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Forensic Science Colleges in New Jersey

For aspiring forensic scientists in the Garden State, there is a startling array of crimes to solve. By illustration, Business Insider found that Newark was the most dangerous city in New Jersey (NJ), according to FBI data. Newark witnessed 75 murders in 2018 as well as 2,069 instances of violent crime and 5,674 instances of property crime (FBI.gov). As a result, there are ample opportunities for forensics professionals.

And in NJ, homicide and violent crimes occupy only one realm in the field of forensics. In fact, the New Jersey Association of Forensic Scientists (NJAFS) defines forensic science more broadly as the examination, analysis, and identification of evidence connected to criminal activity. They liaise with police officers, lawyers, and various specialty scientists in their efforts to reconstruct plausible explanations for physical, chemical, and biological traces of activity of interest.

The NJAFS adds that in New Jersey, forensic scientists typically have a master’s degree in a relevant scientific field (e.g., biology, biochemistry, chemistry, forensic science, etc.) and one year of laboratory experience. Alternatively, they may be able to substitute for a bachelor’s degree if they have at least two years of experience. Notably, the NJAFS points out that scientifically oriented programs are preferred to criminal justice degrees.

So what can a forensic scientist (or technician) in New Jersey expect to do? The prestigious American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) reports that responsibilities for forensic scientists include inspecting a variety of evidence types (e.g., bodily fluids, documents, fibers, soils, ballistics, fingerprints, plastics, etc.); performing various advanced scientific tests on evidence (e.g., mass spectrometry, DNA analysis, etc.); maintaining detailed case notes on findings; reviewing technical reports; conferring with various specialists to identify evidence; collaborating on various research endeavors; and testifying as expert witnesses in court. Since forensic science has a wealth of subfields, the AAFS offers a free, detailed career brochure entitled So You Want to Be a Forensic Scientist with details on specialties such as anthropology, psychiatry & behavioral science, and toxicology.

Read on to learn more about the career outlook for forensic science and accredited forensic science schools in NJ.

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How to Become a Forensic Scientist in New Jersey

For prospective forensic technicians and scientists in New Jersey, there are a variety of educational and experiential paths. However, these professionals typically pursue at least a four-year degree in natural sciences before employment. Career One Stop (2023)—a job-planning tool sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor—reports that 31 percent of forensic science technicians have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 14 percent with associate degrees and 24 percent with some college education.

Following is one of the most common paths to becoming a forensic scientist or technician in NJ:

  • Step 1: Graduating from high school. Since these professionals often get degrees in natural or physical sciences, strong grades in chemistry, physics, statistics, mathematics, and biology may prepare them for postsecondary work.
  • Step 2: Pursuing a bachelor’s degree (four years). Many forensic scientists hold four-year degrees, typically a BS in a subject such as biology, chemistry, engineering, psychology, or even computer science. The right degree will depend on the person’s intended specialization.
  • Step 3: Applying for certification (optional, timeline varies). Although certification is not necessary for practice in all forensic science branches, it can indicate a level of achievement or professional standards to employers, especially in fields that are more competitive. There are ten professional certification organizations accredited by the Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB), including the American Board of Criminalistics (ABC), the American Board of Forensic Toxicology (ABFT), and a variety of other subfields. Please note that these specialties may involve advanced training, experiential requirements, or examinations prior to admission.
  • Step 4: Pursuing an advanced degree in forensic science or a specialty discipline (optional, timeline varies). A more advanced degree is typically required for forensic scientists looking to deepen their knowledge, increased responsibilities, and possibly higher pay.

Strong Career Outlook for New Jersey Forensic Science Professionals

There is excellent news for aspiring forensic scientists and technicians in NJ. As proof of point, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2022) projects that openings for forensic science technicians nationwide—only one career possibility for people trained in this field—will swell 11 percent between 2021 and 2031, much faster than the average growth expected of all occupations during that time frame (5 percent). The anticipated addition of 2,000 forensic science technicians across the US will continue to shape job prospects in this field in years to come.

