Due to popular TV shows such as CSI, NCIS and Dexter, the forensic science industry has gotten a lot of attention. Many curious and observant problem solvers are attracted to forensic chemistry as it involves the analysis of physical crime evidence and allows students to deal directly with the very puzzle pieces that come together to solve a case.
In forensic chemistry, students learn the skills to identify chemical and biochemical processes to determine culpability of a potential suspect in a crime. Because it requires such an expert level of forensic knowledge, it is important to choose the best possible training ground to learn all of these specialized skills. When selecting your forensic chemistry degree program, you should consider cost, location and notoriety as key factors in your decision.
University at Albany-SUNY As the number 2-ranked Criminology University in the United States, this is one of the most prestigious places to get a degree in Forensic Chemistry. U.S. News and World Report ranks this school very highly, based on the educational opportunities provided at the school, combined with the pedagogy and facilities for learning. This school offers a Bachelors degree in Forensic Chemistry, a Masters in Forensic Chemistry and a Ph.D. in Analytical/Forensic Chemistry. Like many other forensic chemistry programs, the SUNY degree program hinges on classes like Organic Chemistry, Chemical Analysis and Criminal Law. What really sets the University of Albany-SUNY program apart, however, is it’s close working relationship with the New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center. This allows students to have unparalleled hands-on experience with forensic chemistry in the field.
University of Florida – Gainesville For the last 10 years, UF has continually been ranked as one of the best and most comprehensive forensic science colleges in the nation. In 2009, it was ranked twelfth best Criminology College in the nation, outshining George Mason University and Washington State University. Currently, it offers two levels of education in forensic college: a B.S. degree in Chemistry in conjunction with a Forensic Science certificate and a Ph.D. in Chemistry and Biochemistry with a Forensic emphasis. UF also is home to the Maples Center for Forensic Medicine, which includes the C.A. Pound Human Identification Laboratory and Forensic Toxicology Laboratory. Access to these top facilities is one of the key reasons why students in the UF programs are often more prepared than students at other universities.
Penn State Typically, one of the most revered schools when it comes to distance learning, Penn State is also known for their excellent Forensic Science programs. Ranked as the fifth best program in the nation by U.S. News and World Report, this school boasts excellent professors and cutting-edge facilities. Currently, it offers a Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science with a Biology of Chemistry emphasis.
Texas A&M University One of the most prestigious universities in the U.S., Texas A&M is an excellent choice for pursuing Forensic Chemistry. Graduates from this program often easily find jobs in the Texas governmental labs include the South Central DEA and Armstrong Forensic Laboratory. In addition to being a notable college with an excellent Forensic Chemistry program, the tuition costs range from between $6,000 and $21,000 per year, which is a relatively good price for a full 4-year degree. Currently, this college offers a B.S. in Forensic and Investigative Sciences.
Michigan State University Michigan State University offers an affordable and excellent education for students interested in getting a masters degree in Forensic Chemistry. As one of the oldest Forensic Science programs (created in 1946), it continually attracts the most revered professors in the field. U.S. News and World Report ranked it seventh among all criminology colleges in the nation, and ranked MSU as 34th overall in public universities. Students benefit from the collaboration of the university with the Michigan State Police Forensic Science Division lab. MSU currently only offers a master’s degree in Forensic Chemistry, but the cost of attending the school is only $13,211 for in-state tuition, which makes it a very accessible option.
University of Illinois – Chicago Often listed as one of the top 100 schools to attend, the University of Illinois has a good combination of price and hands-on learning that is excellent for students interested in a Forensic Chemistry degree. At $10,000 per year, it is one of the most cost-effective schools on the top 15 list. While UI-Chicago only offers Forensic Chemistry as a master’s degree specialty, there are lots of opportunities for students to gain direct experience. Students in this program have worked with The IRS Forensic Chemistry Center, the McCrone Research Institute and the Illinois State Police Forensic Science Command.
Towson University The Towson University program is known for being a rigorous program that is very student-centered. Many graduates have gone on to get jobs at such places as John Hopkins University, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute and local and state Police Departments. Currently, this school offers a Bachelor of Science Degree in Forensic Chemistry and a Master’s in Forensic Chemistry.
George Washington University Consistently in the top 100 national universities, George Washington University is one of the more prestigious private colleges for Forensic Chemistry. Because it is located in Washington, D.C., students in the Forensic Chemistry program have an amazing ability to have hands-on experiences with some of the largest governmental forensic departments. Currently, a M.S. in Forensic Chemistry is offered at GWU, as well as several graduate certificate programs.
Sam Houston State University As one of the top 25 Forensic Science schools in the U.S., Sam Houston State University has low costs and great opportunities for students. Tuition ranges from between $9,500 and $20,000 per year. Students in this program actually receive a B.S. in Forensic Chemistry, with a minor in Criminal Justice. Although this is a slight distinction, it offers the students a much more comprehensive understanding of the legal aspects of Forensics, which prepares them for a broader spectrum of post-graduation jobs.
Lake Superior State University Ranked as one of the top 70 regional universities, Lake Superior State University is a good option for students who like small class sizes and may have had struggles with previous educational experiences. This college accepts almost 90% of applicants, and has a population of only 2,500 students. Still, it is a very supportive environment, providing Forensic Chemistry bachelor’s students with internships and real-life experiences with local and state governmental agencies.
St. Edward’s University U.S. News and World Report ranks St. Edwards as in the top 20 regional universities, mostly because of its high academic caliber and small class sizes. It is slightly more expensive, as a private university, but students gaining a B.S. in Forensic Chemistry from St. Edwards have some of the best research and internship opportunities in the nation. Students in this program also have access to the Welch Foundation undergraduate research scholarship, which pays for 6-weeks of Forensic-Chemistry related research.
University of Mississippi As one of the oldest universities in America, Ole’ Miss has a tradition of excellence that is hard to beat. Currently, the University of Mississippi only offers a B.S. in Forensic Chemistry. One of their key differences, however, is that all students of the program are enrolled in a summer internship with a local criminal laboratory. Because of this hands-on experience, over 70% of graduates from this forensic chemistry bachelor’s degree program find employment right away, many of them working in local and federal crime labs.
Loyola University – New Orleans Along with the prestigious Loyola name, this school boasts a high academic record and some of the best professors in the field of Forensic Chemistry. Ranked in the top 10 regional universities by U.S. News and World Report, Loyola has been creating professional forensic specialists since 1999. Prior students have gone on to work for the New Orleans Police Department and Quest Diagnostics. Although it has a private-school price tag of $33,000, this college provides rigorous hands-on training and excellent job support post-graduation.
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Notoriety among professionals and peers: Many of our choices were based on the comprehensive survey done by the U.S. News and World Report, which was taken from surveys of Ph.D. students and professors regarding the best and most notable schools.
Cost: Cost was taken into consideration in many instances, especially where a low-cost school would also result in a higher-level education.
Opportunities for Experience: One of the key factors in this list was whether or not there were internship opportunities, hands-on labs that students would work in, and other experiential qualifications.
Barry is Managing Editor of ForensicsColleges.com, operated by educational web publisher Sechel Ventures Partners LLC, which he co-founded. Barry was previously VP for a financial software company, and currently sits on the board of a K-8 school and lives with his wife and daughters in the San Francisco Bay Area.