careers-medical-examiner-990x358

Search For Schools

1
2
3

Schools with Accredited Forensic Medicine Degree Programs

Forensic science is a discipline in which the scientific method is used to investigate crimes and examine evidence that may be presented within a legal setting such as a court of law. Forensic science includes many disciplines such as fingerprint and DNA analysis, forensic anthropology, and wildlife forensics.

Regardless of their specialization, forensic scientists address a common set of issues and goals in their work. These include conducting investigations so that reliable results can be created, communicating their findings to non-expert audiences such as juries, effectively applying new technologies, and being open to continued learning as the field of forensic science evolves.

Among the many fields within forensic science is forensic medicine. Forensic medicine is a specialized field that combines medicine, criminal justice, and law enforcement. Forensic medicine practitioners use medical and scientific procedures to analyze evidence from crime victims. These victims may be dead or alive. Their first encounters with living victims may occur in hospitals or at actual crime scenes. Such practitioners may assess injuries in surviving victims and determine the cause of death for deceased individuals. Forensic medicine may be applied to assess individuals who have been injured or killed by some factor such as trauma or intoxication and people suspected of injuring or killing others.

Given the variety of crimes, weapons, and motives, forensic medicine practitioners may need to frequently draw upon a substantial repository of knowledge to complete their work. Knowledge of weapons, disease processes, and how the human body responds to injury can all prove critical to the success of a forensic medicine practitioner.

Graduates of forensic science programs who specialize in forensic medicine may pursue various careers. They may fill roles including crime laboratory supervisor, crime scene investigator, forensic DNA analyst, forensic laboratory director, and forensic toxicologist. Forensic medicine practitioners may advance their careers by pursuing formal education up to the doctoral level and by accruing on-the-job experience.

Those interested in becoming a forensic medicine practitioner should read on to learn about admissions requirements, common coursework, and information about institutional accreditation. This page offers a tour of both online and in-person associates, baccalaureate, and advanced degree programs in forensic science, focusing on forensic medicine.

Degree and Certificate Programs Related to Forensic Medicine

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (US BLS) notes that individuals seeking to work in the forensic science profession typically need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and on-the-job training. Those seeking greater career advancement opportunities and higher pay often will need an advanced degree. Read on to learn more about featured degree and certificate programs in forensic medicine.

University of Maryland offers a full-time, non-thesis master of science (MS) degree in forensic medicine. This program is made possible through a collaboration between the University of Maryland and the State Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The curriculum includes classroom and online lectures, case discussions, and laboratory experience.

Curriculum topics include forensic pathology, general pathology, forensic autopsy, medico-legal death investigation, forensic toxicology, forensic radiology, forensic odontology and forensic anthropology.

Graduates may work in several areas including medicolegal death investigation, forensic toxicology, police organizations, prosecutors’ offices, and university forensic science departments. In addition, graduates have the background necessary to also subsequently enter medical school and pursue a specialization in forensic pathology.

  • Location: Baltimore, MD
  • Duration: Eighteen months
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Tuition: $764 per credit; $996 per credit for non-resident students

Boston University offers a 38-credit biomedical forensic sciences program (BMFS) designed to train students in several disciplines relevant to both crime scene investigation and evidence analysis. The curriculum comprises three main study topics: core curriculum, forensic laboratory classes, and elective coursework. The program exposes students to multiple forensic science topics including, but not limited to, human biological evidence and DNA analysis, pathology, and medicolegal death investigation, criminal law and ethics, and crime scene investigation. Graduates may seek careers in numerous settings including crime laboratories, medical examiner officers, law enforcement, and laboratories.

  • Location: Boston, MA
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC)
  • Tuition: Use cost of attendance calculator

University of North Texas offers a 19-credit forensic science certificate program. This program offers courses in UNT’s biological sciences, chemistry, and criminal justice departments. Students must hold a BS degree in biology, biochemistry, or chemistry to be eligible for admission.

Certificate requirements include a forensic science internship and satisfactory completion of the forensic science assessment test. Internships are available in various settings including crime labs, forensic chemistry labs, and forensic DNA labs.

  • Location: Denton, TX
  • Duration: Two to three semesters
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: Use the UNT Tuition Estimator

Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine offers a highly experiential, two-year master of science (MS) forensics program. This program, designed for individuals who have an undergraduate degree and a background in the sciences, consists of both in-person and online coursework. The program trains students in the analytic and critical thinking skills needed to become medical and legal death investigators. The curriculum focuses on the evaluation of both live and deceased individuals.

