Forensic biologists can seek many different types of careers and occupations. The FBI, for instance, has career positions posted on its laboratory website that include those for biologists, DNA biologists, biologist forensic examiners, and biology DNA program specialists.
So what does biology have to do with solving crimes? Forensic biologists provide concrete evidence to confirm or rule out suspicion in criminal cases by studying organisms and cells.
According to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS), organisms such as insects, bacteria, plants, and fungi can indicate what time an event took place or associate a particular person with an object or location. As well, the field of forensic biology includes plants and animals, entomology (insects), genetics, and microbiology.
Forensic biologists provide invaluable skills in the lab and at crime scenes, including biometric analysis, forensic response, forensic science support, and scientific analysis. With so many different careers available, students need to choose an education that appropriately prepares them with scientific knowledge and requires hands-on skills to enter the profession.
Below are 15 standout forensic biology programs that have degree programs available either at the undergraduate or graduate level. ForensicsColleges.com selected these schools for their top-quality facilities, partnerships, and graduates outcomes, and our methodology is detailed below.
|Featured Forensic Biology Programs|
|Arizona State University||Biological Sciences (BS)||Visit Site|
|Arizona State University||Forensic Science (BS)||Visit Site|
|Arizona State University||Forensic Science (PSM)||Visit Site|
|Stevenson University Online||Online Master of Forensic Science (MFS)||Visit Site|
|Stevenson University Online||Online MFS - Biology Concentration||Visit Site|
|Stevenson University Online||Online MFS - Chemistry Concentration||Visit Site|
1. Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts, offers a master of science (MS) degree in biomedical forensic sciences as part of its School of Medicine. The BU program has earned accreditation from the Forensic Education Programs Accreditation Council (FEPAC). It offers students a unique opportunity to learn skills applicable in crime scene analysis and evidence processing. In addition, students at BU have a unique advantage of earning a degree at a major medical center, which means access to high-caliber equipment and facilities.
The BU campus features state-of-the-art lecture halls, seminar rooms, sophisticated computerized teaching labs, and Boston’s largest biomedical research park. In addition, networking opportunities are available throughout the Boston area, which is home to more than 60 universities, top-ranked medical centers, and law enforcement agencies. Students complete an independent research thesis project and publish it in a peer-reviewed academic journal to graduate from this program.
2. Fayetteville State University in Fayetteville, North Carolina, has a 126-credit program leading to a bachelor’s of science (BS) degree in forensic science with a concentration in forensic biology. The forensic curriculum is in-depth and includes classes like cellular biology, principles of biology, and molecular biology. In addition, students in this program benefit from small class sizes (25 or fewer students) and opportunities to evaluate real crime scene evidence and provide mock testimony of their findings to a board of experts.
By senior year, students take forensic microscopy, microbiology/immunology, and population genetics. A capstone project is required in the last semester of the senior year to demonstrate their skills and gain professional experience. Several types of equipment are available to students to help develop their skills, such as a genetic analyzer, a real-time PCR (polymerase chain reaction) system, and centrifuge/spinning systems.
3. Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio, offers a bachelor of science (BS) degree in forensic biology. The program has a two-fold purpose: to provide students with fundamental knowledge in the forensic sciences by offering a core of four forensic biology courses to ensure students have the scientific techniques to analyze physical evidence found at a crime scene.
In addition, students gain real-world experience through participating in 10-week internships to practice lab and critical thinking skills. Students solve cases in a mock crime scene house each spring and work with law enforcement officials in real-world simulations.
Facilities for this program include ten laboratory classrooms, a cadaver dissection laboratory, a physiological measurements laboratory, and 11 independent research laboratories. Students can also network by joining associations like Beta Beta Beta, the Biology Student Association, or the Midwestern Association of Forensic Scientists. Students in this program present their research at regional and national conferences and publish academic papers in peer-reviewed journals.
4. Delaware State University in Dover, Delaware, has a bachelor’s degree in forensic biology that allows students to work closely with professionals and agencies in the field that strongly emphasize practical, hands-on experience.
The program partners with Dover Air Force Base, regional law enforcement agencies, and other institutions to help students explore skills such as analyzing crime scenes, conducting cause-of-death investigations, and writing reports and findings. Students should be prepared to pursue an advanced degree in biology or another field or enter medical school upon completion.
