Forensic Science degree - the best route to become a forensic scientist? Watch

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silent ninja
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I'd be worried if I was a Forensics student:
http://education.independent.co.uk/h...p?story=586177
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ChemistBoy
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Exactly what I've been saying to potential forensics students in the past. The only way to become a forensic scientist is to get a degree in a proper science subject first. It is a great shame that young women feel so put off by pure science that they would throw away a career dream because it involved doing a pure science degree. This article highlights the importance of encouraging young women into science, however offering watered down 'pop' courses for the CSI generation is not the right way to do it.
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kazzz
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Can I just say.. I have just finished my 1st year on a BSc Forensic Science course. To hear it being refered to as not a "proper science subject" is rather laughable!

Units that I have completed include: Introductory Chemistry, Introductory Biology, Quantitative methods in science (Maths and Physics), Law, Lab skills and, yes, Crime scene Investigation. It has been an extremely hard year, and I can assure you it is NOT a "watered down" course. Next year is all about furthering out knowledge of science, and how it relates to law.
(The definition of Forensic Science: The application of a field of science to the facts related to criminal and civil litigation).

Chemist "boy" says "The only way to become a forensic scientist is to get a degree in a proper science subject first"
The Forensic Science Service DOES employ students who have completed a Forensics degree, so it seems you have your facts wrong. If you re-read ALL of the article then this comfirms this.

As with all degree's, there are many paths that can be taken after finishing the course. I am far from throwing away my career dream by taking this course. If I had wanted to do a strictly science based course I would have done. This has nothing to do with not feeling able to do it. (Ihave passed A levels in Chemistry, Biology and Physics)

It is a great shame that many men STILL feel so patronising towards women in science.

Oh, and by the way, I have NEVER watched an episode of CSI.
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Olivia22
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I am hoping to be a forensic scientist and have chosen to take the pure science route and do a biology degree as I loved biology at A level and feel it will be the best option in the long run.

Kazzz is correct in stating that the forensic science service does employ people with a forensic science degree however, from the information I have gotten from the FSS they do lean towards those with a Biology or Chemistry degree believing that SOME forensic courses do not cover enough of the scientific priniciples in depth.

I believe accreditation would be the way to go to ensure that students are aware if the course they intend to do is suitable for work as a forensic scientist. This is the only way to ensure that some students do not end up disapointed at the end of their degree when they are unable to gain work imediately as a forensic scientist and may be pushed into an area they were not hoping for such as Crime Scene Analyst for which you technically do not need a degree. (as the article says about 1/5 get work in the field but only a few in the lab settings)

I personally did think of doing a forensic science course and had I not wanted to do Biology I may have done.
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ChemistBoy
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(Original post by kazzz)
Can I just say.. I have just finished my 1st year on a BSc Forensic Science course. To hear it being refered to as not a "proper science subject" is rather laughable!
How is it a proper science subject? You seem to spend half your time studying unscientific subjects - it's a hybrid subject and as far as I can tell many courses do not contain sufficient scientific content to give graduates enough experience in the skills of being a scientist.

As with all degree's, there are many paths that can be taken after finishing the course. I am far from throwing away my career dream by taking this course. If I had wanted to do a strictly science based course I would have done. This has nothing to do with not feeling able to do it. (Ihave passed A levels in Chemistry, Biology and Physics)
Re-read my post and you will see that as wasn't referring to you at all.

It is a great shame that many men STILL feel so patronising towards women in science.
Thinly vieled personal accusations of chauvanism are none-the-less insulting for the fact that they are poorly disguised as generic comments. If you knew anything about me and what I do for the promotion of science, you would realise that your accusations are quite, quite wide of the mark.

Oh, and by the way, I have NEVER watched an episode of CSI.
Shame, it's a good programme. But i've never met an archaeology student that has watched time team, despite there being a marked increase in applications after the first screening of that programme.
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kazzz
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I do admire the superior intellect of my learned friend (err hum). However, it seems tragic that his genius comes at the price of his interpersonal skills. I would be delighted to refer him for psychosocial rehabilitation with my friend who is currently studying the “watered down” course of Forensic Psychobiology.

Once he has learnt some social skills AND completed the course I am at present studying, then I shall consider engaging in a debate on this matter in a mature, non biased, non political manner. Until then I should be obliged if he would refrain from having a condescending and patronising attitude towards a person he has neither met nor knows in any depth.
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silent ninja
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I'm taking the middle ground and agreeing with Olivia22. Some accreditation is needed, consistency is what lacks. Whichever way you put it, some graduates are gonna be gutted when they find they cant find work.
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ChemistBoy
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Quite, I can see that the debate has been moved onto a slanging match but I'll try and put it back on track.

My main concern as a professionally qualified chemist is that there will be people with forensic science degrees working as forensic chemists in the FSS in the near future (if not now). The RSC does not accredit most forensic science degrees as a qualification recognised for professional membeship of the society (which is the learned society for chemistry). How can one practice as a chemist without the qualifcations to professionally recognised as one in any other field? It doesn't take a brain surgeon to realise the it would be rather easy for a defence lawyer to question a forensic 'chemist's' professional judgement if they did not possess a sufficient chemical education to obtain membership of the RSC.