The outlook is slightly lower for residents of NJ. Projections Central (2023) found that demand for forensic science technicians in New Jersey is expected to grow 10 percent between 2020 and 2030.

So where can forensic science professionals in NJ seek work? The New Jersey State Police (NJSP) has a state-of-the-art Office of Forensic Sciences comprising four regional crime labs and a DNA processing facility. These have been accredited by the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB) and offer services such as drug testing, toxicology, trace evidence analysis, forensic serology, and three DNA testing units: nuclear DNA, mitochondrial DNA, and Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). Additionally, the New Jersey Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory (NJRCFL) employs forensics professionals and provides digital forensic services to law enforcement upon request.

The NJRCFL also boasts a wealth of training courses in subjects such as the seizing and handling of digital evidence; the forensic tool kit for investigators; image scan training; cell phone KIOSK (CPIK) training; and DVR best practices. More opportunities in forensic science may be found at traditional job posting sites such as Monster, SimplyHired, LinkedIn, and CareerBuilder, as well as facilities such as Burlington County Forensics Lab or employers listed through the New Jersey Civil Service Commission.

Since working in forensic science can often be stressful, seeking professional networking may be advisable. One standout organization is the New Jersey Association of Forensic Scientists (NJAFS), which offers seminars on topics such as Terrorism & Weapons of Mass Destruction. Additional societies and associations of interest for NJ forensic scientists include:

Finally, there is an abundance of specializations within the realm of forensic science. The American Academy of Forensic Sciences designates several specialties within forensic science, including anthropology, criminalistics, digital & multimedia sciences, engineering sciences, jurisprudence, odontology, pathology & biology, psychiatry & behavioral science, questioned documents, and toxicology.

In the toxicology specialty, as an example, forensic scientists are uniquely trained in identifying controlled substances using scientific processes such as chromatography, spectrophotometry, infrared (FTIR), mass spectrometry, nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMR), and x-ray spectroscopy. Another specialty to consider is wildlife forensic science, ideal for environmentalists or animal welfare advocates seeking to protect vulnerable species in diminishing natural areas. Perhaps one of the fastest-growing specialties is digital & multimedia sciences, boasting growth partly given the recent explosion of cybercrime, digital fraud, and other sensitive data leaks.

The AAFS also lists some common places of employment for forensic science professionals such as laboratories, police departments, crime labs, medicolegal death examiner offices, universities, hospitals, district attorney offices, regional or state agencies, and federal agencies (e.g., Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), FBI, etc.).

For more information about various subfields of forensics, please visit the main forensic scientist career page.

Forensics Salaries in New Jersey

Interestingly, forensic science technicians in New Jersey make slightly less than average salary figures for this field nationwide. To illustrate, the BLS (May 2022) found that the 17,590 forensic science technicians across the country had an annual average salary of $69,260. Among the 60 forensic science technicians working in NJ, this figure dropped to $59,120.

In more detailed terms, here is a breakdown of the salary percentiles among all forensic science technicians in the country compared with those in NJ (BLS May 2022):

United States New Jersey
Number of Forensic Science Technicians Employed 17,590 60
Annual Mean Wage $69,260 $59,120
10th percentile $39,710 $48,150
25th percentile $49,320 $49,340
50th percentile $63,740 $61,620
75th percentile $82,160 $61,620*
90th percentile $104,330 $77,780

*This figure is likely an error but has been reported faithfully from the BLS data.

These figures varied slightly according to a different source of data. PayScale (2023)—a respected aggregator of self-reported salary figures—found different figures among its 262 responding forensic scientists across the US:

  • 10th percentile: $40,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $56,186
  • 90th percentile: $89,000

It’s important to note that while some forensic science positions in NJ may have slightly lower wages, the cost of living is higher than the average across the country. By illustration, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2023) found that the Garden State is the 15th most expensive state in which to live and has particularly steep housing costs.

