Careers in Forensic science

Forensic science is primarily concerned with the application of scientific principles for the investigation of crime. Using the very latest in technology, forensic scientists convert the clues collected from a crime scene into evidence admissible in a court of law. It is the use or application of science in courts or legal proceedings. This is a challenging and interesting field for those who have are inquisitive and loves adventure.

Forensic Science is essentially a crime laboratory-based profession, the course qualifies students to apply their knowledge of science to the investigation of crime. But the expertise of a forensic professional is also used in civil cases for issues like proving the validity of a signature on a will, to a claim of the products liability, to find out whether an industry is complying with environmental rules.

Forensic scientists analyze all physical evidence found on a victim on the scene of a crime and compare it to evidence found on a suspect and provide expert testimony in a court of law. The evidences might include traces of blood, saliva, other body fluids, hair, fingerprints, footwear and tyre impressions, explosives, specimens of tissue for poisons, blood and urine for alcohol etc. Their expertise lies in the determination of facts using these evidences. They have to prepare a report of their investigation and appear in the court to give evidence. They work closely with the police to provide scientific evidence that is admissible in the court.

Forensic science is not a discipline or branch of science, but is a catch-all for many distinct disciplines. It is broadly grouped into three: Medical, laboratory and field science.

Forensic /career/options/forensic/datamedicine is a broad medical subject which includes forensic pathology, psychiatry, psychology, forensic medicine and odontology (dentistry). Laboratory sciences include chemistry, biology, toxicology, ballistics, fingerprints, questioned documents and marks and impressions. Field sciences include crime scene investigation which incorporates areas such as fire and explosion scenes and clandestine drug laboratories.

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Educational: To take up a masters course in forensic science you need to be a graduate preferably with a first division in Physics, chemistry, zoology, botany, biochemistry, microbiology, B.pharm, BDS or applied science.

To become a specialist who conducts post-mortems on dead bodies to find out the cause of death, you must first secure an MBBS degree and then go for an MD in Forensic Science. All Indian Universities that offer MBBS courses also offer an MD in Forensic Science.

For Research : Indian nationals below 30 years and who have obtained 1st class marks in Master's degree in any one of the subjects : Physics / Chemistry / Biochemistry / Anthropology / Zoology / Molecular Biology / Maths (with Physics as one of the subjects at the bachelor degree level) / Biotechnology / Microbiology / Computer Science / Computer Engineering / Forensic Psychology etc. or M.Phil in the same subjects whichever is the essential qualification for the award of Ph.D degree of a recognised Indian University.

Personal attributes: An inquisitive nature and a concern for accuracy is the main attribute required to be in this field. They must have keen observation, intelligence, an eye for detail, ability to work along with a team, a logical, practical and methodical approach. An aptitude for scientific analysis is essential.

Job Prospects and Career Options

Job Prospects

They can find employment with law enforcement agencies, police, legal system and in the investigative services of the government and also private agencies. They can also work as teachers in institutes that conduct courses in this subject.

Opportunities for forensic scientists exist in government organisations such as the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and as investigative officers in the crime cells of state police forces. Forensic experts essentially work in forensic labs and sometimes even in large private detective agencies to establish the link between the criminal and the crime.

Career Options

There are variety of options for forensic professionals. They can specialise in subjects as varied as medicine, engineering, fingerprinting, insect study, languages, geology etc.

Crime Scene Investigation: Scene investigation involves issues such as security, prevention of contamination, locating and collecting relevant items of evidence, interpretation of evidence and possible reconstruction of the event. Scenes can range from a relatively simple house break to a fire in a multi-storey building or a city bombing.

Qualification required: Diploma in Forensic Investigation or Degree in Forensic Investigation or Degree in Analytical Chemistry.

Forensic Pathology/ Medicine: Forensic pathologists determine the time and cause of death in cases of suspected murder or suicide. This involves post mortem examinations of deaths reported to determine the cause and the manner of death. (i.e. sudden and unexpected deaths or deaths due to accident or injury, suicide or homicide).

Qualification required: Medical degree (MBBS) with M.D or appropriate post-graduate qualifications in Forensic Science.

Forensic Anthropology: Forensic anthropologists use their knowledge of human skeletal anatomy to assist in the identification of skeletal remains. They are called to identify individuals murdered or killed in disasters such as plane crashes, explosions, fires and other tragedies resulting in the loss of life and mutilation of bodies. They may also be able to discover the age, sex, ancestry, stature, and unique features of the deceased.