Until the introduction of these degrees the only way to practice forensic chemistry was to obtain a chemistry degree first, insuring that one had reached a sufficient standard in chemical education to be professionally recognised and incorporated into the RSC. Now that is not the case and I fear it may lead to the degrading of the standing of professional chemists and my views are shared by other members of the society. It is the duty of the society to ensure the professional integrity of the chemical sciences by royal charter. I agree that accreditation is the answer, but not just be the forensic science community, but also by the wider science community to ensure that those practicing as forensic chemists/biologists/physicists are confident in their right to use that title.
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tbm
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Im a female forensic science student myself and found that article a bit patronising. The reason I enrolled for FS is because I was studying for a degree which I hated, and wanted to do something a bit more varied and interesting, with hands on practical work.

I dont feel as though I am taking a "poorer" quality degree like the article implies. I am studying at an institution that has great staff and excellent facitilies.

So a degree in forensic science might not lead to a career in forensic science, but, you could say the same about other degrees too. No degree guarantees employment once you have completed it, its all about the individual.
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Chicken
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I'm doing a chemistry degree, in the hope that I will get into Forensics after uni (having never watched an episode of CSI either - I've wanted to be a Forensic scientist since I was about 16). I asked several uni's about Forensics courses, as well as going to a Forensic science taster course thingie at Nottingham uni when I was in year 12, and got told by everyone to do straight science, or a straight science with a 'with' in the title (I'm doing Chemistry with Analytical Chemistry). I know that stuff like Quantum Mechanics won't be all that relevant to Forensics, however knowing how competitive the Forensics field is I'm glad I have a wider based degree that opens many more doors than a Forensic one would, if I can't get a job in Forensics. I'm all for studying a subject because you enjoy it (and are therefore likely to be good at it) but would you study architecture if you didn't want to be an architect? A couple of my friends do Chemistry with Analytical and Forensic Science at my uni, which allows them to do 20 credits each year doing a Law module or psychology (and the rest chemistry modules) - both did a law module and both said it wasn't really relevant or specific to skills they might need as a forensic scientist and both have got lower marks then they usually get because they've found it hard to write essays and do the exams as its a completely different style to anything we do in chemistry, and they get marked on law course standards so it doesn't help them at all really.
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IB student uk
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I'm planning on going into forensic science - and I was advised by a few university professors to complete a straight science degree first and then a specialised post-grad degree. I find chemistry much more interesting that biology - so I'm going into a Mchem (MSci) degree next year, and hopefully will see where that takes me - still leaving my options open to other career paths.
I'm not so sure how well respected the forensic science undergrad degree is, but looking at career books, to become a forensic scientist they also advice a straight science degree first - although I am sure the forensic science degree is also a challenging and interesting one.
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kazzz
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I have just finished my first year at Lincoln university, one of the few uni's in the country to be in the process of accreditation from the FSS (who employ forensic scientists). We do not have any psychology in the course at all. We completed a unit called evidence and regulatory framework taught by a lecturer from Nottingham law school. This, however, was relevant as it is an area of law more specific to Forensics.

I agree with Em.... No degree guarantees employment in that specific field.

Universities pride themselves on the percentage of graduates getting employment after completing their courses. I'm sure they wouldn't just dream up these so called "watered down courses" if there were no jobs at the end of it.
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Chris.
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Universities want more people to apply to them, they can then select a very high standard of student and ask for higher grades, if less people wish to do pure science they have to attract people in other ways - the article makes that clear.
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ChemistBoy
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(Original post by kazzz)
Universities pride themselves on the percentage of graduates getting employment after completing their courses. I'm sure they wouldn't just dream up these so called "watered down courses" if there were no jobs at the end of it.
Then you fail to understand how a modern UK university runs. Unfortunately the university leaders are merely interested in getting more money and prestige, attracting more students helps them achieve that, they don't have to find them relevant jobs that's for sure.
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meir
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Having just completed a BSc in Forensic Science on an RSC accredited course, it certainly isnt an 'easier' course than any other science.

As for the FSS not employing forensic science graduates, it is true they take on more biology and chemistry graduates, but only because up until now it was all they could choose from.

Forensic courses have only been running for approximately 10 years, and in the future more and more graduates will find work in the forensic sector.

There is an article in Science&Justice Vol.45 page 57 which lists some of the student employment opportunities after graduating in forensics from the University of Glamorgan. It includes many police, chemistry, biology, analytical, toxicology, medicine, teaching and research based employment positions attained by students.

It highlights the wide range of opportunities available to graduates and none of those posts and positions can be considered 'watered down.'

My advice to all students considering doing forensic science is, if you enjoy a challenge and have an interest in a wider range of science rather than straight chemistry or biology, then you will find forensics worthwhile and it will give you a wide range of post graduate employment.
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ChemistBoy
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Would you care to elaborate on the contents of the correspondance in that journal for us (maybe reproduce it here if it is not too much trouble) as it is not widely available for us to read.

