Forensic Science - The 'CSI Effect'

Thanks to the so-called ‘CSI effect’, forensic science degree courses in the UK have never been so popular. Prospective students hoping for a career path and environment like that seen in the TV shows should prepare for disappointment. Unfortunately, much of the technology depicted on the TV shows is pure Hollywood and doesn’t even exist yet! You won’t have any more legal clout than any other citizen and will effectively remain a civilian in the employ of the police service or one of the agencies that provides them with forensic support when it is required. In other words, you won’t be able to arrest anyone nor will you be allowed to carry a firearm!

Such is the popularity of the forensic science career option that there is also an oversubscription of students. Not only are there not enough course places to go around but there are too many qualified job-seekers for the number of positions available. The UK’s largest forensic staff provider, LGC Forensics, employs 500 people but over twice that number embarked on forensic science courses in 2012.

But for those who remain undaunted by these dismal statistics, what exactly does a forensic science degree course entail? Well, forensic science has certainly got it all going on; fire investigation, DNA profiling, genetic fingerprint analysis, multi-nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy just for starters.

What will you study?

The course looks at the basic principles of forensic science and the processes surrounding it from processing a crime scene right through to taking the evidence to court. Those students who opt for the chemistry specialism study drugs and toxicology while the biology students take on new techniques and mock cases; both look at glass, paint, fibres etc. Different methods of investigation are studied including the tier of management at a crime scene; who does what and reports to whom etc.

What choose forensic science?

Forensic science as a career is not the glamorous and exciting scene portrayed by the TV shows. It is however a practical profession which requires a lot of problem solving and an interest in science. Forensics offers a career route whereas straight chemistry, physics or biology do not.

What about a job at the end of my course?

The number of jobs available does fluctuate year on year. It’s reckoned that between 60% and 70% of students do find employment within the forensic science field. The key to success is to to be patient, flexible and prepared to specialise in one particular field. Work placements are a really good way of getting a foot in the door which may well lead to permanent employment in the future.

There are also opportunities outside the forensics field such as bench work in the pharmaceutical industry and for various agencies.

What about funding?

Funding is available depending upon your country of origin. Scholarships are available if you’re lucky enough to secure one but the majority of students are self-funding either by using their personal financial resources or taking out a student loan.

Alison Page

About Alison Page

Alison is a small business owner, freelance writer, author and dressage judge. She has degrees in Equine Science and Business Studies. Read her full story at

Alison Page

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