Students in this program learn criminal investigation skills through a blend of didactic and practical learning. Topics covered include performing DNA analysis, analyzing crime scenes, conducting cause-of-death investigations, and writing and presenting laboratory findings. Graduates from this program are prepared for work in local, state, and federal crime labs, medical examination offices, private investigation firms, and graduate-level work in biology or advanced medical degree programs.
5. Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, offers a bachelor’s degree in forensic biology that requires at least 121 credits of coursework for graduation. Undergraduate level classes include cell biology, genetics, human anatomy and physiology, principles of biology, and others. At the upper level, students take courses such as immunology, microbiology, and molecular biology. A senior seminar in biology is part of the degree program and helps to round out student learning.
Students who have at least a 3.0 GPA in the field and a 3.0 GPA overall could be invited to join the national science and mathematics honor society known as Sigma Zeta. Internships and apprenticeships with qualified forensic biologists, mentors, and physicians are a feature of this program which often lead to full-time employment. Graduates from this program work in law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and pharmaceutical or biotech companies.
6. The University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, Oklahoma, offers a bachelor of science (BS) degree in forensic science with a molecular biology concentration. The BS program is offered as part of the university’s Forensic Science Institute and requires at least 42 credits of general education coursework and an additional 36 credits of forensic biology coursework.
Furthermore, students completing this degree must also complete a BS in biology. Upon graduation, students will have satisfied the National DNA Advisory Board Guidelines for education. Finally, all graduates from the forensic science program must complete a capstone project in the final year before graduation. Required courses for the capstone include practicum, internship, individual study, and field wildlife forensic science.
7. Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan, offers a bachelor’s degree in biology with a forensic biology concentration. The program includes courses in genetics, forensic biology, human anatomy and physiology, and microbiology. In addition, students learn how to analyze biological evidence for legal investigations and receive in-depth training in laboratory and field settings.
While completing this program, students learn how to isolate, purify, and amplify DNA and collect and analyze plants, insects, and other biological evidence gathered from a crime scene. Courses include forensic biology, human anatomy and physiology, microbiology, genetics, forensic DNA analysis, and physics and criminal justice.
8. The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, offers a forensic science program in the biological sciences, leading to a bachelor’s degree. This 124-credit program includes 43 to 45 credits that need to be specifically completed in the major. In this program, students take classes that include an introduction to forensic science, forensic analysis laboratory, and fingerprint analysis and techniques. Students also complete three credits of fieldwork that gives them practice with research in a forensic science setting.
Students in this program can earn college credit through internships with law enforcement agencies, the FBI, state crime laboratories, and private forensic laboratories. As well, students can learn from mentor faculty members and their peers via student organizations on-campus.
9. Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, offers a bachelor’s degree in forensic science with a concentration in forensic biology, FEPAC-accredited. Approximately 50 credits of this program are in core classes in forensic science, and 33 credits are in forensic biology. Students in this program can do crime scene investigation and reconstruction; understand the occupation’s ethical and professional duties, and use principles and procedures to apply biology to forensic science.
The degree is well-suited for those who want to pursue a graduate degree or work in forensic biology in a laboratory in the public or private sector. The forensic biology concentration includes many of the courses required for pre-health (such as nursing and clinical laboratory sciences) and pre-professional health programs (such as medicine, pharmacy, and occupational therapy).
10. The University of North Texas (UNT) in Denton, Texas, offers bachelor of science (BS) degrees in biology, biochemistry, and chemistry with a FEPAC-accredited forensic science certificate program.
Although the program is general, its FEPAC-accredited status makes it a good choice for students seeking a forensic program with a strong emphasis on science. This 19-credit certificate program can be completed simultaneously with a bachelor’s degree and includes criminalistics, forensic microscopy, and instrumental analysis courses. In addition, students must complete the forensic science assessment test to complete this certificate program.
An internship is a requirement, and faculty members at UNT help place students in internships based on their academic and career interests. Common internship sites include crime labs, crime scene investigations, forensic anthropology, forensic chemistry labs, and forensic DNA/genetics labs.
11. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona, offers a forensic biology program that leads to a bachelor’s degree and provides students with fundamental laboratory skills and theoretical frameworks that forensic investigators use in the occupation. Extensive hands-on lab experience is part of this 124-credit program.
