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Schools with Forensic Toxicology Programs

For those interested in studying science and criminal justice, becoming a forensic toxicologist may be the ideal career choice.

Toxicology is the study of poisons. Forensic toxicologists use scientific knowledge to aid in criminal investigations to determine if accidental or intentional poisoning was a cause of death and to determine fault in criminal trials. Forensic toxicologists perform laboratory tests on biological samples such as tissues and bodily fluids collected by crime scene investigators. By testing for the presence of substances such as metals, alcohol, prescription drugs, illicit drugs, and poisons, forensic toxicologists can provide essential documentation for law enforcement, families, victims, and survivors of crimes.

Now is a great time to become a forensic toxicologist. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects careers for the related career of forensic science technicians to grow 14 percent between 2018 and 2028, which is much faster compared to other occupations (BLS 2019). The average annual salary of forensic science technicians is $58,230 with the lowest 10 percent earning less than $34,600 per year and the highest 10 percent earning more than $97,200 (BLS 2019). Most forensic toxicologists work full-time and some may work on-call outside of regular business hours if immediate toxicology analysis is needed.

To adequately serve the needs of law enforcement, forensic toxicologists must be able to demonstrate a variety of skills. Forensic toxicologists must be meticulously detail-oriented when performing crime scene laboratory protocols. The variety of crime scene situations and collected evidence means that forensic scientists must think critically and be able to solve problems using the scientific method. Due to the legal nature of this career, forensic toxicologists must have excellent communication skills and may be asked to provide written or spoken legal testimony as evidence in criminal cases.

Forensic toxicology positions typically require a bachelor’s degree in natural science such as biology or chemistry or a specialized bachelor’s degree in forensic science. However, educational opportunities for forensic toxicologists are not limited only to bachelor’s degree programs. Colleges and universities also offer one-year certificate programs as well as associate’s and master’s degree programs in forensic toxicology for those who wish to try out the career or advance their knowledge. Forensic toxicology programs are offered on-campus and in hybrid and online formats.

With a bachelor’s degree and some on-the-job training, forensic toxicologists can begin a scientific criminal justice career without ever setting foot at a crime scene. Read on to learn more about schools with forensic toxicology programs.

Forensic Toxicology Program Accreditation

When researching educational programs, accreditation is an important factor to consider. Accreditation is offered at the national, regional, and programmatic level and ensures that a program or institution has met rigorously high standards for educational quality. Students planning on financing their education with federal loans are required to attend accredited educational institutions.

The Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) is the leading accrediting organization for forensic science programs and keeps a list of accredited forensic toxicology programs. Graduates and their prospective employers can be confident that forensic science programs with current FEPAC accreditation meet the highest standards of educational quality. The schools featured below all have regional, national or programmatic accreditation.

Common Admissions Requirements & Courses in Forensic Toxicology

 

Associate Degree in Forensic Toxicology

 

  • Prerequisites: High school diploma or GED, completed application, and criminal background check.
  • Common courses: Human anatomy and physiology, American government, digital photography, public speaking, interpersonal communication, writing for technical degrees, critical thinking, introduction to criminal justice, and biological anthropology.
  • Featured program: Green River College

 

Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Toxicology

 

  • Prerequisites: High school diploma or GED, completed application, previous criminal justice coursework, and criminal background check.
  • Common courses: Anatomy for the paramedic personnel, criminal investigation, human osteology, forensic anthropology field school, and introduction to criminal justice.
  • Featured program: University of North Dakota

 

Master’s Degree in Forensic Toxicology

 

  • Prerequisites: Bachelor’s of science degree in natural science or forensic science with a minimum GPA (e.g. 3.0 or higher; minimum GPA requirements vary for each program), completed application, and criminal background check.
  • Common courses: Criminal justice, chemistry, forensic science, public speaking, law for forensic scientists.
  • Featured program: Michigan State University

 

Graduate Certificate in Forensic Toxicology

 

  • Prerequisites: Bachelor’s degree from a four-year accredited institution with a minimum GPA (e.g. 3.0 or higher; minimum GPA requirements vary for each program), completed application, letter of interest, and criminal background check.
  • Common courses: Criminalistics, forensic investigation of firearms, ballistics, and explosives, forensic anatomic analysis, interview and interrogation techniques, and internship.
  • Featured program: Wayne State University

On-Campus Degree & Certificate Programs for Aspiring Forensic Toxicologists

King University

King University offers a bachelor of science (BS) degree in forensic science. Students in this program are required to complete an internship in a field related to forensics in addition to their didactic and laboratory coursework in biology, chemistry, and physics.

Graduates from this program go to work in careers in odontology (forensic dentistry) and toxicology and as criminalistic practitioners. Students in this program participate in mock crime scenes to gain experience in gathering and evaluating evidence.

