Forensic Science and Investigation Scholarships

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The cost of higher education in the U.S. is increasing, and so is student debt. While taking on debt to fund a college education used to be a direct path to social and financial advancement, the latest studies show that student debt 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 should be pleased to find a wealth of scholarships to help fund their education, but earning a scholarship takes work. Assembling transcripts, records, and recommendations, as well as writing essays and personal statements, is a time-consuming process—especially for students in the middle of the most critical years of their education. Some scholarship amounts may seem small in comparison to overall tuition rates and the amount of work required to apply, but the rewards add up. As any forensic scientist will say, there is nothing more important than the little things.

Common forensic science scholarship requirements include a strong GPA, letters of recommendation, and essays. Some ask applicants to be of at least junior standing in an undergraduate forensic science program, while others are open to any year of study. Other scholarships have been created for applicants from particular demographics, socioeconomic standing, or regional affiliation.

Here are 15 scholarships to consider in forensic science and investigation.

National Forensic Science Scholarships

Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship & Excellence in Education Program

  • Amount: $7,500 per year
  • Deadline: Last Friday in January
  • What to Know: 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 scholarship 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.
  • Who Should Apply: Applicants must be nominated by a Goldwater Campus Representative at the academic institution they are currently attending. Students must be pursuing a research career in a major confirmed by the Goldwater Foundation. Applicants must be a fully matriculated sophomore or junior at a two- or four-year institution and have a GPA of 3.0 or better.

Association of Firearm and Toolmark Examiners

  • Amount: $2,000
  • Deadline: April 1
  • What to Know: The AFTE is an international professional organization for firearm and toolmark examiners. They publish a peer-reviewed scientific journal, host a variety of resources on their website, and hold an annual training seminar that acts as a forum for presentations, workshops, networking, and discussion.
  • Who Should Apply: Both undergraduate- and graduate-level students working towards a forensic science career may apply. However, applicants must be in their third year of undergraduate study or any year of an advanced degree and have a GPA of 3.0 or better. Preference will be given to applicants working on projects related to firearm or toolmark examination.

Floyd E. McDonald Scholarship

  • Amount: $1,000
  • Deadline: April 1
  • What to Know: The Southwestern Association of Forensic Scientists (SWAFS) is a nonprofit society of professionals in the field of 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.
  • Who Should Apply: Applicants pursuing a career in forensic science through a chemistry, biology, or natural science major can apply for this scholarship. Applicants must be of at least junior standing and have a 3.0 GPA or better.

American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors

  • Amount: $1,000
  • Deadline: April 15
  • What to Know: Formed in 1973 in Quantico, Virginia, the ASCLD is a nonprofit professional society of crime laboratory directors and forensic science managers. Their 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.
  • Who Should Apply: Students intending to enter the field of forensic science are the focus of this scholarship, and those currently working in forensic labs are not eligible. Applicants must be in their third year of an undergraduate or any year of a graduate program in forensic science, forensic chemistry, or natural or physical science.

Ellis R. Kerley Forensic Sciences Foundation

  • Amount: $2,500
  • Deadline: May 30
  • What to Know: 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. The foundation was created to support further research in the field of forensic anthropology, and it supports students pursuing a forensic anthropology education.
  • Who Should Apply: Graduate level students pursuing a career in forensic anthropology can apply for this scholarship. Applicants must be student members of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) and must be studying at a university that has a faculty member associated with either the AAFS or the American Board of Forensic Anthropology (ABFA).

Johnson-Whyte Memorial Foundation

  • Amount: Varies
  • Deadline: June 1
  • What to Know: This scholarship honors the legacy of Robert L. Johnson, who was integral in forming the Latent Print Certification Board at the International Association for Identification. He was a member of the IAI for 18 years, and he was vice president of the IAI at the time of his death. The purpose of the scholarship is to promote forensic investigation as a profession.
  • Who Should Apply: Undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a forensic science degree at a CHEA-accredited university are the focus of this scholarship. Undergraduate students must be of junior standing or higher. All applicants must have at least a 3.0 GPA and be able to demonstrate financial need.