New Jersey Forensics Programs

New Jersey has a wealth of forensic science programs to train these aspiring crime solvers. Prospective forensic science students in NJ are encouraged to seek out programs that are accredited. Various accrediting agencies exist, but the Forensic Science Education Program Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) is the gold standard in forensics program accreditation. As of June 2023, there are no FEPAC-accredited programs in NJ, but there are several in nearby states which are discussed below.

Even though NJ has no FEPAC-approved programs, students are urged to seek out programs with institutional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), the principal accrediting agency in this region recognized by the US Department of Education. Please visit the relevant section below for more information about programmatic and institutional accreditation.

For bachelor’s programs in forensics in NJ, typical admissions committees generally ask for the following: an official high school transcript with a competitive GPA, proof of having completed specific coursework (e.g., biology, chemistry, algebra), a personal statement, test scores (SAT or ACT tests, and TOEFL for non-native English speakers), and an application fee. Some programs may also request candidate interviews or letters of recommendation.

For NJ master’s programs in forensic science, typical admissions requirements include sending official undergraduate transcripts from a relevant major (e.g., biology, chemistry, forensic science); writing a personal statement, submitting official test scores (e.g., GRE or MCAT, and TOEFL for non-native English speakers); and paying an application fee. Some programs also ask for specific work experience, letters of recommendation, and candidate interviews.

Finally, forensic science certificate programs are available in NJ whose admissions requirements typically include completion of an undergraduate program; showing proof of licensure or certification; sending a current CV; submitting letters of recommendation; and paying an application fee.

New Jersey Institute of Technology

New Jersey Institute of Technology offers a bachelor of science program in forensic science that aims to provide students with solid foundational knowledge in chemistry, biology, mathematics, and physics and mastery of laboratory procedures and forensic field practices. Students enrolled in this program will also gain specific expertise through one of the program’s three concentration options: forensic chemistry, digital forensics, and forensic biology.

Made up of 120 credits, the program’s forensic science core includes courses such as introduction to forensic science; crime scene investigation; law and evidence; physical methods of forensic analysis; forensic microscopy; and a forensic science capstone.

The forensic chemistry concentration includes courses such as biochemistry; instrumental analysis; organic chemistry; and analytical chemistry. The forensic biology concentration includes courses such as genetics; physiology; concepts in biology; and mammalian physiology. The digital forensics concentration includes courses such as computer forensics; digital crime; and ethical hacking for system administrators.

Graduates can take up roles such as bloodstain pattern analysts, crime laboratory analysts, crime scene investigators, forensic ballistic experts, and medical examiners.

  • Location: Newark, NJ
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four years
  • Estimated Tuition: New Jersey residents ($15,198 for two semesters); non-New Jersey residents ($31,658 for two semesters)

Stockton University

For those interested more in criminal justice rather than the hard sciences, Stockton University of Galloway offers several criminal justice concentrations in its bachelor’s degree program such as forensic psychology, forensic investigation, and homeland security. Notably, Stockton also provides a certificate program in forensic science.

The general concentration in Stockton University’s bachelor’s program in criminal justice includes courses such as theories of criminality; introduction to criminal justice; statistics for criminal justice; courts, law, & procedure; and introduction to corrections; among other courses. The forensic psychology concentration includes courses such as juvenile justice; introduction to forensic science; forensic behavior analysis. Courses in the forensic investigation concentration include digital forensics & cybercrime investigation; medico-legal death investigation; and forensic anthropology. Finally, the homeland security concentration includes courses such as constitutional law; criminal procedure: investigations; and introduction to anthropology.

The forensic science certificate comprises 20 credits and includes courses such as introduction to forensic science; criminal procedure and investigation; advanced forensic investigation; medico-legal death investigation; and forensic anthropology.

Also, it is worth noting that Stockton University also offers a dual BA/MA degree program in criminal justice that comprises 164 credits.

