2020 Best Forensic Science Degrees

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What Are the Goals of Forensic Science?

The examination of physical evidence related to crime is forensic science. Rapid advances in the field make forensic careers challenging and professionally fulfilling.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 14% growth rate for jobs in the forensic science field from 2018-2028, which is higher than the average 5% growth rate projected for all occupations. Entry-level positions typically require a bachelor’s degree in forensic science or a closely related field. There are several ways to advance your career as a forensic scientist, including earning a graduate degree or an industry-recognized certification in an area like toxicology or latent fingerprint analysis.

Rapid advances in the field make careers in forensic science challenging yet professionally fulfilling. Read on to learn more about the requirements for a forensic science degree, accreditation, and career and salary outlook.

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FAQ

How does forensic science help solve crimes?

Forensic science provides a framework that allows trained scientists and crime experts to analyze evidence gathered at a crime scene. This framework can help those experts find the criminal or eliminate suspects.

Do you need a bachelor’s degree to be a forensic technician?

Most entry-level jobs in forensic science require at least a bachelor’s degree. Many undergraduate forensic science programs also include an internship or practicum.

Can forensic science be a pre-med degree?

Yes. A forensic science degree from an accredited institution meets basic requirements for pre-med degrees. A master’s in forensic psychology may also be worth your consideration.

Is forensic science criminology?

Although they are closely related, forensic science and criminology are two different fields. Forensic science focuses on evidence, while criminology refers to the study of criminal behavior.

Top 10 Best Forensic Science Degrees in 2020

Rank School Location
1 Mercyhurst University Erie, PA
2 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL
3 Texas A & M University-College Station College Station, TX
4 Pennsylvania State University University Park, PA
5 University of Nebraska-Lincoln Lincoln, NE
6 Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis Indianapolis, IN
7 Cedarville University Cedarville, OH
8 Loyola University Chicago Chicago, IL
9 Ohio Northern University Ada, OH
10 Madonna University Livonia, MI

Accreditation for a Bachelor’s in Forensic Science

Higher education accreditation in the United States refers to the voluntary process of self-evaluation and peer-evaluation that determines the quality of a school’s academic offerings and the sustainability of its operations and finances. The U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation oversee the accreditation process to make sure accreditors hold schools and programs to the highest recognized educational standards.

Regional accrediting agencies focus on nonprofit, degree-granting colleges and universities, while national accrediting agencies often evaluate vocational, career-focused schools.

Some accreditors focus on specific programs rather than entire schools. In the field of forensic science, the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) is the main accrediting agency. FEPAC only accredits programs offered by colleges and universities that already hold regional accreditation.

2020 Best Forensic Science Degrees

The schools included in the list below offer some of the best programs in the field. Explore each program to discover which one can best help you reach your educational and career objectives.

See our rankings methodology page.

  1. Mercyhurst University
    Location

    Erie, PA

    Founded in 1926, Mercyhurst University serves more than 3,400 students through over 70 programs. The university offers 60 undergraduate programs, including a forensic science degree. Developed in 2002, Mercyhurst's BS in forensic science offers concentrations in criminalistics, forensic anthropology, and forensic chemistry. The program provides students with training in the latest technologies and scientific methods used in the field, along with a series of hands-on fieldwork opportunities.

    At Mercyhurst, classes typically run throughout eight-week or full-semester sessions in the fall and spring. For admission, applicants usually need a high school diploma with a minimum GPA of 2.5. Transfer applicants with a minimum GPA of 2.0 may receive transfer credit and admission. To graduate, students need to maintain a cumulative 2.75 GPA.

  2. University of Central Florida
    Location

    Orlando, FL

    Founded in 1963, the University of Central Florida offers more than 220 programs across its 13 colleges. UCF's College of Sciences offers 15 undergraduate degrees, including a forensic science degree with biochemistry and chemistry tracks. Both tracks require 124 credits, including general education, common program prerequisites, electives, core requirements, and a capstone course. Learners also complete an internship during their final semester.

    At UCF, classes run throughout the fall, spring, and summer. Students typically graduate within four years. For admission, applicants need a high school or GED diploma and must submit ACT or SAT scores. Transfer applicants receive credit on a case-by-case basis. To graduate, students must maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.5.

  3. Texas A & M University-College Station
    Location

    College Station, TX

    Founded in 1876, Texas A&M University is the Lone Star State's oldest public university. The university offers more than 130 undergraduate programs, including a BS in forensic and investigative sciences. The program offers science and pre-law emphasis areas. In both areas, core courses include forensic entomology, latent print processing, and forensic soil science.

    In addition to theoretical training, forensic science students perform research and complete an internship. The curriculum consists of 120 credits. Transfer applicants with a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 can receive up to 65 credits via transfer. The program's science emphasis area is accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission.

