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Accredited Forensic Engineering Programs

Forensic engineers are the specialists who are tasked to investigate when a building or structure fails. A forensic engineer can be the one that determines what materials or missteps caused a bridge to collapse or a building to crumble. With this information, legal action may be taken against the owner or construction company behind the building, meaning like other forensic occupations, forensic engineers have a job that intersects with the legal system.

Forensic engineers may also simply need to aid an attorney in an engineering matter or incident that is need of legal resolution. These engineers often make use of trace evidence from the scene of an incident and then use their analysis, investigative skills and engineering expertise to determine what actually happened and where the fault lies. This aspect of engineering can lead to the type of interesting career that some engineering students may be looking for.

People who may succeed the most in forensic engineering will be those who generally are thrilled by the science and investigative aspect of the career. While the legal aspects are important, many who are in the field have a burning need to know why a produced item failed to do what is was supposed to do. The National Academy of Forensic Engineers is able to offer credentials, and more information about the field. Typically, forensic engineers will need a minimum of a master of science degree with a concentration in forensic engineering, for which a few programs are available.

Forensic Engineering Programs: Common Admissions Prerequisites & Courses

 

Associate Degree in Forensic Engineering

 

There are no available associate degree programs that focus on forensic engineering. However, students who are interested in pursuing the career and unable to commit to a bachelor’s degree right away may consider an associate degree in a related field such as general engineering or civil engineering.

  • Application requirements: official transcripts from high school (or equivalent), competitive GPA (e.g. >2.75), personal statement (500-600 words), Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores for non-native speakers of English, application fee
  • Common courses: general chemistry; introduction to computer science; analytic geometry; calculus; general physics; linear algebra
  • Sample program: Saddleback College

 

Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Engineering

 

As with associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree programs do not specialize in forensic engingeering, although a bachelor’s degree is an important stepping stone to the career. Students should look for programs in civil engineering, structural engineering, or other degrees that build a strong educational foundation for the intricacies of buildings, bridges, and other structures.

  • Application requirements: official transcripts from high school (or equivalent), competitive GPA (e.g. >2.75), personal statement (500-600 words), Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or American College Test (ACT) scores, TOEFL scores for non-native speakers of English, application fee
  • Common courses: structures and design; structural materials; spatial visualization; solid mechanics; fluid mechanics; computer aided design; transportation systems; project managementhydraulic engineering; chemistry
  • Sample program: University of California at San Diego (UCSD)

 

Master’s Degree in Forensic Engineering

 

At the master’s degree level, students can find specialized forensic engineering programs. However, those that earn a master’s degree in a more general engeineering field may still be eligible for future training in forensic engineering.

  • Application requirements: official transcripts from bachelor’s program (e.g., civil engineering, mechanical engineering, structural engineering) with a competitive GPA (e.g., >3.0), proof of specific coursework (e.g., physics, geometry, certain design courses, etc.), personal statement, interview (in-person or web-based), letter(s) of recommendation, Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, TOEFL scores for non-native speakers of English, application fee
  • Common courses: forensic structural engineering; advanced concepts in failure analysis and forensic engineering; construction industry law; earthquake and wind engineering; advanced design of steel structures; bridge design; soil mechanics; foundation engineering
  • Sample program: Columbia University

 

Doctoral Degree in Forensic Engineering

 

Those who complete a master’s degree in forensic engineering or a broader engineering topic may choose to go on to pursue a PhD, which will allow them to work in academia and could help to further other professional opportunities.

  • Application requirements: official transcripts from all university degrees with a competitive GPA (e.g., >3.2), completion of specific coursework, resume or CV, personal statement, interview (in-person or web-based), letter(s) of recommendation, Graduate Record Examination (GRE), TOEFL scores for non-native speakers of English, application fee
  • Common courses: doctoral research;dissertation or capstone project
  • Sample program: Columbia University

Forensic Engineering Degree & Certificate Programs – Traditional

Students interested in the forensic engineering field need to have an engineering degree first. These engineering degree fields could include, but are not limited, to, civil, chemical, electrical, mechanical and petroleum. As students start a bachelor’s degree, they will take more general education courses and then continue on to more engineering-focused coursework such as introduction to engineering systems, advanced math, and coursework designed specifically for the many engineering fields that are available. Following are a few programs available to prospective forensic engineers. Although not all have a specific focus on forensic engineering, each will provide a valuable foundation on which to build the career.

  • The University of California at Berkeley (UC Berkeley or Cal) offers a master of science (MS) degree in structural engineering, mechanics and materials as part of its Civil and Environmental Engineering school. This MS program provides a deep look at issues critical to an aspiring forensic engineer, including structural design, structural dynamics, and concrete technology. Students also have the option to pursue a joint MS in structural engineering and master of architecture (MArch).
  • Texas Tech University (TTU) offers a graduate certificate in forensic engineering (CFE). This certificate is available to those who are pursuing or already hold a master’s degree in engineering. The CFE program consists of six required courses (15 credit hours) and should take students approximately 18 months to complete.
  • Northwestern University offers an MS in structural engineering that requires six core courses and six electives. Students must also complete a thesis.

Online and Hybrid Options

In some cases, students will find that it is more advantageous to take some of their courses online. While they may be available in the future, as of 2018 there are no forensic engineering programs that are available entirely online. However, some engineering colleges are able to offer online and hybrid options for individual courses, and this includes Stanford University, which offers both master’s degrees in electrical engineering and mechanical engineering online as well as other degrees and many graduate certificates.

North Carolina State University is another option that offers online engineering schooling options for students. Online courses may vary from semester to semester, but some graduate-level classes that have been offered online include green chemical engineering, structural dynamics, and geomechanics of stress deformation.

Forensic Engineering Credentialing

After earning an education, many forensic engineers choose to pursue professional certification. Forensic engineers may apply for certification from two different bodies:

  • All members of the National Academy of Forensic Engineers (NAFE) are conferred with the distinction of Board Certified Diplomate in Forensic Engineering. To join NAFE, applicants must be a member of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) and must be a registered Professional Engineer. In addition, applicants must “have appropriate engineering education, licensure and practice experience” and must provide professional references who are familiar with their work specific to forensic engineering.
  • Applicants choosing to pursue certification from the International Board of Forensic Engineering Sciences will need to submit details about their education, professional forensic experience, competence in technical matters and ethics issues, which are considered alongside general knowledge during a peer review process. Upon passing the peer review, applicants will sit for a written and oral exam. Those who pass must be re-certified every five years.

Accreditation

Accreditation is always important whether choosing online or campus-based engineering schools. Specific forensic engineering programs will be hard to find, and students will most likely be able to enter the field simply through experience gained on the job and additional specialized coursework. Accreditation means that a school has met or exceeded certain standards to guarantee that students will receive quality instruction and needed skills.

Programmatic Accreditation

Programmatic accreditation is specific to an engineering program. Stanford, for example, has accreditation from the  Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Some of the other accreditation agencies for engineering schools include the Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE); the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE); and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME).

Institutional Accreditation

In addition to programmatic accreditation, schools should have instituional accreditation from a recognized accrediting body, such as the Higher Learning Commission, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education or the Western Assocation of Schools and Colleges. Those who are taking engineering courses should make it a point to look at a school’s accreditation beforehand to make sure that their program has been accredited as one of quality.