  • Location: Galloway, NJ
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: BA (four years); dual degree (five years); certificate (within a year)
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($6,370 per semester); out-of-state ($10,237 per semester)

Alfred State – SUNY College of Technology

As stated above, although there are very few FEPAC-accredited programs in NJ, there are some good options nearby. Alfred State of New York offers a FEPAC-accredited bachelor of science (BS) degree in forensic science technology. Focused highly on laboratory sciences, the program provides students with the hands-on experience they need for the rigors of a real forensic laboratory. In addition to core courses in science, students in this program are trained in the theory and usage of modern instrumental techniques that crime laboratories use nationwide. Additionally, they engaged with local research mentors and must complete an internship at a preceptor site.

Consisting of 122 credits, the program includes courses such as general biology; chemical principles; organic chemistry; topics in forensic science; introduction to criminal justice; statistical methods & analysis; principles of microbiology; biochemistry; instrumental analysis; genetics; microscopy and criminalistics; law & criminal evidence; forensic chemistry; and biotechniques.

  • Location: Alfred, NY
  • Accreditation: FEPAC; Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 48 months
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($295 per credit); out-of-state ($708 per credit)

Buffalo State University

Buffalo State University provides a FEPAC-accredited forensic chemistry bachelor of science (BS). This program offers rigorous training in the practical aspects and theories of chemistry, focusing on analytical techniques. The program also meets the requirements for certification by the American Chemical Society and prepares students to not only enter a professional career in forensic science but also in analytical chemistry.

This 120- to 126-credit program includes courses such as forensic geoscience; forensic anthropology; fundamentals of chemistry; forensic psychology; biochemistry; organic chemistry; chemistry and criminalistics; scientific criminal evidence analysis; general microbiology; and professional practices in forensic science, among others.

Buffalo State also has a master of science (MS) program in forensic chemistry.

  • Location: Buffalo, NY
  • Accreditation: FEPAC; Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 48 months
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($295 per credit); out-of-state ($708 per credit)

Fairleigh Dickinson University

The Fairleigh Dickinson University of Teaneck offers an 18-month master of arts (MA) in forensic psychology. As part of the program, students complete a 300-hour externship gaining invaluable clinical experience. Previously, students have completed externships at various clinical and forensic sites, including law enforcement settings, prisons or jails, psychiatric or forensic hospitals, courts, private practices, outpatient treatment programs, and more.

Admission requirements to the program include an online graduate school application, a current resume, a personal statement, unofficial transcripts from all institutions attended, a competitive GPA, and two letters of recommendation.

The program comprises 36 credits and includes coursework in psychopathology; introduction to forensic psychology; evaluating criminal responsibility and competency to stand trial; forensic interviewing techniques; psychological analysis of criminal cases; ethical issues in forensic psychology; and special topics in forensic psychology.

  • Location: Teaneck, NJ
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 18 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $623 per credit

John Jay College of Criminal Justice

The prestigious John Jay College of Criminal Justice in nearby New York provides a FEPAC-accredited master of science (MS) degree in forensic science. John Jay boasts three distinct tracks for this degree: criminalistics, molecular biology, and forensic toxicology. Emphasizing hands-on laboratory courses, the program provides up-to-date technical skills and encourages problem-solving and critical thinking.

This program consists of 41 to 43 credits and includes courses such as fundamentals of forensic toxicology; physical and biological evidence; advanced instrumental analysis; advanced criminalistics; advanced criminalistics; forensic DNA technology; forensic examination of firearms and toolmarks; crime scene investigation for forensic scientists; and advanced genetics.

  • Location: New York, NY
  • Accreditation: FEPAC; Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($470 per credit); out-of-state ($855 per credit)

Montclair State University

Montclair State University offers a graduate certificate in forensic psychology designed for licensed psychologists, graduate students, psychiatrists, social workers, psychiatric nurses, professional counselors, and other health professionals. Candidates must have a master’s degree in a psychology field to be eligible to apply for this post-master’s certificate program.

Comprising 15 credits, the program includes courses such as psychological science and the law; criminal forensic assessment; interventions in forensic psychology; forensic interviewing of children; forensic psychology in criminal proceedings; and theories of interpersonal and familial violence.

  • Location: Montclair, NJ
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Within a year
  • Estimated Tuition: $763.37 per credit

For more information on forensics degrees and specializations, please visit the forensic programs page.

