How To Become A Forensic Scientist In Australia?

Students want to know how to become a forensic scientist in Australia with crime scene investigator courses.


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 the right career choice for you!


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 the court of law. They must be skilled at analysing the situation, looking for microscopic signs and evidence that might otherwise go unnoticed, and understand mathematical and scientific concepts.


Furthermore, their role is to 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 yourself with these characteristics, a forensic science degree will open numerous opportunities for you in the exciting and challenging field of forensic science. Read the post below to know more about how to become a forensic scientist in Australia and live the life of your dreams.


1. What is Forensic Science?


Forensic science refers to the use of sciences such as chemistry, physics and even biology in the forensic sector. It is concerned with 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 put together a complete picture of a crime scene, forensics in Australia professionals assemble interdisciplinary teams of experts and go through rigorous scientific processes.


Additionally, forensic science covers highly specialised sub-fields like forensic anthropology, forensic medicine, environmental forensics, entomology, toxicology, drug analysis, forensic DNA analysis, biological evidence, and more. 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, where they examine the evidence to determine its origin. They also operate in the field, where they get trained to recover possible evidence.


Forensic scientists must constantly conduct research to stay updated with advances in the field and generate written analyses of their findings, sometimes referred to as Certificates of Analyses.


They also train law enforcement personnel on how to handle forensic evidence at crime scenes and are sometimes even called to testify as expert witnesses in a court of law. Generally, forensic scientists usually work for local and state governments, but they can also work for private forensic service providers or at the federal level.


As analysis and evidence-gathering may incorporate a wide range of academic fields, this role can be called multidisciplinary. Forensic scientists often have backgrounds in chemistry, genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, biology and forensic science itself as an academic discipline.


Furthermore, a bachelor's degree is required for this position, and some organisations may need a master's degree. It is crucial to keep in mind 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 of the 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, detect, identify, and recover latent fingerprints, tyre marks, tool marks, footprints, tracks, and shoe marks. 

  • Conduct document examinations, both chemical (such as inks and papers analysis) and physical (such as typewriting and handwriting).

  • Maintain communication with, and offer assistance to pathologists and scientists, police investigators, legal practitioners from a broad range of 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 and 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

For most entry-level positions, a forensic scientist will at least need a bachelor's degree.


Forensic science technicians also require a bachelor's degree, but they may end their studies now and find an excellent entry-level position that will provide them with on-the-job training.


It is essential to keep in mind 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 a forensic medical examiner or a psychologist, should begin their graduate studies now.

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, if their professional objectives allow, complete a doctorate.

Keep in mind that in certain circumstances, a forensic science master's or doctorate will not be available; 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 doesn't stop 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, while a forensic odontologist must have a dental degree (dentistry) to practise. Before undertaking their forensic science roles, these individuals will need to undergo many years of training.

Step 5: Participate in On-the-Job Training


Working in a forensic science profession necessitates on-the-job training as most of the work cannot be taught through a book. It needs to be explored via hands-on instruction and training. Although some bachelor's programs provide students with this opportunity, it does not compare to 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 of the possible certifications to look into include fingerprint work, drug analysis, molecular biology, paints and polymers, and hairs and fibres, and more.


5. Where to Study a Forensic Science Course in Australia?

There are several universities that 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
Griffith University's Bachelor of Forensic Science is a three-year degree offered at its Nathan campus and 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 both forensic science and medical science, which might help you pursue your career as a post-mortem assistant or a forensic pathologist.


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

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 get to participate in a moot court and visit a courtroom.



Edith Cowan University


With ECU's Bachelor of Science (Biomedical Science) focusing in Forensic Science, you will get to study forensic science in WA (Western Australia). This program lasts for three years and is offered at their 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


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.





Do not worry if you cannot find a university near you. There are also several online choices. You can consider CQUniversity's Bachelor of Science (Criminology and Psychology), which combines fields like psychology, criminology, law, sociology, and forensic science.


Even though the program is offered 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 salary in Australia may range between AU$48,000 and AU$109,000 per year. The salary may vary, depending on the location, type of profession, and seniority level.


Now that you know everything about how to become a forensic scientist in Australia, you are ready to explore more about this field and start a successful career.


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