Main image courtesy of Western Carolina University.
We all know how difficult and confusing the college search can be. In your final year of high school, keeping track of grades, application essays, recommendation letters, and planning for your college finances all add up to one hectic schedule.
This becomes even more stressful when you’re not sure how to go about getting the right qualifications for the career you want. Forensics is a complicated field, and it’s important to get the right qualifications if you want to get your foot in the door. But what schools offer the best programs, and what should you be aware of about forensics before choosing your major?
We’ve compiled a list of some of the best colleges to attend for forensic science in the country. If you’re interested in going into forensics, make sure to look at some of these schools’ programs!
Forensic Science-- What Does it Involve?
Forensic scientists are responsible for chemically analyzing evidence from crime scenes and investigations. This requires a strong understanding of various branches of chemistry and biology, depending on a forensic scientist’s specialization.
If you want to go into this field, you’ll most likely want to attend college and earn at least an Associate’s degree-- although most forensics jobs will prefer a Bachelor's or above. After you’ve enrolled in a four-year forensics program, you’ll have the chance to choose a specialization. This could mean that your studies will focus on anything from DNA analysis, to toxicology, to molecular biology.
It’s alright not to know what specific type of forensic science you’re interested in at first. Most undergraduate programs are designed to give you basic knowledge and help you dip your toe into different areas of the field before you choose something to focus on.
So what are some of the best colleges to attend for forensic science? Here’s our list:
The Best Colleges for Forensic Science
Pennsylvania State University
Pennsylvania State University has one of the best forensic sciences programs in the country through its Eberly College of Science. This program starts out by giving students a strong grounding in the basics of criminalistics before allowing them to decide whether they want to specialize in biology or chemistry and individualize their education from there. Courses in the program include topics like courtroom proceedings, forensic molecular biology, and drug chemistry. For a clearer idea of what the forensic science program and Pennsylvania State University entails, check out their sample course syllabi on their website.
Cedarville University, located in Cedarville, Ohio, has a strong, rigorous forensic science program. This program focuses on courses in biology, chemistry, physics, and math for most of its curriculum, but also provides students with at least 18 credit hours of courses in criminal justice. The result is that students graduate with a strong understanding of several facets of forensics-- which is ideal for helping you choose a specialization.
Loyola University Chicago
Loyola University Chicago has a great forensic science program that offers several electives in subjects ranging from victimology, to cell biology, to paleopathology. The program starts out with a focus on biology and chemistry before branching out into more specific forensics-related classes, and also provides students with internship opportunities as well as the chance to participate in forensic research-- so at this school, you’ll be able to get practical experience as well as a rounded understanding of the field of forensics. Loyola University Chicago publishes the requirements for its Bachelor of the Sciences in forensic science, so you can take a look at what this program includes.
George Mason University
George Mason University, located in Fairfax, Virginia, is a school you should definitely look into if you’d like to get lots of practical, hands-on experience during your education. All of the school’s forensic science faculty come from backgrounds where they actively put their skills to use, and the program offers several ways of simulating crime scene investigation-- such as the Crime Scene House, where students can practice their analysis skills. The program is extensive, consisting of at least 120 credit hours, but it’s certainly one to look into-- the requirements for a Bachelor of the Sciences in forensic science are available online.
University of Central Florida
The University of Central Florida’s forensics program is the second oldest in the country, and it’s been long-established for a good reason-- it’s very thorough. The forensic science program has a focus on biochemistry, evidence analysis, and lab work experience for students-- who, once declaring the major, can choose a track that specializes in either biochemistry or chemistry. UCF is proud of its forensics program, and views this major as a worthwhile one to pursue-- there’s a good chance that work opportunities for forensic science majors will increase over the next several years.
Syracuse University values giving their students a deep background in subjects adjacent to their preferred field, rather than merely focusing on a single specialized subject. To this end, the college’s Forensic Science program is an Integrative Learning Major, meant to be taken alongside another major-- such as biochemistry, sociology, or even linguistics. Students pursuing a Forensic Science degree are also encouraged to study abroad and to participate in the hands-on experience opportunities on campus. Syracuse University publishes the requirements for the Forensic Science major online, so you can get an idea of what this program includes.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln offers a strong forensic science program with three tracks to choose from-- students can follow academic tracks in forensic biology, crime scene investigation, or forensic chemistry. In each of these tracks, students get more individualized instruction due to the program’s small class sizes-- enabling them to take more control over their education.
San Jose State University
San Jose State University offers several majors, all of which meet the requirements for accreditation from the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. Students can choose to major in forensic science with a concentration in biology, chemistry, or digital evidence, or justice studies with or without a concentration in criminology. Minors in forensic studies, legal studies, justice studies, or human rights are also available.
Due to the comprehensive list of academic tracks students can pick from, San Jose State University is an excellent school to keep in mind while applying to colleges if you have an interest in forensics or legal studies. The forensics courses available at SJSU are published online, to give you an idea of what your program here might look like.
University of New Haven
The University of New Haven has an excellent forensics program, allowing students to focus on either biology or chemistry in addition to the degree’s main requirements. After completing the university’s core curriculum of 40 credits, forensic sciences students take several courses in biology and spend a lot of time focusing on chemistry and more forensic technique-focused courses. The university’s website lays out the requirements for the core curriculum and forensic science major-- so you can see what kinds of courses you’ll take if you enroll here.
George Washington University
George Washington University, located in Washington, D.C., is an excellent college to keep an eye on for students interested in forensics. The school offers a variety of forensics-related majors, including crime scene investigation, forensic chemistry, molecular biology, investigation, and general forensic science, so students can pick the track that suits their interests best.
Washington D.C. is also an excellent place for forensics due to the internship opportunities available there. Forensics students at George Washington University have the opportunity to participate in internships with organizations like the FBI and the Department of Defense-- which can provide incredible experience in the field.
Those Were Some of the Best Colleges for Forensic Science
The transition from high school to college can be extremely confusing, not to mention a little scary. But with a little bit of advice, research, and hard work, things will start to clear up-- you’ll slowly start to get a feel for what you want to study and what you want to do with it after graduation.
For forensic science students, there are plenty of great opportunities out there with plenty of excellent colleges. Even if you don’t end up applying to one of the schools on this list, checking out their programs and classes will help you get a good idea of what types of degrees and course offerings you should be looking out for. Hopefully, some of this information will prove helpful in your college search-- giving you the opportunity to study what you’re passionate about and develop skills that will assist you in your long-term career goals.