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€25k - €80k
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In Brief...

Examines material taken by police from a crime scene using scientific techniques.

Knowledge

  • Law and Government Knowledge of laws, legal codes, court procedures, precedents, government regulations, executive orders, agency rules, and the democratic political process.
  • Public Safety and Security Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
  • English Language Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • Chemistry Knowledge of the chemical composition, structure, and properties of substances and of the chemical processes and transformations that they undergo. This includes uses of chemicals and their interactions, danger signs, production techniques, and disposal methods.
  • Computers and Electronics Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.

Skills

  • Active Listening Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Critical Thinking Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Reading Comprehension Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
  • Speaking Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  • Writing Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.

In Summary - Forensic Scientist

Career Sectors

Forensic Scientists typically work in the following Career Sectors:

Law Enforcement
Security, Defence & Law Enforcement

Videos on the Web

Further Information

The Work - Forensic Scientist

The Forensic Science Laboratory is divided into three sections:  
 
Biology:  
This section deals largely with crimes against the person, examining hairs, fibres, blood and other body fluids in cases such as assault, murder and sexual assault.  
 
Chemistry and Drugs/Toxicology:  
The Chemistry section deals mainly with crimes against property, examining materials such as fingerprints, paint, glass, fire debris, shoeprints, hair, fibres, soil and explosives.  
 
Drugs/Toxicology:  
In the Drugs section, suspected drugs of abuse seized by the Gardai are analysed to see if they are controlled substances. Items that might have come into contact with drugs such as weighing scales, knives to cut up a drug like cannabis resin, or hypodermic syringes used to inject drugs are examined for traces of controlled drugs.  
 
The Forensic scientist takes full responsibility for the scientific work required in a criminal case. This involves analytical laboratory work using quite a wide range of instrumental techniques. The scientist then writes a report on the results for the Gardai and the Director of Public Prosecutions. The scientist would frequently present the work orally to a court and defend that work under legal cross-examination. Some time could also be spent attending at crime scenes and lecturing to Gardai on the work of the laboratory.  
 
This course choice should not be based on the TV programme C.S.I. (Crime Scene Investigation) It has been widely emphasised that C.S.I. portrays a fictionalised view of this profession. Forensic scientists spend a lot more time in the laboratory carrying out experiments than working in the field.

A new information leaflet from Forensic Science Ireland (2017) is aimed at secondary school students who have an interest in a future career in forensic science. It provides a general introduction to forensic science, an overview of the work done in Forensic Science Ireland, and recommendations on the path of study for budding forensic scientists. Download here.

Most commonly reported Work Tasks

  • Keep records and prepare reports detailing findings, investigative methods, and laboratory techniques.
  • Collect evidence from crime scenes, storing it in conditions that preserve its integrity.
  • Testify in court about investigative or analytical methods or findings.
  • Use photographic or video equipment to document evidence or crime scenes.
  • Visit morgues, examine scenes of crimes, or contact other sources to obtain evidence or information to be used in investigations.
  • Reconstruct crime scenes to determine relationships among pieces of evidence.
  • Operate and maintain laboratory equipment and apparatus.
  • Confer with ballistics, fingerprinting, handwriting, documents, electronics, medical, chemical, or metallurgical experts concerning evidence and its interpretation.
  • Prepare solutions, reagents, or sample formulations needed for laboratory work.
  • Train new technicians or other personnel on forensic science techniques.

Most commonly reported Work Activities

  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
  • Documenting/Recording Information Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
  • Getting Information Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
  • Processing Information Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
  • Communicating with Persons Outside Organization Communicating with people outside the organization, representing the organization to customers, the public, government, and other external sources. This information can be exchanged in person, in writing, or by telephone or e-mail.
  • Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
  • Interacting With Computers Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.

Interests - Forensic Scientist

This occupation is typically suited for people with the following Career Interests:

Investigative

The Investigative person will usually find a particular area of science to be of interest. They are inclined toward intellectual and analytical activities and enjoy observation and theory. They may prefer thought to action, and enjoy the challenge of solving problems with sophiscticated technology. These types prefer mentally stimulating environments and often pay close attention to developments in their chosen field.

Realist

Realists are usually interested in 'things' - such as buildings, mechanics, equipment, tools, electronics etc. Their primary focus is dealing with these - as in building, fixing, operating or designing them. Involvement in these areas leads to high manual skills, or a fine aptitude for practical design - as found in the various forms of engineering.

Realists like to find practical solutions to problems using tools, technology and skilled work. Realists usually prefer to be active in their work environment, often do most of their work alone, and enjoy taking decisive action with a minimum amount of discussion and paperwork.

Administrative

Administrative people are interested in work that offers security and a sense of being part of a larger process. They may be at their most productive under supervisors who give clear guidelines and while performing routine tasks in a methodical and reliable way.

They tend to enjoy clerical and most forms of office work, where they perform essential administrative duties. They often form the backbone of large and small organisations alike. They may enjoy being in charge of office filing systems, and using computers and other office equipment to keep things running smoothly. They usually like routine work hours and prefer comfortable indoor workplaces.

Qualities

As a forensic scientist, you must be accurate, methodical and thorough in your investigations. Patience, attention to detail and problem solving skills are very important.  
 
Although you will spend large amounts of time routine testing in laboratories, you must also be prepared to visit disturbing murder scenes, or to identify the drug taken in a fatal overdose.  
 
Good communication skills are very important. In court, you need to be able to explain your findings clearly to lawyers, jurors and the public. You may also be cross-examined.  
 
A Forensic Scientist has a large responsibility for examining substances carefully and accurately and presenting detailed results clearly. They must keep up to date with technical developments.

Entry Requirements - Forensic Scientist

To be a Forensic Scientist, the minimum academic qualification is an honours degree (level 8) in an area such as chemistry, analytical science or an appropriate biological subject such as biochemistry, biology or molecular biology, or an equivalent qualification. 

Most forensic scientists will also have a postgraduate qualification in forensic science, and may also have done further study in a forensic-related subject such as genetics ore advanced analytical methods for example.

A formal qualification in forensic science is not always required as all new staff members will be fully trained on the job. 

In Ireland, all staff employed at  the Forensic Science Labratory (Forensic Science Ireland) are civil servants, therefore, any vacancy must be advertised in the national papers and recruitment is by competitive interview. The Public Appointments Service, places the advertisements and organises the recruitment process. Vacancies are also posted on www.publicjobs.ie.

For the post of Forensic Analyst, the minimum academic qualification is a level 7 qualification in an appropriate Science subject.

Last Updated: April, 2017

Pay & Salary - Forensic Scientist

Salary Range (thousands per year)* €25k - €80k

Data Source(s):
CareersPortal

Last Updated: April, 2017

* The lower figures typically reflect starting salaries. Higher salaries are awarded to those with greater experience and responsibility. Positions in Dublin sometimes command higher salaries.

Labour Market Updates - Forensic Scientist

Useful Contacts - Forensic Scientist

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