The cost of higher education in the U.S. is increasing, and so is student debt. Taking on debt to fund a college education used to be a direct path to social and financial advancement, but the latest studies show that student debt actually might hinder it. The good news is that help is out there for those who need it, and there are more scholarships available than ever before.
Those interested in studying forensic science will be pleased to find a wealth of scholarships to help fund their education. That said, winning an award takes work. It is a time-consuming process to assemble transcripts, records, and recommendations and write essays and personal statements—especially for students in the middle of the most critical years of their education.
Some scholarships may seem small in comparison to overall tuition rates and the amount of work required to apply, but the rewards add up. As all forensic scientists know, sometimes the little things provide the key to what you seek.
Common forensic science award requirements include a strong grade point average, letters of recommendation, and essays. Some ask applicants to have completed part of their undergraduate forensic science programs, while others are open to any year of study. There are also other types of scholarships that have been created for applicants from particular demographics, socioeconomic standing, or regional affiliation.
Here are 15 scholarships to consider in forensic science and investigation.
Established by Congress in 1986, this scholarship honors the legacy of Senator Barry M. Goldwater and his 56 years of service as a soldier and statesman. It is considered the most prestigious undergraduate awards in America for research in the natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering. While forensic science is not an explicitly stated pathway for this award, many related fields are, such as chemistry and biology.
The Association of Firearm and Toolmark Examiners (AFTE) is an international professional organization for firearm and toolmark examiners. It publishes a peer-reviewed scientific journal, hosts a variety of resources on their website, and holds an annual training seminar that acts as a forum for presentations, workshops, networking, and discussion.
The Southwestern Association of Forensic Scientists (SWAFS) is a nonprofit society of professionals who work in the scientific examination of physical evidence. Its goals are to connect forensic scientists, improve forensic techniques, exchange best practices, encourage academic research, and keep SWAFS members informed about innovations in the field. The SWAFS Floyd E. McDonald scholarship exists to encourage studies that prepare them for a career in forensic science.
Formed in 1973 in Quantico, Virginia, the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD) is a nonprofit professional society of crime laboratory directors and forensic science managers. The organization’s mission is to foster professional interests, develop laboratory management principles, share forensic-based information, improve communication between crime laboratory directors, and encourage high standards of practice in the field.
This scholarship is in honor of Ellis R. Kerley, who devised new ways to positively identify and date skeletal remains in a process now known as the Kerley method. Dr. Kerley was often involved in the use of forensic anthropology for humanitarian purposes, like identifying the remains of soldiers who died in battle. The Ellis R. Kerley Forensic Sciences Foundation was created to support further research in the field of forensic anthropology, in particular students pursuing a forensic anthropology education. The Kerley scholarship is granted based on merit—character, personal, academic—as shown through leadership and community engagement.
The Chesapeake Bay Division of the International Association for Identification (CBD-IAI) is a nonprofit organization that acts as a regional arm of the oldest and largest forensic association in the world. They offer certification programs for various forensic science disciplines and host seminars and conferences in the area.
This Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) scholarship honors the legacy of Dr. Paul B. Ferrara, who served as the director of the Virginia Department of Forensic Science, where, under his leadership, the Commonwealth of Virginia developed the first state laboratory capable of performing DNA fingerprint analysis. Dr. Ferrara was also a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he brought the forensic science program to national recognition.
The Northeastern Association of Forensic Scientists (NEAFS) is a regionally-based professional society for forensic scientists. This scholarship honors George W. Chin, the self-proclaimed “God of Trace Evidence.” Dr. Chin co-founded the NEAFS Student Forum, where he taught students about the realities of the profession. He had a prolific career in forensic science that was defined through his work in the field and his dedication to mentoring young forensic professionals.
This second NEAFS scholarship honors George W. Neighbor, Jr., a trace evidence examiner and microscopist whose work overturned wrongful convictions and reinforced the need for quality assurance in forensic science laboratories. A former president of the NEAFS, George W. Neighbor left a legacy of mentorship—and many of his mentees have gone on to become laboratory supervisors and mentors themselves.
Founded in 1964, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice is one of the leading educational institutions for criminal justice. Justice is at the heart of each program it provides—stretching across the arts, sciences, and humanities. John Jay’s faculty of 1,100 includes two Pulitzer Prize winners, and nearly 50 percent of alumni have gone on to work in public service. This scholarship is renewable each year, offering $5,000 the first year and $7,500 for each additional year.
Founded in 1989, the Police Officer Assistance Trust (POAT) acts as a support organization for the law enforcement community of Miami-Dade, Florida. With a stated motto of “Serving Those Who Serve,” the organization assists officers and their families in times of need. This scholarship was designed for children of law enforcement professionals who want to pursue a career in forensics and crime scene investigation.
The New Jersey Association of Forensic Scientists (NJAFS) is an organization dedicated to furthering forensic science in New Jersey. It achieves this by connecting professionals and fostering dialogue through their quarterly dinner meetings and annual seminars. The organization’s website provides resources for working forensic scientists, students, academics, and associates from different institutions.
Founded in 1876 and chartered by the U.S. Congress, the American Chemical Society (ACS) is the world’s largest scientific society. Its stated vision is to improve people’s lives through the power of chemistry, which is accomplished through public advocacy, scientific journals, community partnerships, continuing education, and scholarship programs. The ACS Scholars Program was founded to provide support for students from underrepresented minority groups who want to pursue a career in chemical science. Just under $1 million are awarded to 350 students every year.
Offered by the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP), the Out to Innovate Scholarship is designed to promote academic excellence and visibility of talented LGBTQ students in STEM careers. It is also intended to encourage students to be “out” in their professional life and support diversity in the science and tech workforce. Two awards are granted annually.