Forensic Science
Bharti M Borah, 18 Jun 2014

WHO was the world’s first known forensic scientist? History says it is Archimedes. A new crown had been made for King Hiero II. Had the goldsmith added some silver or was it solid gold? Who could solve this mystery without dissolving the crown? 

It was Archimedes who solved it. He had noticed that water rising whenever he stepped into a bathtub.  He solved the problem based on volume of the crown and the amount of displaced water. 

But it was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation of Sherlock Holmes in the late nineteenth century that popularised the usage of science in solving crimes. It is the scene of the crime that often leads to the culprit.  Enter the forensic scientist; it’s his job to collect evidences at the crime scene.

Though the field has existed for years yet, it is still not a career option for many despite being exposed to a TV series like CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) and plethora of detective stories.

But, have you ever thought of exploring the field as a career?  Riddhi N. Parekh had the opportunity to participate in ‘Awareness week’ at her college during graduation.  She was inspired to enter the world of Forensics for PG studies.

“It is challenging, the non-availability of crime scenes as part of study, being the only sad part,” expresses Riddhi, a second-year student of MSc Forensic Science.  But this didn’t stop her from showing up at the scene of a robbery committed near her house, where she helped collect firsthand forensic evidence.

Relevance in real life
Forensic science applies scientific knowledge to aid in the administration of justice, and has no boundaries as far as subjects are concerned; it uses all faculties of science like Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Medicine. “There is hardly anything that can’t be resolved through forensics, starting from a petty theft to paternity disputes in a social sense,” says Dr. M.S. Dahiya, Director, Institute of Forensic Science, GFSU.


Main areas and functions

Forensic pathologist - Conduct post-mortems to find out the cause, time and  manner of death

Crime Laboratory Analyst – Work in the lab in areas like microanalysis, DNA testing etc

Forensic Engineer – Deal  with cases of traffic accidents, fire investigations and wrongful injury cases

Forensic architects - Design mortuaries and forensic science institutes

Forensic veterinary surgeon - Conduct autopsies on animals and help investigate mysterious animal deaths

Wildlife forensic specialist - Detect illegal traffic/trade in elephant tusks, lion and tiger skins,

Forensic psychiatrist - Integrate clinical experience, knowledge of medicine, mental health, and the neurosciences

Forensic toxicologist - Examine adverse effects of chemicals on living organisms

Forensic Odontologist – Use  knowledge of teeth/oral structures to explain death associated with crimes like sexual assault

Forensic serologist - Look at physical evidence submitted in criminal cases such as homicides, sexual assaults, burglaries, robberies

The field is divided into three categories:
Forensic medicine includes forensic pathology, psychiatry, psychology, forensic medicine and odontology (dentistry).

Laboratory sciences comprise chemistry, biology, toxicology, ballistics, fingerprints, questioned documents and impressions.

Field sciences include crime scene investigation including fire and explosion scenes and drug laboratories. 

There’s nothing casual about this field and one must be very attentive during studies and during the investigations.  Here’s why. “At a crime scene you have only one chance to collect evidence and lead the investigation. Even a single mistake on your part may be responsible for justice being denied,” warns Dr. Kewel Krishan, Senior Assistant professor, Dept of Anthropology, Panjab University, Chandigarh.


What to study
Institutes in India offer courses in forensic science at the undergraduate, postgraduate, diploma and certificate levels.  You can do some short-term courses as well (view table for list of programmes). Clearing All India entrance exams is mandatory to get entry into a course. The eligibility for a BSc Forensic Science is 10+2 in science.

You need a strong science background, and being good in Maths is an unsaid prerequisite. You need a BSc in any discipline to pursue a two-year MSc in Forensic Science. Punjabi University, Patiala offers a two-year MSc (Forensic Science) with specialisation in forensic biology, forensic serology, forensic chemistry and forensic toxicology. Dr. Hari Singh Gour University, Sagar has MSc. (Forensic Science) as well as a PhD (view list of related options in the table).