  • Location: Bristol, TN
  • Duration: Four years
  • Tuition: $39,640 per year
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

Madonna University

Offering the only FEPAC-accredited bachelor of science degree program in Michigan, Madonna University emphasizes hands-on learning to teach common protocols required in forensic science jobs. Students in this program earn a bachelor’s degree in forensic science with a minor in chemistry to fulfill FEPAC accreditation requirements.

The program’s independent research project component provides students with real-life critical thinking tasks typically found in graduate-level programs. Other courses include firearm and tool mark analysis, ethics and expert testimony, and a required internship in forensic science.

  • Location: Livonia, MI
  • Duration: Four years
  • Tuition: $770 per credit
  • Accreditation: FEPAC

Pennsylvania State University

Accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC), the Eberly College of Science at the Pennsylvania State University offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in forensic science. Graduates from the bachelor of forensic science and master of forensic science programs have gone on to pursue rewarding careers in crime scene investigation laboratories, university research laboratories, and other fields related to forensic toxicology.

  • Location: University Park, PA
  • Duration: Two or four years depending on degree type
  • Tuition: $17,416 per year (undergraduate residents); $21,960 per year (graduate residents)
  • Accreditation: FEPAC

The University of California at Irvine

The University of California at Irvine (UCI) offers an on-campus one-year clinical laboratory science/medical technology (CLS/MT) training program. This post-baccalaureate certificate program awards a certificate of completion to students with bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees. This is a unique program that does not charge tuition and is approved by the California Department of Public Health and the UCI Allied Health Committee.

This program prepares students to take the licensure exams through the American Society for Clinical Pathology. Additional requirements include maintaining a grade point average of “B” or better to be eligible to sit for the certification exams and taking prerequisite courses in medical microbiology, immunology, hematology, biochemistry, and analytical chemistry.

  • Location: Irvine, CA
  • Duration: one year
  • Tuition: Students are responsible for fees and expenses
  • Accreditation: National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS)

Online Degree & Certificate Programs in Forensic Toxicology

Stevenson University Online

Stevenson University Online offers a fully online master of forensic science for current forensics professionals wanting to learn more about the current technologies and laws around collecting and presenting evidence in a legal context. Through partnerships with local and federal forensic law enforcement, students learn from leading forensic science investigative professionals.

Students can choose a biology or chemistry concentration and tailor their required, hands-on experiences by choosing to complete an online course in crime laboratory operations or an in-person practicum to gain professional experience.

  • Location: Owings Mills, MD
  • Duration: Two years
  • Tuition: $556 per credit
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

Mesa Community College

Mesa Community College offers online certificates of completion and an online associate degree program in forensic investigation, including some introductory instruction in forensic toxicology. Students in this program take courses in forensic photography, best practices in the collection and preservation of evidence, and critical investigative strategies. There are two pathways for certificates of completion in fingerprint identification and photography and forensic investigation. Students can choose between two associate’s degree pathways in the administration of justice studies and forensic science. Graduates of this program go on to pursue degrees in forensic science or careers such as bailiffs or correctional officers.

  • Location: Mesa, AZ
  • Duration: One to four terms
  • Tuition: $86 per credit (residents); $327 per credit (non-residents)
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

University of Florida

The College of Pharmacy at the University of Florida offers a fully online 32-credit master’s degree program and a 15-credit online graduate certificate in forensic science. Each program has four specialization options, and students interested in the certificate may enroll as non-degree seeking students to learn more about the program before fully committing to graduate-level coursework. Graduates of this program can look forward to advanced career opportunities in medical examiners’ offices, hospitals, clinical chemistry laboratories, and local or federal law enforcement.

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

Professional Certification in Forensic Toxicology

While certification is not typically required for forensic toxicologists in most states, having certification may increase applicants’ chances of landing interviews and negotiating higher salaries. Below is a list of organizations that offer certification and professional networks for forensic toxicologists:

  • American Board of Clinical Chemistry (ABCC)
  • American Board of Criminalistics (ABC)
  • American Board of Forensic Toxicology (ABFT)
  • American Board of Toxicology (ABT)
  • International Association for Identification (IAI)

Some laboratories may require professionals to provide proof of laboratory certification. Finally, the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) offers a board of certification (BOC) credential which forensic toxicologists can use to verify their knowledge of laboratory safety procedures.

Writer

Rachel Drummond

Rachel Drummond is a freelance writer, educator, and yogini from Oregon. She’s taught English to international university students in the United States and Japan for more than a decade and has a master’s degree in education from the University of Oregon. Rachel writes about meditation, yoga, coaching, and more on her blog (Instagram: @oregon_yogini).