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If you’re considering applying for a postgraduate degree in forensic science, you’ll find this article a great source of useful information and advice around your potential studies. A forensic science course is the perfect way to prepare for a career in forensic science, which is the study of scientific methods used to investigate crime. You might be a science or law graduate looking to specialise towards scientific roles in the justice system, preparing for a range of forensic science jobs.
Many UK universities offer postgraduate degrees in the forensic sciences, so it’s beneficial to learn as much as possible about your options and what will be the best choice for you.
Read on to find out everything you need to know about forensic science courses, why you should do one, the entry requirements, and where you could study.
Forensic science is centred on the use of scientific techniques and principles during the investigation of crime. You’ll apply your technical abilities in the service of the justice system, collecting and analysing evidence to support legal cases. It’s a fascinating and demanding career path, where you may find yourself in challenging circumstances but able to make a big difference to people’s lives.
By studying a forensic science degree at postgraduate level you’ll develop a valuable set of highly transferable skills, as well as specialist knowledge that will prepare you for your forensic science career. Many people want to study forensic science to help protect society and for the pleasure of scientific investigation.
There are several types of postgraduate forensic science degrees, each of which may suit you best depending on your level of expertise and study objectives.
MSc qualifications in forensic science are some of the most common, providing a thorough taught programme of study that will equip you with the key knowledge and skills required of professionals in forensic science.
It’s also possible to undertake a research degree at master’s level, the MRes. This is an opportunity to conduct an independent research project on a topic you’re interested in, while building an advanced skill base in research techniques.
Doctoral level research qualifications are also possible, with MPhil and PhD degrees available to those looking to become an expert in the field of forensic science. Through these courses, you’ll train to be a professional researcher in the field, producing impactful new knowledge and broadening the horizons of forensic science.
Forensic science jobs range from academic and lab-based, science heavy roles to justice-focused careers that will take you into the field or the courtroom.
As a forensic scientist you might work with a police or justice department, involved in the collection of evidence from crime scenes, analysing it for clues, or preserving it for later use. Early in your career you may work as a forensic lab technician before moving on to more senior roles.
You might be a forensic research scientist, developing new theories and techniques to help professionals in the sector improve their performance.
Your knowledge and skillset will also make you suitable for other analytical science or forensic intelligence roles, as well as related jobs like toxicologist.
You could also choose to become a crime scene investigator or police officer, bringing your unique knowledge and skills into the field.
You might choose to become a teacher in forensic science after some time, passing on your expertise to the next generation of scientists and researchers.
As an applicant for master’s level forensic science degree courses, you’ll typically be asked to show achievement of a 2:2 at undergraduate honours level, or above. This will be in a relevant subject, such as chemistry or biology.
To get a place on an MPhil or PhD course in forensic science, you’ll often be asked for a minimum 2:1 at undergraduate level in addition to a master’s degree in a relevant area.
Being able to show equivalent knowledge, skills or research experience through professional or other subject qualifications may be considered on a case by case basis.
There are various postgraduate forensic science courses to choose from, with some placing a focus on a particular niche within the field. You can expect to find postgraduate courses at master’s or doctorate levels, such as:
Each forensic science degree will have a unique blend of modules, including compulsory or optional units that allow you to tailor your studies. Some topic examples include:
Forensic science courses are typically designed around building a strong blend of technical, practical and personal skills.
You’ll become competent in a range of scientific methods and forensic techniques, from fire mapping to blood spatter analysis, DNA evidence analysis, human anatomy, statistics, and toxicology.
In addition to scientific knowledge and skills, you’ll gain expertise in the justice system—from crime scene investigation to criminal justice and courtroom procedures, in addition to crime prevention and criminology.
You’ll also gain a number of transferable skills including critical thinking, problem solving and communication. Other practical skills include data analysis, report writing, mathematics, and giving presentations.
Depending on your course, you may also develop advanced research skills and experience in developing, managing and publishing long-term research projects.
Forensic science courses are usually taught through a combination of lectures, laboratory sessions, seminars and tutor discussions, presentations and projects, in addition to mock courtroom activity.
You’ll probably be assessed via the evaluation of coursework such as essays, incident analyses, reports or presentations, as well as exams that may be written or practical in nature.
A dissertation or research project will be a likely component of your postgraduate forensic science degree, more so for research master’s or doctoral research students.
A forensic science master’s degree, whether taught or research, will typically be one year in length if studying full time. If you’re a part-time student, it’ll be up to two years.
An MPhil qualification will usually take two years to complete full-time, while a PhD qualification will take anywhere from two to four years to finish. You can expect to double these timeframes if you’re studying part-time at doctoral level.
There are around 20 different universities where you can study forensic science at postgraduate level in the UK. You can use our course and university search tools to identify the perfect course or institution for your goals.
Some of the leading universities to study forensic science at include:
You might consider a number of other subjects alongside a forensic science degree, depending on the type of career you’re looking to pursue. Relevant subjects include:
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