George H. Robinson Memorial Scholarship

  • Amount: $1,000
  • Deadline: August 1
  • What to Know: 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.
  • Who Should Apply: Students pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree in forensic science or criminal justice are the focus of this scholarship. Applicants must have a 2.5 or better GPA, and undergraduate applicants must be of sophomore standing or higher.

Regional Forensic Science Scholarships

Paul B. Ferrara Graduate Scholarship (Virginia Commonwealth University)

  • Amount: $1,000
  • Deadline: February 15
  • What to Know: This 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 fingerprinting analyses. Dr. Ferrara was also a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he brought the forensic science program to national recognition.
  • Who Should Apply: This scholarship is specifically for second-year students at VCU’s graduate forensic science program. Applicants must demonstrate either significant research or service contributions to the field of forensic science, as well as leadership experience or potential.

George W. Chin Memorial Scholarship

  • Amount: $2,000
  • Deadline: April 30
  • What to Know: 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 NEAFS Student Forum. 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.
  • Who Should Apply: Applicants must be enrolled in a forensic science program at a university in one of the following states: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania. Undergraduate applicants must be of junior standing or higher.

George W. Neighbor Jr. Memorial Scholarship

  • Amount: $1,750
  • Deadline: April 30
  • What to Know: Also offered through the NEAFS, this 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.
  • Who Should Apply: Applicants must be enrolled in a forensic science program at a university in one of the following states: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania. Undergraduate applicants must be of junior standing or higher.

Computer Science and Forensic Science Scholarship (John Jay College of Criminal Justice)

  • Amount: Up to $7,500 per year
  • Deadline: May 1
  • What to Know: Founded in 1964, John Jay College of Criminal Justice is one of the leading educational institutions for criminal justice. The theme of 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.
  • Who Should Apply: Incoming first-year students at John Jay can apply for this scholarship. Students must be pursuing a degree in computer science, forensic science, or cell and molecular biology. Applicants should have strong SAT or ACT scores and strong grades in previous math and science courses.

Mike Byrd Science Scholarship

  • Amount: $1,000
  • Deadline: May 1
  • What to Know: 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.
  • Who Should Apply: Those who attend a high school or university in Miami-Dade, Broward, or Monroe Counties can apply for this scholarship. Furthermore, applicants must be the son or daughter of a sworn officer working for a law enforcement agency within Miami-Dade County. Applicants should be planning to study or currently majoring in biology, chemistry, forensics, pathology, or another crime scene investigation related field. Students must have a GPA of 2.5 or higher.

New Jersey Association of Forensic Scientists

  • Amount: $1,000
  • Deadline: October 31
  • What to Know: The NJAFS is an organization dedicated to furthering the forensic sciences in New Jersey. They achieve this by connecting professionals and fostering dialogue through their quarterly dinner meetings and annual seminars. Their website provides resources not only for working forensic scientists, but also for students, academics, and associates from different institutions.
  • Who Should Apply: Applicants must either be a current member of the NJAFS, attend a university in New Jersey, or reside in New Jersey but attend college out of state. Students must be enrolled in a science program (biology, chemistry, natural science, or forensic science) at the graduate or undergraduate level and be able to demonstrate academic excellence. Undergraduate students must be of junior standing or higher.

Demographic-Specific Forensic Science Scholarships

American Chemical Society

  • Amount: $5,000
  • Deadline: March 1
  • What to Know: Founded in 1876 and chartered by the U.S. Congress, the 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.
  • Who Should Apply: Underrepresented minority groups are the focus of this scholarship. Applicants must be enrolled full time at an accredited college and have maintained a GPA of 3.0 or better. Financial need is taken into consideration.

Out to Innovate Scholarship

  • Amount: $5,000
  • Deadline: June 1
  • What to Know: 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.
  • Who Should Apply: Undergraduate or graduate students pursuing a STEM degree and identifying themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or an active ally of the LGBTQ community are the focus of this scholarship. Applicants must have completed at least two years of higher education and must maintain a 3.0 GPA or better.