I want to pursue a career in forensic science. Could you tell me a little about the subject and which colleges are best for this overseas?

Forensic science is the study and use of science and tech to assist and resolve criminal, civil and regulatory issues.

You could prepare yourself for this programme with courses such as physics, biology, chemistry and maths in school. Forensic science technicians would normally have a bachelor’s degree in a natural science, such as chemistry or biology, or in forensic science. They may further specialise in a specific area of study such as toxicology, pathology or DNA. A prudent option that would open you to more jobs would be to pursue natural sciences in college with electives or a master’s in forensic sciences. Remember in this programme the science comes first and forensics second.

Forensic science work could be in laboratories or at the crime scene. The former will require you to analyse DNA samples, perform biological or chemical analysis on evidence collected at the crime scene, study digital media for relevant information or perform specialised tasks. Work on the crime scene involves collecting evidence including fingerprints, taking photographs, recording observations and sketches.

Students wishing to pursue this course should have not only good mathematical and science skills but good communication skills too as they shall be required to keep a record of their observations and testify in court. They should have a penchant for detail, be capable of analytical thinking and possess problem-solving skills.

Forensic science programmes cover various specialised job functions including DNA analyst, ballistics, document examiner, digital and computer investigator, accountant, psychologist and pathologist. For instance a forensic accountant would investigate fraud or embezzlement and analyse financial information for use in legal proceedings; a DNA analyst would be responsible for analysing evidence such as blood, hair follicles, or other bodily fluids.

In the US, Penn State, Syracuse, UC, Davis and Drexel are known for their forensic programmes; with the exception of Penn State the rest offer it only at graduate level. In the UK, universities renowned for this would include Dundee, Keele, Strathclyde and Kent.

Be careful to introspect on your strengths and weaknesses and not be swayed by the glitz and glamour of shows like Bones, Dexter or CSI – the real world is unfortunately far more mundane and less exciting.