Career Information

Career-in-forensic-logoForensic science is a fascinating and rewarding career where the love of investigative science can be applied to the good of society, public health, and safety. It is an excellent choice for anyone with an enquiring mind, a logical and analytical approach, highly developed observational skills, objectivity and personal integrity, and the confidence to justify their findings when challenged.


Most forensic scientists in Australia and New Zealand are employed by state or territory government laboratories and police services. However, forensic or investigative scientists are also used by private laboratories and insurance companies. Many big companies also use investigative scientists for determining sources of contamination in products or product failures. 



Forensic Science is not a discipline or branch of science but a catch-all for the many distinct disciplines that may be used to help in the determination of a court case, either civil or criminal. 


Forensic Science and TV Crime Shows - Fiction vs Reality

Unlike fictional television characters, forensic scientists are most often confined to a particular discipline and often to a specialty within that discipline. Recent years have seen more work being undertaken at the scene and multi-disciplinary teams being involved in a triage process prior to the analysis of evidence. Generally, a forensic scientist’s evidence is a contributory part of the total evidence presented to the court from a range of other witnesses, including police investigators.


Forensic scientists must be impartial and not advocate for the defence or the prosecution. 

The focus of forensic science should not be the conviction of offenders. Scientific examinations help to eliminate suspects and establish innocence.  Forensic science continues to evolve and through the development of forensic science intelligence, it is now applicable to crime disruption, prevention, and detection. Forensic science also plays a pivotal role in the identification of victims in mass disasters.


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Forensic Science Disciplines

Forensic science is a catch-all for many distinct disciplines that may be used to help in the determination of a court case. Lists of ‘forensic disciplines’ are usually a mixture of scientific fields, tasks, occupations, and services. These disciplines can be arbitrarily divided into four broad groups.

Field Sciences

These include crime scene investigation which incorporates the investigation of crimes against the person and property, fingerprint, and firearm examination.

Forensic Medicine

These include pathology, psychiatry, psychology, forensic medicine, mortuary services, odontology, anthropology, and entomology.

Laboratory Services

These include chemistry, biology, toxicology, illicit drug, document, marks, impressions analysis and computer crime.

Digital Evidence

These include computer forensics, audio video analysis, and speech and face comparison.

More Information

The National Forensic Science Technology Centre (USA) A Simplified Guide to Forensic Science provides an excellent overview of many of the topics associated with forensic science.



Can I Work in Forensics at NIFS? 


NIFS is a small policy organisation and not a forensic service provider, so we do not generally employ science graduates or offer forensic science-based work experience. 

Any expressions of interest should be made directly to Australian forensic science service providers. Joining the Australian and New Zealand Forensic Science Society (ANZFSS) may also provide you with an opportunity to meet potential employers.

What type of Forensics Career do I Want? 


The first question you need to ask yourself is whether you want to pursue a career in forensics as a police officer or, primarily, as a scientist?  

The Police Route

Forensic science positions for police officers are, in the majority, within the crime scene, fingerprints or firearms division. There is often no prerequisite qualification, such as a science degree. The positions are generally for Senior Constables, which can be achieved after a few years in operational duties. Staff are usually expected to complete discipline specific qualifications after commencing. 

The Science Route

To become a forensic scientist it is not always a pre-requisite to have completed a forensic course, although given the competition in the job market, a degree and/or postgraduate award in forensic science is advantageous. Many successful applicants have no specific forensic science training but have a relevant science degree and/or appropriate technical background. Degrees relating to chemistry, biology, life sciences, applied sciences or medical sciences are likely to be the most appropriate, depending on the type of forensic work you want to do. After this, other aspects are considered, such as relevant work experience and personal attributes and skills. 

If you want to specialise in electronic casework (recovering data from computers, mobile phones, and other electronic equipment), you may be accepted with experience and qualifications in computing, electrical engineering, electronics, or physics.

More Information 


Educational courses and further career information relating to forensic science as an occupation can be found at the Australian Government Your Career website


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