Society launches Pre Employment Assessment of Competence for Forensic graduates

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Today the Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences launched a “Pre Employment Assessment of Competence” for graduate students. All for the cost of £320 for a certificate.


This is a new venture for the Chartered Society of Forensic Science (CSoFS).  According to their website the “Pre Employment Assessment of Competence” (PEAC) has been launched to allow students to get their CVs to the top of the pile ‘and increase their chances of getting an interview’.  The students will undertake a day of assessed tests and some practical exercises and four weeks later will be told if their are competent or not. The premise is that students get an academic qualification at University whilst this one day course (or two if you wish to get crime scene and laboratory competence) will show employers how the student is capable in a practical sense. This is apparently following discussions with forensic science providers who:

“have told us that recent graduates, who are able to demonstrate they have the core skills the employers are looking for, will be selected for interview over those who can only demonstrate they have the appropriate education minimums.”

Of course, this does come at a cost.  You must be a member of the CSoFS to take part and then pay for the day of aptitude testing on top, to a combined total of £320 (including CSoFS basic membership until October 2015) or £300 per day for members.  From what I can see the tests will be conducted at some of the CSoFS accredited Universities.


These skills being tested are not those that were identified as being a priority for FS graduates in a Higher Education Academy (HEA) published study in 2013. This study, “Addressing the Employability Needs of Forensic Science Graduates” identified the key skills being asked for in FS job advertisements and also conducted interviews with ‘key employers in the sector’.  The most highly sought skills, after above the requisite degree, were: communication, teamwork, interpersonal skills, organisation and leadership (top 5, full list in the paper). According to the research it was “found that across both small and larger organisations employers were more likely to prioritise transferable skills over technical ones“.  There are no names of employers mentioned in the CSoFS documents, so who are these forensic employers that want this and is this a real need?

So what does this mean for the Accredited Degrees? Are they now worthless? Well, students have been told (including on Radio 4’s Today programme by the CSoFS), that the only way to get a quality degree (and hence a job in FS) is through the accredited programme.  The Universities have aligned their courses with the expected content described by the CSoFS. But, to get the PEAC you do not need to have done an accredited degree, therefore will your CV jump to the top of the pile over someone who has an accredited degree yet no PEAC?

Also, if the skills being tested in the PEAC are those are deemed to be the necessary skills required by graduates then why are they not included in the degree accreditation?  The PEAC could then be used by students on non-accredited courses to prove they have the same aptitude as those on the accredited courses.

Most of all I really feel for the students.  They are already paying £9000 for an undergraduate degree and now they are being asked to fork out for this new certificate too, which may or may not enhance their employability.

I would strongly recommend students not to undertake this if they asked me. Unless the CSoFS can show that the main employers in the area (eg LGC) are going to be putting there name behind the scheme and making it very clear it is money well spent. The certificate offers no guarantee of employment and will be useless after a year or two anyway.

I have previously blogged in support of the forensic science degree – I still hold by those comments and think it is a worthwhile degree, click this link to see why.


I’d be interested to hear view on this – a great idea for aspiring forensic types or an unnecessary additional cost for graduates with no additional guarantee of a job?


Thanks to Tiernan Coyle ( for pointing out the scheme to me).  I must add a note here to say I work for a University that is not accredited, I have been through the paper work for accreditation and I am very confident our degree measures up against the criteria (I have completed the mapping of content to our modules). Our course also gets good comments from external examiners and the employers comment on our graduates positive attributes.

Thanks for reading. 

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About Dr Tom Bassindale

Dr Tom Bassindale is a forensic scientist, and the founder of We Are Forensic. He is currently the subject lead for chemistry and forensic science at Sheffield Hallam University. He's managed hundreds of forensic toxicology cases, and is an experienced court witness. He has specialist expertise in forensic toxicology and drug testing in sport. And yes... he watches CSI.