Thirty-one of these credits are in biology, while 20 are in chemistry, and 19 are in security and intelligence studies and social science. Upon completion, students have many of the requirements needed to continue into medical careers, law school, or the field of forensic biology.
Preparation for the American Board of Criminalistics (ABC) certification exam is a unique feature of this program. Upon graduation, students can opt to earn certification as a certified molecular biologist or chemist. Students in this program learn from experts in four new laboratories to prepare them with the knowledge and technical skills needed for future careers in forensic biology.
12. Western New England University in Springfield, Massachusetts, allows students to pursue a bachelor’s degree in forensic biology that thoroughly integrates research with classroom work. Students take classes in the forensics lab located within the school’s $40 million Center for the Sciences and Pharmacy. Internships and fieldwork partnerships are available with Brigham & Women’s Hospital Morgue, the Connecticut Controlled Substance and Toxicology Lab, the Suffolk Crime Lab, and others. In addition, students can partake in the forensic science club and the Delta Delta Epsilon Forensic Science Honor Society.
Students learn about general biology, cell biology, genetics, organic chemistry, and more as part of their curriculum. In addition, practical labs, independent research, and professional internships are part of the degree, and these academic requirements allow students to practice further and develop forensic science skills and techniques.
13. Michigan State University in East Lansing offers a research-intensive master of forensic science (MS) degree with a forensic biology track that provides students with in-depth laboratory experience. Nearly half of the 38 overall required credits are in or related to biology and entail classes such as DNA profiling, forensic serology, molecular biology, and statistical methods for biologists.
Students further explore the forensic biology field through master’s thesis research and nine elective credits. The school has a DNA Extractions Laboratory, a PCR Laboratory, and a Teaching Laboratory accredited by FEPAC. In addition, domestic and international internships in forensic science laboratories are available.
14. The University at Albany in Albany, New York, provides a 40-credit master’s degree in forensic science investigation and management that gives students an understanding of the theories and techniques behind forensic biology. This program is divided into four components: required courses in forensic science and research; internship in forensic science laboratory; management policy in human resources disciplines; and a final examination in biology, which can be satisfied with the written internship report.
The program is built around a partnership between the school’s Department of Biological Sciences and the New York State Police’s Forensic Investigation Center adjacent to the college campus. Graduates from this program are employed in DNA analyst, serologist, forensic biologist, toxicologist, and police consultant roles. Coursework from this program prepares students for doctoral programs in law or related fields.
15. The George Washington University in Washington D.C. offers a 36-credit master of forensic science (MFS) in forensic molecular biology degree to help prepare students for careers as DNA analysts and technical leaders.
Students take standard core courses that provide them with the practical and theoretical aspects of forensic molecular biology. They learn about DNA extraction, data interpretation, and population genetics as part of the program, with full accreditation through FEPAC. Students also take a one-credit graduate seminar.
Students have access to the 1,100-square-foot Forensic Molecular Biology Laboratory, which includes a scanning electron microscope, digital photography equipment, and comparison microscopes for trace evidence analysis.
Many different characteristics of school programs were considered when deciding what schools to place on this list. Schools that offer students hands-on skills with laboratory classes, seminars, internships, or field study were highly rated. Other factors considered included the facilities at a school, its partnerships, and career placement opportunities.
Schools on this list may have state-of-the-art lab equipment to help with learning. For example, Michigan State University features equipment for doing single nucleotide polymorphism analysis and mitochondrial DNA research in their PCR laboratory.
Many of the schools, such as Delaware State University, have built extensive partnerships into their programs to help students progress with learning and to develop more advanced skills to be prepared to work in the field of forensic biology.
Schools with a stated track record of placing students in jobs or master’s degree programs after graduation were also highly considered for this list. For example, students at Ohio Northern University generally work at places such as the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratories, private forensic testing laboratories or pursue advanced degrees at Clemson University and Ohio State University.
Rachel Drummond is a freelance writer, educator, and yogini from Oregon. She’s taught English to international university students in the United States and Japan for more than a decade and has a master’s degree in education from the University of Oregon. Rachel writes about meditation, yoga, coaching, and more on her blog (Instagram: @racheldrummondyoga).