You can apply for PG Diploma courses in Forensic Science or Criminology as a graduate. Usually one-year programmes also accept non-science students. The Faculty of Science, Department of Anthropology at the University of Delhi offers a one-year PG Certificate course in Forensic Science (view listing of universities abroad in table).

An MPhil or PhD in Forensic Science is also a path several take, instead of finding a job.  “I want to become a Forensic Wildlife scientist. So, a PhD is next,” says Rushabh P. Shah, an MSc Forensic Science student of GFSU. Those who have secured 60% in postgraduation can pursue research. The Bureau of Police Research and Development offers a fellowship (view Box for details).  

Scope in India
Though Forensic Toxicology, Forensic Biology and Crime Scene Investigation have always had scope, India is actively moving forward in this field, and keeping up with the technological changes across the world. The Gujarat Forensic Science University was set up exclusively to offer super-specialised post graduate degree courses to address this very need. 

Forensic Speech Science deals with recording, analysing voice samples using spectrogram, a machine to help identify the speaker. Voice recordings are permissible as evidence in the court of law in anti-corruption and other criminal offences, something you would already know if you’ve been keeping up with the news. The All India Institute of Speech and Hearing (AIISH), Mysore offers courses in Forensic Speech Sciences Forensic accounting is another option, which involves the detection and prevention of financial fraud. Students get exposure to the field by writing research papers as part of their course.

Fellowships on offer

Areas: A range of fields in criminology

No, duration:6 Nos for  period of 3 years.

Eligibility: MSc, must have passed UGC- conducted CSIR exam and be registered or in  the process of registering for a PhD course


Aptitude and skills for a career
“Technical skill can be developed through the curriculum. But intelligence and aptitude to solving a crime by viewing it from various angles cannot be taught,” believes Dahiya. Good academic skills with thorough knowledge of various fields of science, is necessary.

The field also demands an eye for detail, strong analytical skills and keen observation. The ability to work with     experts from other fields like Psychology, Social Science and Statistics is a must. And one must be comfortable working indoors and outdoors.

Job opportunities
These largely depend on one’s area of specialisation. Graduates can work in government and private agencies, hospitals and laboratories. Some corporates hire graduates as document experts. Other areas include anti-terrorist operations, mass disaster management, cyber crime investigation, protection of human rights, environment, consumer and intellectual property rights. 

Students find entry into other vocations such as civil services, banks, police, pharmaceutical industry, the paint industry, clinical research, biotechnology and software, too. A student starting out as a lab assistant or technician can expect to get Rs. 20,000 to Rs 25,000 per month initially.

Academics is another avenue where one can teach at a college or university, and earn a minimum of Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 30,000 per month. Forensic Science Laboratories (FSL) across India hires forensic scientists. FSL Bangalore recently recruited 60 scientific assistants, half of them women, who started with Rs. 7,000 as basic salary. However, we advice you not to merely look at these figures but consider all career growth possibilities. Also, salaries vary drastically across sectors.

For instance, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Police departments would offer a higher pay. CBI’s forensic laboratory in Delhi recruits candidates through the Union Public Service Commission exams. Private agencies are another place to start. If you choose to freelance, you need a certification by the state forensics department to practice.

And finally, Dahiya summaries,” Widen your vision. Instead of concentrating on bull’s eye, get a bird’s eye view.” Be open to the world of mystery, science and conquering the unknown.

Leading Colleges in the domain



Programmes offered




Bundelkhand University


BSc, MSc

University of Delhi

New Delhi


Dr. Harisingh Gour University


MSc, PhD

Gujarat Forensic Sciences University



Gujarat University



Institute of Forensic Science


BSc, PG Diploma

National Institute of criminology (NICFS)

New Delhi


Osmania University



Panjab University



Pt. Ravishankar Shukla University


MSc, PhD, PG Diploma

Punjabi University


MSc, PG Diploma

Sam Higginbottom Institute


BSc, MSc, PhD, Diploma

University of Lucknow


PG Diploma

St.Xavier’s Collge


Basic/Advanced certificate

Jitendra Chauhan College of Law



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