Postgraduate qualification in forensic DNA analysis


Currently in South Africa, there is no specific training course for forensic DNA analysts. An objective of the DNA Project is therefore to develop a group of competent, professional personnel to perform forensic science examinations who will assist the courts of law to ensure crime resolution. To meet this objective, the DNA Project has been working together with the Criminal Justice System Review Task Team and leading academics from around the country to develop a postgraduate qualification aimed at training people with specific skills in forensic DNA analysis.


Rationale for the development of the qualification

The challenges of safety in society are multi-leveled and complex, especially in the forensic science arena. In South Africa, forensic science plays an important role as a scientific instrument that may be used by the law enforcement service to make findings that will assist the courts of law to successfully exonerate the innocent and prosecute the guilty.

The sector of forensic science demands highly skilled and knowledgeable persons who have extensive knowledge of biology as is used within forensic examinations. This theoretical knowledge must also be able to be applied within the practical field of forensic science. As physical evidence collection is of the utmost importance and has an influence on judicial and legal processes, in the field of forensic biology forensic examiners are required to examine exhibit material and make findings for the judicial process. This is because biological evidence may exonerate a person thought to be involved in a crime scene or may place them as being present. This qualification will enable learners to work and function within the forensic biological environment.

A national objective is to develop a competent professional group of personnel to perform forensic science examinations and make findings that will assist the courts of law ensure crime resolution. The qualification will allow the forensic science fraternity to provide a more effective service that will improve community satisfaction and position them to fulfill their mission of creating a safe environment for all who live in South Africa.

Level of qualification

The level of the qualification is targeted at the fourth year post-matric (equivalent to Honors of a three-year Bachelor of Science). The qualification will formalise a learning pathway in the field of forensic DNA analysis, will assist in setting the standard of competence required for entrance into this professional field and provide a vehicle of transformation within the forensic biology sector. Qualifying learners specialising in forensic DNA analysis will be equipped with the underpinning detailed knowledge of DNA typing and analysis required to competently analyse and reconstruct a crime scene, to analyse and interpret forensic findings and to provide forensic evidence in a court of law.

Learning assumed to be in place

Learners applying for entry to the post-graduate qualification should have already completed a B.Sc. or B.Tech. majoring in Genetics, Biochemistry, Microbiology or Molecular Biology. Tertiary institutions that have the necessary teaching facilities and laboratory equipment will offer this qualification.


Tertiary Institutions offering the post-graduate qualification in 2010

The Department of Genetics at the University of the Freestate will offer an Honours programme specializing in forensic DNA analysis in 2010.

Career opportunities for graduates

Qualified learners will be able to apply their skills in a forensic science laboratory in either the public or private sectors. The qualified learner will be able to work as a forensic examiner and operate within a laboratory to analyze forensic evidence in order to determine its evidential value for a specific case. Qualified learners will be able to present specialized forensic evidence in support of the expert evidence in a court of law.