The University of Glamorgan website is not very forthcoming about the details of its course either. In fact it isn't very forthcoming about it's faculty of 'applied science' at all. If you have any more information about the course I would be grateful.
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meir
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(Original post by ChemistBoy)
Would you care to elaborate on the contents of the correspondance in that journal for us...........
(I agree the University of Glamorgan website is not the best)

The modules on the Forensic Science course includes physical chem. organic chem. analytical chem. spectroscopy, advanced analytical chem. toxicology, fire & explosives, mathematic statistics, cell biology, molecular biology, molecular aspects of biology.

The forensic aspects of the course are criminalistics, for. imaging, for. psychology, for. evidence, for. case studies, for. geology, for. microscopy and scanning elecron microscopy.

The chemistry and biology modules are straight module units, which are the same as straight chemistry and biology students sit.

The article in Science&Justice by Dr. Rhobert Lewis explains the universities views on funding and the value of forensic science courses, emphasising the non-forensic aspects of the course at Glamorgan and that it has high success rate of post graduate positions attained.

There is then a list of just some of the positions students have taken up, the list is only from 2000-2003, many more posts have been filled since.

Students' Employment 2000-2003 - Oxford Analytical. - Northamptonshire Police. Fingerprint bureau. - Guy's Hospital London. Research lab. - SOCO. Metropolitan Police. (2) - Frutarom UK, Aylesbury. Flavourist. - Legal Officer. - Minton, Trahern and Lewis, Cardiff. - Clinical Scientist. City Hospital Birmingham, Toxicology lab. - Teacher training. Swansea, Cardiff and Bath. - MSc Forensic Engineering, Cranfield. - DNA, Birmingham FSS. - Scenes of Crime, Cardiff. - Lab Officer, Complement Genomics, Newcastle. - SOCO. Northamptonshire Police. - MSc Toxicology, Cardiff. - PHd Miniaturisation of analytical instrumentation, Hull. - Scientific Officer. Dept of Scientific Services, Brunei. - DNA analyst. University diagnostics, LGC, Teddington. - SOCO. Gloucestershire Police. - IMSc Forensic Engineering. Cranfield. (4) - Sc Pharmaceutical and analytical chemistry, Loughborough. - PhD Molecular Genetics, Imperial College. - PhD Molecular Genetics, Cambridge. - Medicine (fast track), Cambridge. - Medicine, St James, London. - QA analyst, St Meryn Meat Ltd, Merthyr. - MSc Immunology and infection, UMIST. , - Civil Service, GCHQ, Cheltenham. - SOCO. Thames Valley Police. - Officer Training College, Sandhurst. - MSc Criminology and criminal justice, Cardiff. - Scientific Officer, Haematology, NHS. - MSc Analytical Science, UMIST. - MSc Toxicology, Surrey. - Analyst, Forensic Telecommunications. - DNA analyst, FSS. (2) - Immunoassay development. - Ortho diagnostics, Cardiff. - Trainee Court Reporting Officer, biology. Forensic Alliance. - Trainee Court Reporting Officer, toxicology. Forensic Alliance. - Laboratory Scientific Officer. Trico- Tech. Cardiff. - St George's Hospital Postgraduate Diploma in Forensic Medicine/FSS London. - QA British Biolcell International. Cardiff. - Technical Officer, pharmacy, Heath Hospital, Cardiff. - MSc Cranfield. (4)
Toxicology. Forensic Alliance. - MSc Forensic Archaeology and Crime Scene Investigation, Bradford. - PhD Restorative Dentistry (Periodontology). Bristol Dental School. - Analytical Chemist. Tripos Receptor Research Ltd. Cornwall. - Medicine (fast track). Oxford. - Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED).


So for all you budding forensic scientists, dont get down hearted and think you employment prospects are limited if you take the course. As you can see from above there are many directions you can take (especially if you attend Glamorgan)
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ChemistBoy
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There is a lot of people that go into postgraduate study, that's quite interesting.
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kazzz
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Thanks for the reassurance Meir
Although I must say I'm extremely happy with the course I am doing, but its nice to know thats us on these watered down courses will have employment or further education options.
It just goes to show, there certainly are alot of options available

Dont suppose you know what employment rates are like in Australia ??? lol
(Im hoping to move there when I have finished my education)
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meir
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Chemist Boy:
i dont know if there is more or less postgrad study at glam than at other uni's, i would guess its about average. If there are more at Glamorgan, then it must reflect on the teaching and quality of the forensic course.
I know there are a few students going on to MSc's and at least one PhD from this years graduates.

Kazzz:
i dont consider the forensic course watered down, it is not straight chemistry, but the other aspects give you a better all round education.
The Forensic Services have mostly employed chem or biol grads in past because there were a lot more of them about.
Working in the Forensic Science Service, having a chem or biol degree may not be completely relevant (just my opinion!!!).

As for Australia, i read an article a few months back (cant find it, cant remember where is saw it) saying that in near future there was going to be a lack of well qualified scientists in Australia. (forensics wasn't mentioned, just 'scientists')
There is a student who has just completed the course at Glam who has found employment in forensics with New Zealand Police, she had her interview in London and is emigrating later this summer.
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