Qualification required: A Ph.D in anthropology with an emphasis on the study of human osteology and anatomy or a Medical degree (MBBS) with appropriate post-graduate qualifications.

Forensic Psychology and Psychiatry: Psychiatry and psychology are concerned with whether a mental state may be a mitigating circumstance in the commission of an alleged crime, whether a person is mentally fit to stand trial and treating those convicted of crimes who are mentally ill. A forensic psychologist is any psychologist who by virtue of training or experience may assist a court or other fact finder in arriving at a just or correct decision.

Forensic psychologists or psychiatrists may be called on to evaluate a murder scene to suggest a possible psychological profile of the killer.

Qualification required: Medical degree (MBBS) with appropriate post-graduate qualifications

Forensic Dentistry (Odontology): It is a branch of dentistry which deals with the collection, evaluation and proper handling of dental evidence in order to assist law enforcement officers and in civil & criminal proceedings. The role of the odontologist is to identify bodies and skeletal remains from dental records, reconstruct faces from skulls and where possible, interpret bite marks.

Qualification required: Degree in Dentistry, Post Graduate Diploma of Forensic Odontology.

Clinical Forensic Medicine: Those involved in clinical forensic medicine amongst other things, examine victims of crime and suspects who may have sustained an injury while allegedly committing a crime. They give interpretations of their findings such as the possible causes and timing of the injuries.

Qualification required: Medical degree (MB BS) with appropriate post-graduate qualifications

Forensic Entomology: Forensic entomology is the application of the study of insects and other arthropods to legal issues. The time of death, for example, can be determined using insect evidence gathered from and around a corpse.

Forensic Serology: Forensic serology is the study of blood groups, blood, and other bodily fluids for identification purposes following a crime. Forensic serologists also carry out DNA fingerprinting, which offers the possibility of positive identification of an individual from samples of blood or semen.

Forensic Chemist: Areas of work includes the detection and identification of illicit drugs, accelerants used in arson cases, explosive and gunshot residues, trace evidence, including paint, glass, polymers and fibres.

Qualification required: Science degree with a major in analytical, applied or forensic chemistry.

Dactyloscopy: Dactyloscopy is the scientific study of fingerprints. Fingerprints is perhaps the most well known of the forensic sciences. It also involves the identification of fingerprints and their ability to categorically link suspects to or exclude suspects from a crime scene.

Forensic linguists: Forensic linguists analyse the content of written or oral communication to identify who is speaking and indicate the speaker's intent, and can determine whether two communications are from the same person. This is obviously important in cases of kidnapping.

Ballistics: Ballistics is the study of the flight paths of projectiles, but modern ballistics now includes the study of everything to do with firearms. It also involves the determination of the angle and distance a gun was fired from to hit a specific target.

Qualification required: Science degree with a major in a relevant discipline, Diploma in forensic investigation, Degree in forensic investigation.

Toxicology: Toxicology involves the detection and identification of illicit and pharmaceutical drugs and poisons, interpreting toxicity levels and the effects on the functions of the body.

Qualification required: Science degree with a major in chemistry or biochemistry.

Forensic Engineer: Deals with traffic accidents, fire investigations, and a variety of wrongful injury cases. Engineers are involved in failure analysis, accident reconstruction, causes and origins of fires or explosions, quality evaluation of construction or manufacturing etc.

Qualification required: An Engineering degree with post-graduate qualifications in Forensic Engineering.

Photography: A crime scene must be photographed from every angle clearly to show detail, with the emphasis on accurately recording the size and distance of objects.

Forensic artists & sculptors: Forensic artists can draw a likeness of a person based solely on eyewitness accounts. Modern techniques of computer animation are now starting to be used to show evidence or expert testimony to courts. Forensic sculptors can reconstruct faces, usually in modelling clay or on a computer from skulls or other fragments. The expertise may enable the police to find out who a person was when no other clues are available.

Cytology: Bullet cytology is a new subject which makes it possible to determine which part of the body a bullet went through by the tissue which is left on the bullet.

Geology: Forensic geologists can determine such things as where the suspect or victim walked by examining soil samples taken from their shoes or feet


Remuneration for various state forensics departments would be as per government pay scales. The state department salaries begin around Rs. 4000 and increases according to the rank and years of experience. Forensic scientists holing postgraduate qualifications can expect to start with a salary of Rs.6000 - Rs.8000 depending on the nature of the organisation. Private forensic laboratories offer lucrative pay packages to scientists with a few years of experience behind them. A freelancer in the field can charge according to requirements of the individual case.