There’s no shortage of true-crime TV dramas, and thanks to programs like CSI, Quantico, and True Detective, the field of forensic science is a household phrase. Fans of these shows who have a scientific and criminal justice bent of mind can consider applying to a bachelor of science (BS) program in forensic chemistry.
An exciting and exacting multidisciplinary career field, forensic chemistry attracts curious problem solvers who can collect evidence with precision and remain objective in their observations. Ideal candidates for forensic chemistry positions must prove their abilities to follow legal and scientific protocols when collecting physical evidence from a crime scene and analyzing it in a laboratory. Forensic chemists provide answers to crucial questions using chemical analysis techniques and give essential evidence-based testimony for legal proceedings and criminal investigations.
In forensic chemistry programs, students learn the skills to identify chemical and biochemical processes to determine or rule out the guilt of a potential suspect in a crime. Because this field requires a specific level of forensic knowledge, it’s crucial to choose a high-quality educational program to learn these specialized skills. When selecting a forensic chemistry degree program, factors such as accreditation, program notoriety, and whether a program includes hands-on educational experiences are key factors to consider.
Read on to learn more about 20 top forensic chemistry programs.
The programs on this list meet one or more of the following criteria:
Accreditation: all the programs on this list are accredited at the institutional level by a regional organization approved by the US Department of Education’s Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Institutional accreditation is a non-negotiable requirement for students to consider when researching academic programs.
As well, more than half of the programs on this list are accredited at the programmatic level by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC). FEPAC-accredited programs have met high standards for academic and professional quality in the field of forensic science. It’s important to note that while FEPAC-accredited programs hold a strong reputation for excellence in forensic science, the absence of FEPAC accreditation does not indicate that a forensic chemistry program lacks educational quality.
National Rankings: Many of the schools on this list choices are ranked in the top 100 schools or programs in the nation by the U.S. News & World Report (2021). This data is from surveys of PhD students and professors regarding the best and most notable schools. National rankings can translate to how graduates are perceived by employers or admissions committees when they take their next steps after graduation to pursue another degree or apply for entry-level positions.
Hands-On Experience: Working in a lab is essential for gaining skills and finding work in a forensic chemistry profession. As such, one of the key factors in this list was whether or not there were internships or other hands-on experiential learning opportunities offered as part of the forensic chemistry program.
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. Students will learn chemistry, biology, physics, and mathematics from a research perspective while also participating in hands-on learning in the BS program. Before graduation, Buffalo State SUNY students must complete an internship in the forensic chemistry field, which provides valuable training and professional connections.
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 chemistry 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, the double major option can provide graduates with more job opportunities.
Florida International University, located in Gainesville, Florida, has continually been ranked as one of the nation’s best and most comprehensive forensic science colleges. In 2021, the U.S. News & World Report ranked the FIU chemistry department in the top 50 chemistry programs in the nation.
Currently, FIU offers five programs in forensic chemistry: an undergraduate certificate; an MS in forensic science; a combined MS in forensic science and PhD in biology; a professional science master’s in forensic science; and a PhD in chemistry with a forensic track. FIU is home to the Global Forensic and Justice Center, which coordinates scholarly activities related to forensic science and criminal justice, including research, training, and innovation projects.
Forensic science students are connected with teaching and research faculty in digital forensics, forensic nursing, and other fields through this interdisciplinary campus resource. Students in this program regularly present at forensic science conferences and are awarded funding to further their research projects.
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 proximity to hands-on experiences with some of the largest governmental forensic departments.
GWU offers two forensic chemistry degree options; a combined bachelor of science and master of forensic science (MFS) in forensic chemistry and a stand-alone MFS in forensic chemistry and other graduate-level programs in forensic science.
Lake Superior State University has been ranked as one of the top 70 regional universities, making it a good option for students who prefer smaller class sizes. This college accepts almost 90 percent of applicants and has a student population of only 2,500 students. Students in this program can complete valuable internships and real-life experiences with local and state governmental agencies. The LSSU program has been approved by the American Chemical Society and the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.
Loyola University New Orleans, located in New Orleans, Louisiana, boasts the prestigious Loyola name and a high academic record, and some of the best professors in forensic chemistry. Ranked in the top 100 for best undergraduate teaching by U.S. News & World Report, Loyola is a Jesuit institution whose department of chemistry and biochemistry awards BS degrees certified by the American Chemical Society.
Graduates from this program have gone on to work for the New Orleans Police Department and Quest Diagnostics. The bachelor of science in forensic science program provides hands-on training through internships and excellent job support post-graduation.
Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, offers an affordable and excellent education for students interested in getting a master’s degree with a forensic chemistry track. Established in 1947, MSU has one of the oldest forensic science programs in the US and attracts some of the most revered professors in the field.
The program began by offering a bachelor’s degree in forensic science and has since expanded to provide a full slate of degree programs, including graduate certificates, undergraduate and doctoral degrees. In 2021, the U.S. News & World Report ranked MSU as 80th overall in national universities.
