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, located in Albany, New York, 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 bachelor of science (BS) degree in forensic chemistry, a master of science (MS) in forensic chemistry and a Ph.D. in analytical/forensic chemistry. Like many other forensic chemistry programs, the Albany degree program hinges on classes like organic chemistry, chemical analysis and criminal law. What really sets the University of Albany program apart, however, is its close working relationship with the New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center, including a mirror-laboratory on campus designed and equipped to mirror the state-of-the-art facilities used by the NY State Police. This allows students to have unparalleled hands-on experience with forensic chemistry in the field.
University of Florida, located in Gainesville, Florida has continually been ranked as one of the best and most comprehensive forensic science colleges in the nation. In 2018, US News & World Report ranked the UF chemistry department in the top 50 schools in the entire nation. Currently, the school offers two levels of education in forensic chemistry: a BS degree in chemistry in conjunction with a forensic science certificate and a PhD 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 well-prepared to enter the working world.
Penn State, located in State College, Pennsylvania, is among the most revered schools when it comes to distance learning as well as its excellent forensic science programs. Penn State boasts excellent professors and cutting-edge facilities. Currently, it offers a BS in forensic science with a biology or chemistry emphasis. With a chemistry department that US News & World Report rated in the top 20 as of 2018, forensic chemistry could be a great choice for students in this forensic science program.
Texas A&M University, located in College Station, Texas, is an excellent choice for pursuing forensic chemistry in Texas, despite the fact that it does not offer a dedicated forensic chemistry major. Rather, graduates from the chemistry program have been able to find jobs in the forensic science field, including Texas governmental labs like the South Central DEA and Armstrong Forensic Laboratory. Students wishing to pursue a forensic science degree will find one in the BS in forensic and investigative sciences program at Texas A&M. The tuition costs for this school range from between $10,210 and $36,962 per year, which is a relatively good price for a full 4-year degree.
Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, 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 in the U.S. (created in 1946), it continually attracts the most revered professors in the field. U.S. News and World Report ranked MSU as 34th overall in public universities, which is no small feat. Students benefit from the collaboration of the university with the Michigan State Police Forensic Science Division lab. MSU currently only offers a master of science (MS) degree in forensic chemistry, but the cost of attending the school is only $14,516 for in-state tuition, which makes it an accessible option.
Buffalo State SUNY, a State University of New York located in Buffalo, offers a FEPAC-accredited bachelor of science (BS) degree in forensic chemistry. The program was first introduced in 1971 and since then has worked to provide a well-rounded curriculum to its students. In the BS program, students will learn chemistry, biology, physics and mathematics from a research perspective while also participating in hands-on learning. Prior to graduation, Buffalo State students must complete an internship in the forensic chemistry field, providing valuable training as well as professional connections.
Towson University, located in Towson, Maryland, has a forensic chemistry program that is known for being both rigorous and 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 of science in forensic science.
George Washington University in Washington, DC is consistently in the top 100 national universities and is one of the more prestigious private colleges for forensic chemistry. Because of its location, 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 master of forensic science (MFS) in forensic chemistry is offered at GWU, as well as several graduate certificate programs.
Sam Houston State University in Hunstville, Texas has been ranked one of the top 25 forensic science schools in the U.S. The university has low costs and great opportunities for students. Tuition for an undergraduate degree at SHSU ranges from between $8,062 to $18,022 per year, depending on whether the applicant is a Texas resident. Students can choose to pursue a BS in forensic chemistry, with or without a minor in criminal justice. The minor option offers the students a much more comprehensive understanding of the legal aspects of forensic science, which prepares them for a broader spectrum of post-graduation jobs.
Lake Superior State University, in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, has been ranked as one of the top 70 regional universities, making it 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 for students in the BS in forensic chemistry program. Students in this program are able to complete valuable internships and real-life experiences with local and state governmental agencies. The LSSU program has been approved by the American Chemical Society.
St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas has been ranked by U.S. News and World Report as a top 20 regional university because of its high academic caliber and small class sizes. It is slightly more expensive, as a private university, but students pursuing a bachelor of science in forensic chemistry from St. Edward’s 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, located in University, Mississippi is one of the oldest universities in America. Ole Miss has a tradition of excellence that is hard to beat. Currently, the University of Mississippi offers a BS in forensic chemistry. One of their key features of the program is that all students 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, located in New Orleans, Louisiana, boasts the prestigious Loyola name as well as 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 $39,942, this college provides rigorous hands-on training and excellent job support post-graduation.
Ohio University, located in Athens, Ohio, offers students the opportunity to pursue a FEPAC-accredited BS in forensic chemistry. Many graduates of the Ohio program go on to add to their education with master’s degrees, PhDs or even MDs. In addition to chemistry courses, students will gain an education in biological sciences, calculus, physics, statistics, and more. Students are able to choose between two specialization tracks: toxicology/trace analyst and DNA analyst.
The University of North Texas in Denton, Texas has a well-regarded forensic science program, including a FEPAC-accredited BS in forensic science. The BS degree program has a specific focus on both chemistry and biology, offering a breadth of opportunity that not all programs do. Students at UNT are able to pursue internships and professional experience with police departments and labs across the state of Texas, which means plenty of opportunities.
Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky, offers a forensic chemistry option as part of its undergraduate chemistry degree. Students at EKU may choose to pursue the forensic option, which provides a foundation of knowledge in both the classroom and the lab, alongside the chemistry option (without the forensic focus) as a double major. Though not required, this choice can provide graduates with more job opportunities at the conclusion of the program.
In order to determine which programs were chosen for this list, the following methodology was applied:
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. Professional recognition is an important factor when looking at academic programs since it can translate to how graduates are perceived when they take their next step, whether that is further academic pursuits or entry-level positions.
Cost: The cost of higher education is always a concern for applicants. Cost was taken into consideration in many instances, especially where a low-cost school could result in an education that was just as well-regarded as a higher-cost program.
Opportunities for Experience: Working in a lab is essential for gaining the necessary skills to continue in the forensic chemistry profession. As such, 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 offered as part of the forensic chemistry program.