Do you have an eye for detail, a curious spirit, a passion for research, and the ability to work in a team? If yes, then becoming a forensic scientist is your right career choice!
As a forensic scientist, you must be passionate about solving mysteries and be unafraid of blood and other potentially harmful substances.
Forensic scientists locate, examine, and evaluate any physical evidence obtained at a crime scene that needs to be presented in a court of law.
They must be skilled at analysing the situation, looking for microscopic signs and evidence that might otherwise go unnoticed, and understanding mathematical and scientific concepts.
Furthermore, they look at evidence from various sources, including fingerprints, bodily fluids, textile fibres, hairs, DNA, tyre markings, foreign particles, glass shards, paint, and more.
If you identify with these characteristics, a forensic science degree will open numerous opportunities for you in the exciting and challenging field of forensic science.
In this blog, you will learn how to become a forensic scientist in Australia, including the degree requirements and how much salary you can expect to live the life of your dreams.
1. What Is Forensic Science?
Forensic science uses sciences such as chemistry, physics and even biology in the forensic sector. It involves analysing and gathering evidence from criminal cases to uncover the truth.
Forensic scientists examine footprints, fingerprints, traces, blood splatter, and other remnants to determine the identity of perpetrators and present all facts surrounding criminal occurrences.
Forensic science degrees use other disciplines like computer science, engineering, psychology, physics, medicine, and other fields. To create a complete picture of a crime scene, forensics in Australia assemble interdisciplinary teams of experts and go through rigorous scientific processes.
Additionally, forensic science covers highly specialised sub-fields like forensic anthropology and medicine, environmental forensics, and entomology.
Others include toxicology drug and DNA analysis, including biological evidence. Sometimes, these fields are offered as stand-alone degree programs.
Students pursuing a Master's degree in forensic science will benefit from lab work and practical coursework. They will also gain essential skills such as scientific writing, critical thinking, analytical skills, and computer training, which will help them investigate facts.
Graduates can work in different fields, including medical diagnostic and crime laboratories, prosecutor's offices, medical examiners' offices, law enforcement, hospitals, education, criminal defence, and clinical chemistry laboratories.
2. What Is A Forensic Scientist, And What Do They Do?
Forensic scientists analyse and gather information to be used as evidence by law enforcement or in court proceedings using the scientific method. Forensic scientists work in the forensic lab, examining the evidence to determine its origin. They also operate in the field, where they get trained to recover possible evidence.
Forensic scientists must constantly research to stay updated with advances in the field and generate written analyses of their findings, sometimes called Certificates of Analysis.
They also train law enforcement personnel in handling forensic evidence at crime scenes. They are sometimes even called to testify as expert witnesses in a court of law. Generally, forensic scientists usually work for local and state governments. Still, they can also work for private forensic service providers or at the federal level.
Since analysis and evidence-gathering may incorporate a wide range of academic fields, this role can be called multidisciplinary. As an academic discipline, forensic scientists often have chemistry, genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, biology and forensic science backgrounds.
Furthermore, you need a bachelor's degree, and some organisations may require a master's degree. It is crucial to remember that most employers prefer applicants with past forensic laboratory experience. Not only that, but it is also necessary to hold a valid driver's licence.
Other requirements may vary depending on the nature of the job. Some subfields in which a forensic scientist may work include toxicology, trace evidence, controlled substances, digital evidence, weapons, fingerprints, and DNA.
Some jobs may need candidates to acquire national qualifications, like the International Association for Identification certification for fingerprint work.
3. Major Duties And Tasks of a Forensic Scientist
Examine crime scenes
Identify illicit drugs
Using DNA profiling, examine the animal and human biological material to compare it to victims and suspects.
Generate reports, appear in court, and deliver a correct opinion or scientific testimony in a way that the court can understand.
Compare and examine materials such as cosmetics, fibres, plastics, soils, oils, paints, metals, fuels, gunshot residues, and glass.
Enhance, identify, and recover latent fingerprints, tyre marks, tool marks, footprints, tracks, and shoe marks.
Conduct document examinations, chemical (such as inks and papers analysis) and physical (such as typewriting and handwriting).
Maintain communication with and assist pathologists, scientists, police investigators, and legal practitioners from various fields.
Analyse poisons and drugs in body fluids and human tissue, including blood alcohol results.
Analyse computers and gather data from different electronic devices like mobile phones.
Present your work as a forensic scientist to a variety of audiences.
Identify ammunition (forensic ballistics) and firearms.
Conduct whole-plant identification (for instance, cannabis) and botanical identification of plant materials at trace levels.
Analyse and improve the clarity of video and audio recordings.
Examine explosion and fire scenes to establish the cause and origin.
Examine items of interest, apply what they learn to design and develop new materials, products, and processes, and enhance the current ones.
4. Steps To Become A Forensic Scientist In Australia
The training and education necessary to start a career in forensic science may vary based on the student's goals.
