physics graduate. I want to do M.Sc. in Physics (as I want to gain all knowledge of physics). Forensics is an interesting field. I want to know if I can enter the field of forensics even after M.Sc. physics, or for that I’ll have to do M.Sc. in forensic science only.
    Is there a demand for M.Sc. physics people in forensics (in India)?
    Please Reply.

    • Why not?

      We do not have statistics about M.Sc. Physics people in forensics in India. Might be a good subject for you to research. Let us know the results.

      Best wishes.

  • Deborah says:

    I did not see any mention of Forensic Nursing. Fitchburg State University in Fitchburg, MA offers a Master’s in Forensic Nursing and it’s all on line!

  • Leighanne Alterado says:

    Hi, I’m in high school and in 9th grade. I am really interested in SoCO, forensic submissions, Crime Scene Investigator, Forensic Psychology.
    I mainly interested in all of them besides psychology though. I find criminal behaviour and the way they carry out the killing/crime very interesting therefore I want to study more into it. I know you wrote about what they are and the levels.
    I would like to know if there is any good courses that I can take in S3, so it will impact my application in college & university & job for SoCO etc.
    I would love to know how long it takes to study for SoCO and Forensic Submissions and CSI.
    I hope you reply soon as I really need to know as it is coming up to choose our subjects.
    Thanks for your time.

    • The Forensic Outreach Team says:

      Hi Leighanne — unfortunately, since we receive such a high volume of comments about career trajectories, we can’t answer each one in considerable depth. Length of study depends on the programme and desired end career.

  • obinna says:

    Hello, i am a doctor of optometry, but i would love to have a masters in forensic science, mainly the DNA analysis part, my undergrad research was in forensic chemical analysis of the ions in the eye fluid and i loved the excitement it brought.. Hope i could be considered for a Masters program in forensic science?

    • The Forensic Outreach Team says:

      Hi Obinna, sounds interesting! I’m sure you could be considered for a strong programme. Good luck to you.

  • Jordan Rydlewski Harris says:

    Hello!!
    I’m a junior at a high school within central Texas and I’m looking to into crime scene investigation or potentially be a coroner. I’m aware that the schooling that’s required for both is very drastic and in America it can take up to 16 years of higher education and in profession practice to be eligible to be a coroner.
    I was just wondering how many years it would take in the UK and what degree would be ideal?

    Thanks!

  • Mint says:

    Hi! I’m finishing my medical degree in India and I wanted to know if it’s a good idea for me to go into forensic anthropology. And,also,whether I’ll have to start from a B.Sc anthropology.

  • Glory says:

    Hi I am going to graduate my BDS in 2017 from India and I have a great interest in Forensic Science. I was wondering if I can apply to these colleges straight with my BDS degree from India? Please let me know. Thank you.

  • Keerthana says:

    I am pursuing bachelor degree in pharmacy .I am interested to become forensic scientist. I am planning to do doctorate in pharmacy. So is it possible for me

  • Luckymary says:

    My name is luckymary, am very interested to study criminal/forensic science but i have only a diploma in library, archives, and information studies. Is there any possibility for me to join?

  • Ashley says:

    what is the highest level you can attain in forensic Science, like after pursuing your degree and masters

  • Hak says:

    Hi!
    Im a Bsc Forensic Science student and i have absolutely no idea what to specialize in for my masters. I’ve heard that pure science students are preferred than a student with a bachelors degree in forensic science. Which course in your opinion do you think is there more scope for students like me. Thank You.

  • Ali says:

    What courses can i go after msc forensic science

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