I am a grade 10 student and would like to opt for the science stream (bio-psychology) in grades 11 and 12, and pursue a career in forensic science. Could you guide me?

Forensic science has come into the mainstream consciousness thanks to crime shows such as CSI, where forensic scientists solve crimes through analysing crime scenes. While the realities of the profession are more grounded, the overarching concept of using science to understand crime scenes is generally correct. The serious nature of this job requires attention to detail, analytical skills and extreme patience to see one piece of evidence from several angles.

If you do decide to pursue a career in this field, you should have some amount of self motivation, be ready to work odd hours and work well in a team. Forensic science is a fairly large field, with multiple specialties available. A forensic science technician supports in collecting evidence, analysing it either in a lab or at the crime scene and then presenting those results to the authorities. A forensic ballistics expert helps identify the type of firearm used, type of bullet and even where it was manufactured.

A forensic DNA analyst specialises in analysing DNA on the scene. Since DNA is considered more accurate than fingerprints, it is being increasingly used by authorities in crime scenes. A forensic toxicologist analyses chemicals, poison, etc. used in a crime. They are expected to have a solid foundation of chemistry, biology and pharmacology.

Slightly different but with similar nomenclature is digital forensics. They help in cracking cyber crime by analysing clues from the digital presence left behind. Likewise, forensic accountants are responsible for analysing money trails and transactions to unearth frauds, tax violations or even how terrorism is funded.

To pursue this field, obtain a bachelor’s degree involving biology, chemistry, pharmacology, statistics and get some understanding of law and criminal justice. You will also need oral and written communication skills for frequent testifying in front of law agencies. Teesside University in Middlesbrough, UK, has a wide range of forensic subjects at undergraduate level. Pennsylvania State University in the US offers a B.Sc. in forensic science with a focus on biology and chemistry.

Globally other universities such as Western Sydney University, Australia, also offers a comprehensive degree in Forensic Science.

Sanjeev Verma is an international education counsellor