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Forensic scientist

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Summary of occupation

Forensic scientists use a range of techniques to examine and analyse materials and objects that are believed to be associated with a crime. They attend crime scenes, where they collect evidence, draw sketches and take notes. They analyse physical evidence such as fibres or other materials, and biological evidence such as hair, skin and body fluids. They often undertake biological analysis in order to detect the presence of poisons or drugs. Forensic scientists also write reports on their findings, and may be required to give evidence in court or to provide training to police staff in collecting evidence from crime scenes. Forensic scientists may be enlisted to help solve crimes that have occurred anywhere in Western Australia.

ANZSCO description: Forensic scientists collect, preserve, and analyse scientific evidence, which is used in courts of law as part of criminal and civil investigations.
Alternative names:
Specialisations: Forensic Entymologist
Job prospects: Limited
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

A forensic scientist needs:

  • an interest in solving crimes
  • excellent analytical and interpretive skills
  • an eye for detail
  • good problem-solving skills
  • to be methodical in their work
  • excellent planning and organisation skills.
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Working conditions

Forensic scientists work in the offices and laboratories of government justice departments and law enforcement bodies. They also work out in the field attending crime scenes. They may be exposed to unpleasant or disturbing situations, and may be exposed to bodily fluids, firearms, explosives, or chemical hazards. Forensic scientists travel locally to attend crime scenes or court cases. They usually work regular hours, but may be called to crime scenes at any time of the day or night.

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Salary details

On average, forensic scientists, classified under life scientists, can expect to earn between $1 500 and $1 999 per week ($78 000 and $103 999 per year), depending on the organisation they work for, and their level of experience. As a forensic scientist develops their skills, their earning potential will generally increase.

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Tools and technologies

Forensic scientists use specialised analytical scientific equipment such as microscopes, drug detection kits, UV lights and fingerprinting kits. They also work with computer forensics investigation, analysis and presentation devices, which detect the molecular make-up of sample materials. They usually need to wear gloves and may need to wear other protective clothing such as masks or goggles, depending on the kind of materials they are working with. They also use laboratory instruments such as test tubes, pipettes, and portable meters to measure the pH (acid/alkaline level), conductivity, and dissolved oxygen and ion concentration of samples.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a forensic scientist, you usually need to study a degree in forensic investigation, forensic toxicology and biology or a related area, followed by a postgraduate course in forensic science.

Most universities in Western Australia offer relevant courses. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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