Coursework includes forensic pathology, research design and methodology, law and evidentiary procedure, and principles of forensic medicine. Additional coursework covers topics such as forensic anthropology, forensic odontology, forensic entomology, toxicology, arson and fire investigation, and evaluation of sexual assault victims. First-year students attend classes Fridays through Sundays one weekend per month. Online coursework begins in the summer of the second year of study.

  • Location: Philadelphia, PA
  • Duration: 24 months
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Tuition: Use Cost of Attendance Calculator

Hybrid and Online Programs Related to Forensic Medicine

Here are four additional distance-based forensic programs:

National University offers a master of forensic sciences (MFS) degree. This program features study of basic human anatomy, the process of death investigation, analysis of disease and trauma, and the identification of unidentified dead people. Students may choose one of two specializations. The criminalistics specialization includes courses in trace evidence, advanced forensic toxicology, forensic serology and DNA, and forensic anthropology. The investigation specialization focuses on advanced forensic investigative techniques. Those pursuing the criminalistics specialization must have an undergraduate degree in a laboratory science. Students must complete at least 54 quarter units to graduate.

  • Location: San Diego, CA
  • Duration: One to two years
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
  • Tuition: See website for details

University of Florida College of Medicine offers a 37-credit online master of science in medical sciences with a concentration in forensic medicine. It is the first completely online advanced degree program of its kind in the United States. This program is designed for professionals interested in careers in forensic medicine, forensic pathology, and medicolegal death investigation. The curriculum focuses on skills including the application of forensic medicine in the process of death investigation, processing of crime scenes, professional report writing, and providing expert witness testimony. This program features both thesis and non-thesis options.

  • Location: Gainesville, FL
  • Duration: Two to three years
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $575 per credit

Syracuse University offers a 36-credit \ master of science degree in biomedical forensic sciences. This pre-medical post-baccalaureate program is designed for students who wish to enhance their competitiveness when applying to medical school. The program features close collaboration between students and faculty. This flexibility permits students to tailor their studies to their individual goals, and field study opportunities in settings such as the FBI, US DEA, crime labs and medical examiner’s offices. Graduates may pursue careers in pathology, toxicology, DNA analysis, and forensic biology, chemistry or anthropology.

  • Location: Syracuse, NY
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Tuition: $33,696

Stevenson University offers a fully online, 36-credit master’s degree in forensic science. The curriculum provides students the knowledge to identify, collect, and analyze forensic data and report this information in legal settings. Students also train in the quality assurance, quality control, and safety procedures characteristic of modern, accredited forensic science laboratories. Students may select one of two concentrations.

The forensic biology concentration trains practitioners in examining and analyzing DNA as well as serological and immunological evidence. The forensic chemistry concentration trains professionals to analyze chemical and trace evidence and describe the analyses necessary to isolate and identify drugs and toxic substances.

  • Location: Owings Mills, MD
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Tuition: $705 per credit (starting fall 2023)

Common Courses and Requirements in Degree Programs Related to Forensic Medicine

While forensics curricula vary according to the academic degree level and specialization, programs must feature a certain collection of core coursework to receive accreditation and prove competitive in the higher education marketplace. Core courses provide students with the training necessary to work in a forensics career. Students who seek a degree beyond an associate’s degree often will develop specialized subject knowledge in topics such as forensic biology, forensic chemistry, DNA analysis and pathology.
 
Associate Degree in Forensic Science
 

  • Prerequisites: Official transcripts from all secondary (and/or postsecondary) schools or General Educational Development (GED) diploma, personal statement, minimum English competency test score for non-native speakers of English, application fee, completed application
  • Common courses: Forensic Psychology, Forensic Aspects of Death Investigation, Fire and Arson Investigation, Physical Identifiers, Firearms and Toolmarks Identification, Basic Accident Investigation
    Sample program: Mesa Community College

 
Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Science
 

  • Prerequisites: Official transcripts from all secondary (and/or postsecondary) schools or General Educational Development (GED) diploma, letters of recommendation, personal statement or essay, competitive test scores, minimum English competency test score for non-native speakers of English, minimum GPA, completed application, application fee
  • Common courses: Introduction to Forensic Science, Introduction to Criminal Justice, Principles of Biology, Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physics, Calculus, Analytic Geometry, Seminar in Forensic Science
  • Sample program: University of Tampa

 
Master’s Degree in Forensic Science
 

  • Prerequisites: A bachelor’s degree in a natural or physical science field from an accredited college or university, official transcripts from all secondary (and/or postsecondary) schools or General Educational Development (GED) diploma, prerequisite coursework in subject matter including chemistry, physics, calculus and statistics, minimum GPA, competitive GRE test score, minimum English competency test score for non-native speakers of English, letters of recommendation, personal statement or essay, completed application, application fee
  • Common courses: Criminal Law, Document Analysis, Evidence-based Forensic Medicine, Evidentiary Procedure, Fingerprint Analysis, Forensic Analytical Chemistry, Forensic Anthropology, Forensic Toxicology, Human Biological Evidence and DNA analysis, Principles of Forensic Medicine, Principles of Crime Scene Investigation, Supervised Research Project, Trauma Analysis
  • Sample Program: City University of New York

