Career opportunities vary depending on the area of specialisation within the forensic discipline. The qualifications and requirements for each job differ greatly. There opportunities within the government, private and educational sectors. Below is some information about careers in forensic science in South Africa.
Forensic Pathology Services:FPS was formally established in 2006 and falls under the Department of Health. Their mandate is the medicolegal investigation of unnatural death.
Forensic PathologistThe role of the Forensic Pathologist is to determine cause of death, and this professional position requires an MBChB, M(Med) and FFor (Path) in addition to being registered with the HPCSA. As specialists, many Forensic Pathologists around the country are linked to a tertiary academic institution and are also required to fulfil teaching and research duties.
Forensic Pathology OfficerThe Forensic Pathology Officer assists the Forensic Pathologist during autopsies, and is also responsible for attending death scenes, assisting with the identification process and interviewing family members. This role will soon require registration with the HPCSA, and a national Diploma in Forensic Pathology is in the process of being established.
A Forensic Scientist has the role of applying scientific and analytical principles, methods and techniques to examine evidence and assist in the process of a criminal investigation through formulation of affidavits for court. These jobs are largely laboratory-based, which are operated under strict quality control measures and include aspects such as calibration and maintenance of scientific equipment. Generally, a three-year Bachelor of Science degree, or equivalent, is required.
South African Police Service:
SAPS forms part of the Department of Police, and is home to the state’s Forensic Science Laboratories (FSL). There are six units within the FSL, each focusing on a different scientific discipline: Ballistic Unit, Biology Unit, Chemistry Unit, Explosives Unit, Question Document Unit and Scientific Analysis Unit. Within SAPS, there is also a Local Criminal Records Centre (LCRC) which deals mainly with crime scene investigation and evidence on scenes (e.g. bloodstain pattern analysis, fingerprints) as well as a Victim Identification Centre (VIC) who are concerned with the identification of missing persons and unidentified bodies.
Forensic Analyst at FSL
A Forensic Analyst is a scientist whose role is to apply scientific principles, methods and techniques to examine evidence and assist in the process of a criminal investigation. These jobs are largely laboratory-based, which are operated under strict quality control measures and include aspects such as calibration of scientific equipment. Generally, a three-year Bachelor of Science degree, or equivalent, is required.
Crime Scene Investigator
A Crime Scene Investigator is someone who systematically controls and searches scenes where crimes allegedly took place. Their role is to document and collect evidence which can be examined by experts to link people to scenes and to assist in understanding the events that took place.
Other careers in the field include forensic anthropology, forensic odontology, forensic toxicology, laboratory technician, quality control manager or technician, researcher and lecturer/professor. Please note that it is not a complete list and some career options may require additional training.