Forensic Science Courses

By Mariza Halliday - Last update


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What is Forensic Science?

Forensic Science is the application of scientific principles for crime scenes. Forensic science technicians or crime scene investigators collect evidence at the scene of a crime and perform scientific and technical analysis in laboratories or offices. Forensic Sciences use all of the branches of science for its findings – Physics is used to trace bullets and footprints or tire tracks, Chemistry is used to test fluids and substances, and Biology is used to analyze the causes of death or injury.

Forensic science is a critical element of the criminal justice system. Forensic scientists examine and analyze evidence from crime scenes and elsewhere to develop objective findings that can assist in the investigation and prosecution of perpetrators of crime or absolve an innocent person from suspicion. They also may use computers to examine DNA, substances, and other evidence collected at crime scenes 

What 3rd level courses are available?

Universities and colleges in Ireland are offering Forensic Science courses in the following subject areas:

  • Forensic Science – The study of crime scene investigation and evidence examination.
  • Elements of Forensic Science – Explore how forensic scientists work and how chemistry, DNA, and genetics are used in crime scene investigations.
  • Pre-University Forensic Science – An introduction to the basic principles of forensic science.
  • Digital Forensics for Cyber Professionals – The study of the branch of computer science that includes the investigation and recovery of data in digital devices that are related to cybercrimes.
  • Certificate in Forensic Psychology – The study of psychopaths and their behavior patterns, how eyewitness accounts are not always accurate, and how you must remain objective when conducting forensic analysis, from start to finish.
  • Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator – A focus on the digital domain which involves network, computer, and mobile forensics.
  • Forensic Psychology and Criminology – You will learn about the processes and practices that are used to catch criminals and gain a better understanding of what crime is, why it occurs and how it is managed in today’s society.
  • Forensic Engineering – This course analyses the problems arising from product failure caused by inadequate materials, poor manufacturing, or bad design and offers guidance on good product design.
  • Computing: Security & Forensics – Gain the knowledge, skills, and experience to conduct complex, data-intensive forensics examinations involving multiple operating systems, file types, cloud, and mobile operating systems.
  • Diploma in Forensic Anthropology & Human Identification – Gain a basic understanding of the fields of forensic anthropology (the scientific study of recent human remains) and human identification from a historical, theoretical and practical perspective

Studying Forensic Science in college

Many Forensic Science courses take place over 1 year to 4 years depending on the course and modules selected. There are also part-time courses and night courses available so you can be sure to fit in your studies no matter what your schedule is like.

The training you receive will vary depending on your choice of course and area of specialty. Areas covered may include laboratory skills and proficiency tests, blood pattern analysis, and statement writing. More generally, you may receive training in health and safety, courtroom and presentation skills, and project management.

Courses will cover all theory work through lectures, assignments, tutorials, and taught modules. Assessments will take place continuously with written examinations and practical assignments combined to achieve a qualification.

You could also consider work experience or volunteering in a laboratory, for example in a hospital or a research center. Work placements occasionally arise in Forensic Science courses. Gaining some laboratory work experience will be greatly beneficial to your career to prove you have the necessary skills, such as attention to detail and accuracy, as well as knowing laboratory techniques. Work experience is more likely to be found in a scientific or hospital laboratory than in a forensic setting due to the sensitive nature of the work.

Working for the police is another good option, for example as a special constable, as this will provide you with valuable insight into police work and the role of forensics. It may also be possible for you to find internships that contain some laboratory work with smaller employers. These positions may initially be voluntary but could lead to paid employment.

Work Experience will not only allow you to obtain a deeper knowledge and understanding of the industry, but it will also give you a chance to do some essential networking with other industry professionals and gain valuable contacts for the future.

Career options

After completing a course in Forensic Science you will be able to get started in a career that uses specific knowledge of Physics, Biology, and Chemistry. Although most of the work is laboratory-based, experienced forensic scientists may have to attend crime scenes. The balance of work in the laboratory, court, and office varies between roles.

Working hours will depend on whether you are employed by a company with set business hours or if you are contracted to various facilities or companies. The hours are usually full time, Monday to Friday and you will typically work normal office hours. As crimes may happen at any time, you must be prepared to work evenings and weekends, you may have to do shifts or be on call.

Not all forensic scientists get involved with crime scene work or reporting. You may choose to stay in the laboratory where it is more likely that you will work in shifts.

Although there isn’t generally much travel involved, you may need to travel to attend conferences and training courses. The changing nature of forensic science means that it’s vital that you keep up to date with the latest research and developments throughout your career.

Related jobs include:

  • Analytical chemist
  • Biomedical scientist
  • Crime scene investigator
  • Detective
  • Forensic scientist
  • Scientific laboratory technician
  • Toxicologist
  • Border Force officer
  • Forensic computer analyst
  • Further education teacher
  • Higher education lecturer
  • Police officer
  • Science writer

Further study

After completing a course in Forensic Science you may choose to pursue further study in a specialist field to increase your knowledge base and skillset. Postgraduate study can also be used as a means to change career focus or to gain professional qualifications required to practice in certain career areas such as archaeology or anthropology.

Degrees related to chemistry, biology, life sciences, applied sciences, or medical sciences are likely to be the most beneficial in enhancing your career options, depending on the type of forensic work you want to do.

FAQ

What are the different areas of Forensic Science?

Forensic scientists may be divided into three, major groups:

Forensic Pathologists: These include medical examiners and other professionals who oversee autopsies and clinical forensic examinations.

Forensic Scientists: These include forensic professionals working in law enforcement, government, or private forensic laboratories who are responsible for dealing with any number of specific tests and analyses, such as toxicology, ballistics, trace evidence, etc.

Associated Scientists: These include scientific professionals lending their knowledge to forensic science, such as forensic odontologists, forensic botanists, forensic anthropologists, etc. These scientists apply their knowledge to the forensic science field as to provide investigators with crucial information regarding everything from bite marks to insect infestation on the postmortem body.

Where can I study Forensic Science?

Explore your options here

Did You Know?

· Real-life forensic scientists will tell you that while each person does have unique fingerprints, matching them can be difficult, even for experts.

· As with fingerprints, ballistics and bullet markings are not easily matched. The barrel of each gun has its unique grooves and surfaces, creating a distinct imprint that acts as the “fingerprint” of the gun. As the bullets shoot out of the gun, they fly through the barrel and are marked by that imprint. While this ballistics theory is sound, the process of actually finding a match for the gun and bullet has no strong statistical formula behind it.

· To date, DNA testing has exonerated more than 242 wrongfully convicted individuals. Thanks to advances in DNA technology, questionable convictions are sometimes re-investigated using DNA testing. Should the evidence show that the defendant could not have committed the crime, he or she can successfully be exonerated.

· While maggots on a corpse may be disgusting to some these critters are a welcome sight to forensic scientists. Insects have proven to be a reliable indicator of an individual’s time of death. There is an entire field of forensic science dedicated to the study of insects in the crime scene – forensic entomology.

· Savvy forensic scientists may be able to find evidence that’s been deleted from a computer. Every time you “delete” a file from a computer, the file is simply set aside, hidden, and marked as data waiting to be rewritten. Computer analysts use this fact to their advantage and have developed programs that detect these hidden files, allowing them to copy and open the data.

 


Mariza Halliday

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