Aspiring forensic scientists can follow the steps below to get a sense of where they will be in the coming years:
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
A forensic scientist will need a bachelor's degree for most entry-level positions.
Forensic science technicians also require a bachelor's degree. Still, they may end their studies and find an excellent entry-level position to provide them with on-the-job training.
It is essential to remember that many organisations prefer or require that candidates hold a master's degree in forensic science.
Step 2: Decide on a Specialisation
At this stage, students need to pick what area of forensic science they want to focus on. For example, a forensic science technician who wants to work on ballistics or latent prints will enrol in elective courses focused on these topics.
Furthermore, students who wish to work at greater responsibility levels, such as forensic medical examiners or psychologists, should begin their graduate studies.
Step 3: Get a Master's Degree or Doctorate (If Applicable)
Individuals who decide to continue their education should earn a master's degree and then complete a doctorate if their professional objectives allow it.
A forensic science master's or doctorate will not be available in certain circumstances. Instead, the student might have to seek a degree in a broader field with a forensic science speciality.
For instance, a forensic psychologist needs to pursue a psychology degree while pursuing a forensic science specialisation.
Step 4: Complete Degree Requirements (If Applicable)
The work continues once the degree is obtained. Many people who pursue an advanced degree may need to complete many years of intensive training before practising their chosen profession.
A medical examiner, for example, must attain a medical degree to work. At the same time, a forensic odontologist must have a dental degree (dentistry) to practise. Before undertaking their forensic science roles, these individuals must undergo many years of training.
Step 5: Participate in On-the-Job Training
Working in a forensic science profession requires hands-on work experience via teaching and training. Although some bachelor's programs provide students with this opportunity, it differs from on-the-job training.
The training period may last somewhere between months to many years.
Step 6: Get Certification
Forensic scientists are encouraged (and, in some cases, mandated) to get specialty certifications in some Australian states or territories. Even though these certifications are not required to enter this industry, they might help you get a better job in the future.
Some possible certifications include fingerprint work, drug analysis, molecular biology, paints and polymers, hairs and fibres, and more.
5. Where Yo Study A Forensic Science Course In Australia?
Several universities offer forensic science courses and crime scene investigator courses in Australia. Here is a list of some universities that you might be interested in.
Griffith University's Bachelor of Forensic Science is a three-year degree offered at its Nathan campus. It is the first of its type in Queensland. Through this course, you will participate in a moot court and learn from forensic specialists who have worked on actual cases.
The other two options for majors include Forensic Molecular Biology or Forensic Chemistry.
Western Sydney University
WSU offers a three-year Bachelor of Medical Science (Forensic Mortuary Practice) program at its Hawkesbury and Campbelltown campuses. This degree combines forensic and medical science, which might help you pursue your post-mortem assistant or forensic pathologist career.
In the last year of the course, you will also have the chance to engage in a work placement with the FASS (Forensic and Analytical Science Service).
Deakin University in Australia offers a Bachelor of Forensic Science program at their Waurn Ponds campus. This course may help you improve your skills by practising in their specially designed crime scene training facility. As part of your study, you also participate in a moot court and visit a courtroom.
Edith Cowan University
With ECU's Bachelor of Science (Biomedical Science) focusing on Forensic Science, you will get to study forensic science in WA (Western Australia). This program lasts for three years at the Joondalup campus.
Additionally, you will get to learn in cutting-edge forensic laboratories and receive hands-on experience in the ECU Health Simulation Centre's simulated crime scenes.
Flinders University offers a three-year Bachelor of Science (Forensic and Analytical Science) degree at Bedford Park. There are two options available: Forensic Biology or Forensic and Analytical Chemistry — you can choose to study either of the two streams.
You will also get the opportunity to conduct honours research with an industry partner and work in one of Flinders' laboratories.
Stay calm if you are still looking for a university near you. There are also several online choices that you can consider. CQ University's Bachelor of Science (Criminology and Psychology) degree is a great choice. It combines psychology, criminology, law, sociology, and forensic science.
Even though the program is online, you will still have the option to finish a work placement as part of your degree.
6. Skills Required To Become A Forensic Scientist in Australia
Here are some common skills required to become a Forensic Scientist in Australia:
The ability to work independently and in a team.
An unbiased, logical, and systematic approach to problem-solving.
The ability to communicate scientific information to non-experts.
Good colour vision.
Strong oral communication and writing skills.
The ability to do meticulous, analytical work with great care and attention to detail.
The ability to meet deadlines.
An enquiring mind and a persistent approach.
7. How Much Does a Forensic Scientist Earn in Australia?
According to Payscale, a forensic scientist's salary in Australia may range between AU$48,000 and AU$109,000 per year. The pay may vary depending on the location, type of profession, and seniority level.
Now that you know everything about becoming a forensic scientist in Australia, you are ready to explore more about this field and start a successful career.
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