BTECs are vocational qualifications, and created with the goal of employment in mind. We’re assuming that if you’re looking at this, you’re looking forward to a career with forensic science firmly in mind: be it as a laboratory technician or assistant, a full blown forensic analyst or perhaps as a scenes of crime officer. In that sense, the BTEC in applied science is a certainly a brilliant way to build the foundation in a scientific discipline without the commitment to study full-time.
Bear in mind, however, that a career within forensic science will be extremely competitive (many of our Twitter followers have mentioned this to us and represent students of some quite prestigious programmes around the world). Whilst a vocational qualification like a BTEC will undoubtedly be useful and may assist you in landing your dream job if your employer is sponsoring you to do it, you should probably be aware that the competition will be very stiff. At the very least, you’re likely to be up against people with BSc and MSc qualifications (perhaps even doctorates) and are likely to need more than the BTEC alone to assist you in a career in forensics.
Don’t despair though: we’ve assembled eight ways to hack the BTEC in applied science — to help you derive the most out of the course and optimise its curriculum with a view to look far ahead in your career.
1. Find your vocation: get some hands-on experience.
The old adage “Its not what you know, its who you know” still prevails. At the very least, employers like to see prospective candidates who have shown the enthusiasm to do the work, perhaps for free, within their chosen vocation. This can work very well for you, if you get someone established in the field to provide you with a good reference. Our advice: apply for work experience, get out there, and as they say: win friends and influence people. The pay-off: you’ll have credible people that are ready to attest to your skill-level and work ethic when they pen your recommendations for future employment.
2. Get in touch with your charitable side.
Consider this: how would it look if you were able to scribble “I volunteered with a local police force and spent time learning forensic science techniques with their scenes of crime officers” on a draft CV? How attractive do you look to an employer now? The added benefit of volunteering carries with it the notion that you have a sense of civic or social responsibility — which most employers bemoan is a quality that is quite rare to find these days. Commit yourself to a bit of free labour, and you might reap the rewards with finer prospects.
3. Drop them a line: contact prospective employers.
There’s nothing better than knowing what they’re looking for, if only so you can tailor yourself to meeting their goals. Ask them “what does an attractive candidate look like?” — then go out, and try and hone the precise skills they’re after. For instance, if you’ve developed a side interest in computers and even programming — it’s worth asking future bosses whether or not this is something worth developing for the profession in which you’re interested (if the answer is a firm yes, then you’re one step closer to attaining the qualifications you require).
4. Hit the books again: consider further study.
Although the BTEC is a good foundation, have you thought about university? Careers within forensics are all about specialisation. You could study part-time, whilst working and still come out with a BSc which is certainly designed to endow a competitive edge. This will also make you look very dedicated to your career goals – an attractive quality in any candidate. Finally, if you’re truly interested in being immersed in the subject, surround yourself with like-minded individuals and make life-long contacts in the area: you really ought to look no further.
5. Molecules and molar : study some biochemistry.
One of the key shortcomings we feel exists in the BTEC course is the lack of application of the chemistry element to the outside world. Forensic scientists utilise chemicals to analyse all sorts of things: from blood spatter to the solubility of fibres. The chemistry module is fairly abstract and basic, so we think you would be better served by taking additional courses in human biology or biology and also perhaps a dedicated chemistry module as in the triple science GCSE. It might appear that only the truly talented are cut out for a rigorous academic curricula like the one we’re suggesting, but it really does make all the difference.
6. Don’t stay safe: branch out.
Develop some additional, related skills under your belt that would assist you in the world of forensics. A photography course would be an excellent place to start (who else is going to snap the crime scene, right?) A law module would also be an excellent course to consider. If you’ll be sketching and taking accurate measurements at crime scenes, a design and technology module or arts qualification can help you here. It’s important to try and mold yourself into a perfect candidate by developing interests that are related and closely aligned to your chosen field.
7. Put it on show: display your talent.
Find a way of demonstrating or cultivating an interesting portfolio about your passion for forensic science. We’re always on the lookout for intriguing new forensic articles from people with an interest or expertise in the field, so perhaps you could get one published (it’s an unparalleled way to make yourself really stand out among piles of CVs and cover letters). On the other side, think about additional talents that you possess (like involvement in athletic activities or other extracurricular societies) that speak to specific aspects of your personality or character (a good footballer makes a team player, for example).
8. Keep your eye on it: work hard.
All the above will be of little use if you don’t get a decent grading in your BTEC and credible references from your current employer. In the world of work, experience (generally) trumps qualifications, so concentrate on being the best you can be in the present, whilst having your eyes on the prize for the future. Remember, though, that the BTEC is an excellent foundation, but may be entirely too broad for a career in forensics. It’s important, then to specialise, and maximise the opportunities available to you. Get your foot in the door with this vocational qualification and with some hard work, you can might be able to land that job.
Your Turn: Finished the BTEC course and have any tips for people just starting out? Want to share how you continued into a forensic career following the BTEC? Let us know in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.