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Hybrid & Online Forensics Programs

For some students in NJ, it may be difficult to attend a traditional campus-based program in forensic science. Luckily, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences has also identified various online programs in this field. Please note that due to the nature of distance-based education, many of the prestigious options available to NJ students are at the graduate level and targeted at those who have secured a local professional opportunity, mentor, or preceptorship.

University of Massachusetts Lowell

The University of Massachusetts offers an online graduate certificate in forensic criminology which may be ideal for professionals in nursing, public health, psychology, paralegal studies, criminal justice, or social work. The program gives students advanced training in populations served by the state and federal court systems, mental health facilities, juvenile detention centers, and other correctional institutions.

This 12-credit program includes courses such as criminal profiling; forensic psychology; victimology; criminal homicide; sex crimes and offenders; and mental health & criminal justice. Courses in this certificate program can be applied toward UMass Lowell’s online master’s degree in criminal justice.

  • Location: Lowell, MA
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Nine months
  • Estimated Tuition: $585 per credit

University of Florida

The University of Florida (UF) provides an online master’s degree in forensic science in four distinct tracks: forensic science, forensic DNA & serology, forensic toxicology, and forensic drug chemistry. UF gives fall, spring, and summer admission to students in each of the specializations.

The MS degree in forensic science consists of 32 credits and includes courses such as principles of forensic science; biological evidence and serology; applied statistics for data analysis; forensic toxicology; crime scene investigation; biosecurity and microbial forensics; and forensic toxicology.

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

To learn more about the distance-based programs in forensic science, please check out the main online forensic science degrees page.

Forensics Certification in New Jersey

For prospective forensic science professionals in New Jersey, there are 10 specialty certifications recognized by the Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB). In order to qualify, candidates typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, at least three to five years of experience, letters of recommendation, and a passing test score on a specialty exam. These FSAB-recognized certifications are generally valid for three to five years and can be renewed after completing continuing education (CE) credits and a renewal application.

Some of the 10 FSAB-approved certification agencies include:

  • American Board of Criminalistics (ABC)
  • American Board of Forensic Toxicology (ABFT)
  • Board of Forensic Document Examiners (BDFE)
  • International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists (IACIS)

For more information about how to join the specialized subfields of forensics, please visit the main forensics careers page or the forensic scientist page.

Forensic Science Program Accreditation

Finally, for aspiring forensic science students in NJ, there are two main types of accreditation to seek: programmatic or institutional. For programmatic accreditation, the Forensic Science Education Program Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) is the main agency that recognizes programs in this field. It weighs factors such as student support services, admissions processes, mission statements, records of student complaints, method of educational delivery, and professional involvement of the staff. For more information on the specific criteria, please visit FEPAC’s Standards of Accreditation page.

For institutional accreditation in NJ, the main agency is the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), one of six regional organizations recognized by the US Department of Education. It evaluates similar factors such as school mission & goals, design & delivery of the learning experience, availability of student support, educational effectiveness, avenues of institutional improvement, and administrative procedures. For more information on the MSCHE evaluation process, please visit the MSCHE Standards of Accreditation page.

School Name City Forensic
Total Forensics
Grads (2016-2017)
Fairleigh Dickinson University-Metropolitan Campus Teaneck x 13
Kean University Union x 1

School "total forensics grads" data provided by IPEDS (2018) for the 2016-2017 school year, and includes all certificates and degrees awarded for the following programs: Criminalistics and Criminal Science, Forensic Chemistry, Forensic Science and Technology, Forensic Psychology, Cyber/Computer Forensics, and Financial Forensics and Fraud Investigation.

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Jocelyn Blore is the chief content officer of Sechel Ventures and the co-author of the Women Breaking Barriers series. She graduated summa cum laude from UC Berkeley and traveled the world for five years. She also worked as an addiction specialist for two years in San Francisco. She’s interested in how culture shapes individuals and systems within societies—one of the many themes she writes about in her blog, Blore’s Razor (Instagram: @bloresrazor). She has served as managing editor for several healthcare websites since 2015.