 
Graduate Certificate in Forensic Science
 

  • Prerequisites: Bachelor’s degree in one of the natural sciences from an accredited college or university in the US or its equivalent, official transcripts of all college coursework, statement of purpose, current resume, letters of recommendation, completed application, application fee
  • Common courses: Principles of Genetics, Principles of Cell Biology, Survey of Forensic Sciences, Current Issues in the Forensic Sciences, Legal Systems in American Society, Statistics and Data Analysis, Criminal Law and Practice, Forensic Anthropology, Instrumental Methods, Forensic Biology, Crime Scene Investigation and Reconstruction
  • Sample Program: University of North Texas

 
In addition to core courses, students will typically complete a set of electives to broaden as well as potentially specialize their knowledge. Given the nature of the field of forensics there is a vast variety of elective courses a student may take. A selection of such courses appears below:
 

  • Advanced Light Microscopy
  • Advanced Neuroscience
  • Anthropology of Death
  • Bioarchaeology
  • Biochemistry Laboratory
  • Biology of Cancer
  • Bloodstain Pattern Analysis
  • Cold Cases
  • Digital Forensics
  • Dimensions of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism
  • Firearms and Impression Evidence
  • Forensic Analysis of Biological Evidence
  • Forensic Chemical Analysis
  • Forensic DNA Analysis
  • Forensic Linguistics
  • Forensic Mental Health
  • Forensic Photography
  • Human Osteology
  • Latent Prints
  • Mechanics of Modern Firearms
  • Molecular Biotechnology
  • Organic SpectroscopyPersons in Social Context
  • Psychopathology
  • Quality Assurance and Ethics
  • Science of Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction

Professional Certification Related to Forensic Medicine

Upon completion of a degree or certificate program, some forensics professionals will seek out professional certification. Though forensic science professionals are not necessarily required to be licensed or certified, the professional recognition implicit in licensure and certification can enhance a person’s employment prospects and career advancement opportunities. A number of forensic specialty boards offer certification, including:

  • The American Board of Criminalistics (ABC) comprises regional and national organizations that in turn represent forensic scientists. Each representing organization is permitted one member on the ABC Board of Directors and one member on the ABC Examination Committee. ABC offers certification examinations in the areas of Biological Evidence Screening (ABC-BIO), Comprehensive Criminalistics (ABC-CC), Drug Analysis (ABC-DA), Forensic DNA (ABC-DNA) and Molecular Biology (ABC-MB).
  • The American Board of Forensic Entomology (ABFE) certifies forensic entomologists in North America. ABFE issues and maintains certification for individual diplomates and members. Certification is a peer review process that features both a written and practical examination. Certification as a forensic entomology technician attests that an individual possesses the skills and knowledge necessary to properly collect, preserve, and ship entomological evidence to a Diplomate or member of ABFE to identify and develop case reports.
  • The American Board of Forensic Toxicology (ABFT) exists both to establish and enhance voluntary standards for the practice of forensic toxicology as well provide examination of scientists and laboratories providing forensic toxicology services. Individuals of varying levels of education and expertise can be certified within the categories of fellow, diplomate and analyst.
  • The National Registry of Certified Chemists (NRCC) acts to certify clinical chemists and clinical chemistry technologists. A number of states recognize NRCC certification as a part of their licensure process for personnel functioning at the laboratory technologist level. NRCC offers certification exams for several professional categories including clinical chemists, toxicological chemists, environmental analytical chemists, industrial hygiene chemists, chemical hygiene officers, and cannabis chemists.
  • The American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators (ABMDI) identifies itself as a voluntary, not-for-profit, independent professional certification board established for the purpose of promoting the highest standards of practice for medicolegal death investigators. ABMDI is the certifying organization for individuals who have the knowledge and skills necessary to conduct medicolegal death investigations in accordance with the framework set forth in the National Institutes of Justice publication, released in 1999, entitled Death Investigation: A Guide for the Scene Investigator.
Writer

Bernd Geels

Bernd Geels is a Berlin, Germany-based freelance writer and artist. He holds an undergraduate degree in atmospheric science and two graduate degrees. He completed his most recent graduate degree in international environmental studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in 2011. He is interested in healthcare, climate change, marine conservation, indigenous science, and refugee issues. You can reach him directly at [email protected].