Ohio University, located in Athens, Ohio, offers students the opportunity to pursue a FEPAC-accredited BS in forensic chemistry. Graduates of this 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. Graduates from this program are prepared for professional or academic careers in a variety of forensic chemistry fields.
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 outstanding professors and cutting-edge facilities.
Currently, it offers a BS in forensic science with a biology or chemistry emphasis. With a chemistry department that U.S. News & World Report rated in the top 20 in 2021, graduates from the forensic chemistry undergraduate and graduate programs are well-positioned for fieldwork or research-based careers.
Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas consistently earns top rankings in U.S. News & World Report for top public schools and top performers on social mobility. The university has low costs and great opportunities for students. 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.
St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, is ranked as a top 10 regional university and fifth in the nation in the U.S. News & World Report’s list of best colleges for veterans. 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 forensic chemistry-related research.
Texas A&M University, located in College Station, Texas A&M, offers two bachelor of science degrees: a scientific emphasis accredited by FEPAC and a pre-law emphasis. Forensic chemistry is covered in an upper-division forensic soil science course that teaches students trace evidence techniques for analyzing crime scene evidence.
Texas A&M University is an affiliate site, along with other partner institutions (some of which are featured in this article) for the Center for Advanced Research in Forensic Science (CARFS), which is funded in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). The mission of CARFS is focused on researching key issues related to forensic science and could be a valuable on-campus resource for forensic science students.
University of Central Florida, located in Orlando, offers a bachelor of science in forensic science. This program offers two distinct tracks in biochemistry with a strong DNA focus and a chemistry track emphasizing chromatographic, spectroscopic, and micro-analytical techniques.
The second-oldest forensic science bachelor’s degree program began in 1974 and prepares graduates for careers as drug chemists, forensic pathologists, trace evidence analysts, and crime scene investigators. In 2021, the U.S. News & World Report ranked this institution as #16 on the list of most innovative schools and #77 on the list of top public schools.
University of Central Oklahoma, the Forensic Science Institute at UCO is a research and training organization dedicated to academic excellence. It offers two FEPAC-accredited bachelor’s of science degree programs in forensic science: chemistry & molecular biology and digital forensics. This program provides competitive internship opportunities and is unique in that it requires a comprehensive exam and a capstone project for undergraduate students as part of their degree completion requirements.
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 focuses on both chemistry and biology, offering a breadth of opportunity that not all programs do. Students at UNT can pursue internships and professional experience with police departments and labs across the state of Texas to prepare for future forensic science positions.
Towson University, located in Towson, Maryland, has a forensic chemistry program known for being rigorous and student-centered. Students can pursue a forensic chemistry major or minor in chemistry and apply for an honors program that requires completing an honors thesis proposal and project.
Three tracks are offered to help students specialize in general forensic science, trace evidence/drug analysis track (which provides a strong chemistry background), and DNA. Internship opportunities are available in law enforcement, government or private forensic chemistry, or toxicology laboratories.
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 & World Report ranks this school very highly, based on the educational opportunities provided at the school and 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 PhD in analytical/forensic chemistry.
Like many other forensic chemistry programs, the curriculum hinges on organic chemistry, chemical analysis, and criminal law. However, what sets the University of Albany program apart is an on-campus mirror-laboratory equipped to mirror the state-of-the-art facilities used by the NY State Police. Through these partnerships, students earn authentic hands-on experience with forensic chemistry.
University of Mississippi, located near Oxford in University, Mississippi, is one of the oldest universities in America. Ole Miss has a tradition of excellence, confirmed by the U.S. News & World Report who ranks this R1 institution highly on several top educational quality metrics. Currently, the University of Mississippi offers a BS in forensic chemistry.
A vital feature of the program is the summer internship with a local criminal laboratory. Because of this hands-on experience, over 70 percent of graduates from this forensic chemistry bachelor’s degree program find employment right away, many of them working in local and federal crime labs.
West Chester University of Pennsylvania, located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, offers a bachelor’s of science in forensic and toxicological chemistry. This FEPAC-accredited program emphasizes fundamental chemistry concepts, communication skills, and ethical principles and practices related to forensic chemistry careers.
Students in this program follow an approved four-year curriculum that culminates in an internship. Graduates from this program pursue careers in pharmaceutical and environmental industries and doctoral degree programs at prestigious universities across the nation.
West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia, was the first institution in the US to offer bachelors, masters, and doctoral degree programs in forensic science. WVU is committed to student success by supporting undergraduates’ first and second-year students as they transition into college and shift support towards career searching and graduate school applications in the final two years.
Tuition reciprocity agreements with Ohio, Washington DC, and Garrett College in Maryland are great for residents living close to this FEPAC-accredited program. Internships are an integral part of the curriculum. Students are encouraged to join the WVU Forensic & Investigative Science Club, which has been active for 20 years and provides professional and social opportunities for forensic science majors.