  4. Pennsylvania State University
    Location

    University Park, PA

    At Pennsylvania State University, undergraduate students have access to more than 275 bachelor's programs across 24 campuses. Penn State offers a forensic science degree with two tracks: biology and chemistry. The BS in forensic science requires 124-126 credits overall, including 97-99 major credits. Core courses include organic chemistry, courtroom proceedings, and bioethics. Learners typically take courses in the fall and spring and graduate within four years.

    At Penn State, forensic science majors enjoy a variety of research and internship opportunities. They can also join forensic science student organizations. For admission, applicants need a high school or GED diploma. They may also need to submit ACT or SAT scores. To declare the forensic science major, applicants need a cumulative GPA of 2.0 and must have completed several prerequisite courses. To graduate, students need to maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 2.0.

  5. University of Nebraska-Lincoln
    Location

    Lincoln, NE

    Established in 1869, University of Nebraska Lincoln is the oldest university in the Cornhusker State and the flagship institution of the University of Nebraska system. The university offers more than 150 undergraduate programs, including a BS in forensic science. Nebraska's forensic science degree offers specializations in areas like crime scene investigation, forensic biology, pre-law, and forensic chemistry.

    Students in the program typically take courses throughout eight-week terms and graduate within four years. The curriculum includes optional internship and fieldwork opportunities. For admission, applicants typically need a high school diploma with a minimum GPA of 3.0 or the GED equivalent. Transfer applicants may receive up to 90 credits. To graduate, students need to maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0.

  6. Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis
    Location

    Indianapolis, IN

    Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis offered its first class in 1891. Since then, IUPUI has grown to more than 17 schools and over 450 programs. In the university's BS in forensic and investigative sciences, learners can focus on biology or chemistry. Both tracks require 120 credits, including 75 major credits. In the major, students take required courses in forensic science, biology, chemistry, statistics, and advanced science.

    At IUPUI, programs start in the fall or spring, and learners often graduate within four years. All students in the forensic science program participate in research and an internship. Both tracks feature a senior capstone course. For admission, applicants need a high school diploma with a minimum GPA of 3.0 or the GED equivalent. They must also submit ACT or SAT scores. IUPUI evaluates transfer credit on a case-by-case basis.

  7. Cedarville University
    Location

    Cedarville, OH

    Founded in 1887, Cedarville University offers more than 150 programs with a Christian perspective to nearly 4,000 undergraduate students. In the university's BS in forensic sciences, students complete 128 credits, including 90 credits of required science courses. The curriculum breaks down into a science and math core, criminal justice courses, and electives. Students typically complete their forensic science degrees in four years, with courses running through the fall, spring, and summer.

    One of the best forensic science programs, the program gives learners hands-on experience through internships and laboratory work. Cedarville also offers a master's degree pathway that prepares students for an MBA after graduation. For admission, applicants need a high school or GED diploma plus ACT or SAT scores. They also need to demonstrate that they are practicing Christians. Cedarville evaluates transfer credit on a case-by-case basis.

  8. Loyola University Chicago
    Location

    Chicago, IL

    Loyola University Chicago was founded in 1870 and now serves more than 17,000 students. Loyola offers more than 80 undergraduate majors, including a BS in forensic science. In this program, students choose from forensic chemistry and forensic biology and DNA tracks. During Loyola's forensic science degree, students complete 120 credits, including 88 major credits, with courses dedicated to laboratory science, criminal justice, the specialization, electives, and a capstone.

    As part of the capstone requirement, learners complete an internship and a research assignment. Programs typically start in the fall, and students take courses in the fall and spring, usually graduating within four years. For admission, applicants need a high school or GED diploma and must submit ACT or SAT scores. Loyola's forensic science degree is accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission.

  9. Ohio Northern University
    Location

    Ada, OH

    Founded in 1871, Ohio Northern University offers more than 60 programs across its five colleges. Students in the BS in forensic biology complete 120 credits, taking courses in organic chemistry, presentational speaking, and forensic computer analysis. ONU also offers students several hands-on experiences, including a 10-week internship, summer undergraduate research experiences, and access to the Crime Scene House, which offers practice via simulations and mock crimes.

    At ONU, the forensic science degree begins in the fall or spring. While most students take classes in these two semesters and graduate within four years, summer classes may be available. For admission, applicants need a high school or GED diploma plus ACT or SAT scores. Transfer applicants can receive transfer credit on a case-by-case basis. Students in the program enjoy access to the library, academic support, and career services.

  10. Madonna University
    Location

    Livonia, MI

    Founded in 1937, Madonna University offers over 100 programs to its nearly 2,500 undergraduate students, including a 120-credit BS in forensic science. The program includes 32 credits of pre-forensic science courses, 30 credits of support courses, and up to 32 major credits. Students also participate in an internship and laboratory experiences. In addition to the degree, MU offers a variety of industry and completion certifications.

    For general admission, MU prefers applicants with a high school diploma with a minimum GPA of 2.8. All prospective students must submit ACT or SAT scores. For admission into the forensic science major, applicants need a minimum GPA of 2.75. Transfer applicants with more than 60 credits need a minimum GPA of 2.8 for admission. Before graduating, students need to complete the Forensic Science Aptitude Test. MU's forensic science degree is accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission.

Forensic Science Specializations

Forensic science professionals often work as crime scene investigators or crime lab specialists. Crime scene investigators gather the evidence that crime lab specialists analyze. Crime lab specialists are often experts in chemistry, biology, or physics. They perform experiments to help police reconstruct what happened during a crime and lead them to the person who committed the crime.

Forensic science offers several specializations. For example, digital forensics builds on a student’s computer knowledge and programming abilities. Forensic science degrees can also prepare graduates for careers as blood splatter experts and toxicology and ballistics specialists.

Career and Salary Outlook for Forensic Science

According to BLS data, local and state governments are the largest employers for forensic science professionals, hiring 8,790 and 4,330 forensic experts, respectively. Forensic scientists can also assist with non-criminal investigations involving civil legal liability and industrial violations. As such, medical and diagnostic laboratories and architectural and engineering services also employ a significant number of forensic science professionals.

The following states hire the most forensic science technicians:

  1. California (2,050)
  2. Florida (1,420)
  3. Texas (1,100)
  4. New York (720)
  5. Arizona (720)

The following states pay the highest salaries to forensic science technicians:

  1. California ($82,650)
  2. Illinois ($79,630
  3. Nevada ($76,160)
  4. Massachusetts ($75,570)
  5. Connecticut ($74,560)
Bottom 10% Annual SalaryMedian Annual SalaryTop 10% Annual Salary
Less than $34,600$59,150More than $97,200

Source: BLS

Courses in Forensic Science

Although specific courses vary, many accredited forensic science programs offer similar curricula to meet industry standards. The courses below represent a sample curriculum offered by a typical forensic science program.

Crime Scene Investigation

This course teaches learners the various methods and techniques of gathering evidence used during a crime scene investigation. Students learn how to identify, document, and preserve different types of evidence. Students also learn how to reconstruct crime scenes based on collected evidence.

Forensic Biology

Students learn how to process evidence with multiple biological markers. They learn how to analyze and interpret physical evidence and provide a thorough scientific and objective insight. This course also teaches learners how to develop accurate DNA profiles and trains them to deliver accurate, bias-free, and evidence-based reports.

Forensic Science Internship

A forensic science internship gives students the chance to apply classroom principles in a real-world setting. Students participate in experiments and perform relevant tasks under the supervision of a forensic science professional.

Instrumental Methods with Laboratory

In this course, students learn several instrumental methods, including infrared and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, gas and liquid chromatography, and mass spectrometry. This course familiarizes students with existing forensic technology as well as emerging techniques and procedures that can help them process evidence more accurately.

Introduction to Forensic Science

This course gives students an overview of the different disciplines that make up forensic science. They learn how to apply scientific principles from chemistry, biology, physics, and other fields to interpret data and evaluate its relevance to an ongoing investigation.

Scholarships for Forensic Science

To meet the increasing demand for well-trained forensic experts, several national and regional organizations offer scholarship programs to support students pursuing a forensic science degree.

The American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors Scholarship Program

Who Can Apply: This program considers applications from undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a degree in forensic science, forensic chemistry, or a physical or natural science. The program gives preference to students enrolled in a program accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission.
Amount: $1,000

The Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners Scholarship Program

Who Can Apply: The AFTE accepts applications from both undergraduate and graduate forensic science students. Undergraduate applicants must be at least in their third year of an accredited program with a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Amount: $2,000

Floyd E. McDonald Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Administered by the Southwestern Association of Forensic Scientists, this program welcomes applications from third-year students pursuing a degree in chemistry, biology, or natural science. Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Amount: $1,000

George H. Robinson Memorial Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Students pursuing a degree in forensic science or criminal justice can apply for this scholarship program. Applicants must be in their sophomore, junior, or senior year with a GPA of 2.5 or better.
Amount: $1,000

George W. Chin Memorial Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Administered by the Northeastern Association of Forensic Scientists, this program welcomes applications from juniors and seniors enrolled in a forensic science program offered at a university in a member state.
Amount: $2,000

Graduate Degrees in Forensic Science

The best forensic science programs prepare graduates for immediate employment. These programs also provide an excellent foundation for further studies. Several colleges and universities now offer master’s and Ph.D. degrees in forensic science.

Many professionals pursue graduate studies to keep up with the developments in the field or advance their careers. Forensic specialists with a doctoral degree are qualified to teach courses in their area of expertise at accredited colleges and universities throughout the country.

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