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The Best Forensic Science Colleges

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The Best Forensic Science Colleges
RankSchoolLocation
1University of New HavenWest Haven, Connecticut
2University of Pittsburgh-BradfordBradford, Pennsylvania
3Columbia CollegeColumbia, South Carolina
4Michigan State UniversityEast Lansing, Michigan
5Florida International UniversityMiami, Florida
6Arizona State University-TempeTempe, Arizona
7Long Island UniversityBrookville, New York
8Temple UniversityPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania
9Liberty UniversityLynchburg, Virginia
10Grand Canyon UniversityPhoenix, Arizona

This is a ranking of the Best Forensic Science Colleges in the U.S.

Our ranking is designed for students to make informed college and degree decisions. This ranking includes bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Forensic Science.

Our ranking analyzes data points from the National Center for Education Statistics, and the academic influence of faculty in publications of Forensic Science. For more ranking methodology information see our College Calculator.

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A Forensic Science undergrad and graduate degree may open doors to many career paths. Forensic Scientists work within fields such as Digital Forensics, Crime Scene Investigation, Forensic Psychology, and Forensic Accounting.

At its core, a Forensic Science degree gives students the scientific tools necessary to approach solving crimes in various roles. Graduates learn sharp analytical and investigative skills that can be applied across many fields within Forensic Science.

Forensic Science students can study many different subjects. Forensic Science students can study biology, chemistry, mathematics, criminal law, criminology, forensic psychology, or forensic accounting. Students can often choose a specialization (like blood splatter, toxicology, ballistics, or handwriting analysis).

Some graduates might find themselves drawn to forensic anthropology, toxicology, crime scene photography, or crime scene investigation.

Career paths also include being an arson investigator or a forensic accountant (someone who investigates financial documents). Students can even use the degree to become a high school teacher, police officer, or paralegal.

Related: How to Become a Forensic Scientist: FAQs Answered

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The Best Forensic Science Colleges

Ranking Methodology

The main factor this ranking is academic influence in forensic science. Academic influence means publications and citations of alumni and faculty. We then concentrated on colleges that offer Forensic Science undergrad and graduate degrees. We looked at the individual programs and determined which schools would be most beneficial to students using data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

1.University of New Haven

Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences

West Haven, Connecticut

  • Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science
  • Master of Science in Forensic Science
  • Master of Science in Forensic Technology

The Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences offers a wide range of degrees. This program is one of the most comprehensive in the nation

Students learn from faculty who have worked for the CIA, FBI, local and state police departments, and the United Nations.

Students also can study in the world-renowned, state of the art Henry C. Lee Institute for Forensic Science. The institute features working crime scene labs.

The University offers three degrees related to the forensic science field.

The Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science helps students sharpen their powers of observation and learn to interpret evidence.

This is one of the first forensic science programs in the nation. The Master of Science in Forensic Science provides students with practical and theoretical knowledge to apply scientific methods to criminal investigation.

The first of its kind, the Master of Science in Forensic Technology combines cutting-edge technology with the Forensic Science. Students will learn a variety of forensic field technology, including laser scanners, ground penetrating radar, biometric devices, and more.

2.University of Pittsburgh-Bradford

Bradford, Pennsylvania

  • Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science

The Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science introduces students to the operation of police agencies and the courts. Students also learn forensic investigation. The major includes coursework in chemistry, biology, criminal justice, and mathematics.

Students must complete a concentration in either chemistry or biology.

Through work in the Crime Scene Investigation House, students analyze hair, drugs, fiber and DNA for the senior capstone project.

The program prepares graduates for careers in industry and government labs as well as forensic science labs.

Courses include:

  • Introduction to Forensic Science
  • Criminal Evidence/Investigation
  • Criminal Forensics I and II

3.Columbia College

Columbia, South Carolina

Columbia College offers the Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice with a Forensic Concentration.

Offered both on-campus and online, students learn a broad foundation in criminal justice, and a focused understanding of forensics.

Students gain knowledge of criminological theory, leadership, ethics, and courts.

Courses in the Forensics concentration include:

  • Forensic Toxicology with Lab
  • Forensic DNA with Lab
  • FBI Fingerprint Recognition and Comparison

Columbia also offers an online Master of Arts in Criminal Justice.

4.Michigan State University

School of Criminal Justice

East Lansing, Michigan

Michigan State University has a long history as a premier institution for research and education in forensic science. Its School of Criminal Justice combines a legacy of leadership in criminal justice with cutting-edge education and research.

The Master of Science in Forensic Science has courses in forensic science, law, criminal justice and an emphasis on forensic chemistry.

Throughout the program, students complete research in Forensic Science including an independent project that features a written thesis and oral defense.

Students receive funding to present their research at national and local conferences, and are encouraged to complete internships.

5.Florida International University

Global Forensic and Justice Center, International Forensic Research Institute

Miami, Florida

Florida International University is a leading institution in Forensic Science research and instruction. Since 2018 their Global Forensic and Justice Center (GFJC) has been engaging the forensic and criminal justice domains through education and research to provide a more just society.

The GFJC combines the 25-year-success of the National Forensic Science Technology Center (NFSTC) and the International Forensic Research Institute (IFRI) for a comprehensive and collaborative approach to addressing real-world gaps in education, training, research, and applied sciences. GFJC serves as the incubator for the NIJ-funded Center for Advanced Research in Forensic Science (CARFS).

FIU offers the Professional Science Master’s in Forensic Science degree.

This 16-month program teaches students management skills and professional instruction in the forensic sciences. Online courses are available for students who work full time and cannot attend on-campus instruction.

Credits: 33 credits total. 24 credits are forensic science instruction, and nine credits are online and focus on professional business instruction. These nine online business classes are through the College of Business Administration.  

Courses include:

  • Forensic Chemistry
  • Chemistry & Analysis of Drugs
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Forensic Biology
  • Leadership & Decision Making

This program includes an internship capstone.

6.Arizona State University-Tempe

School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, ASU Online

Tempe, Arizona

  • Online Professional Science Master’s in Forensic Science
  • Certificate in Criminal Investigations

The Online Professional Science Master’s in Forensic Science (PSM) program prepares those who work in forensic science for career advancement. The program provides students with a pathway to develop competencies related to laboratory supervision.

Course topics include botany, forensic science and government, toxicology, forensic DNA, and ethics.

Students also complete an applied project at the end of the program.

The University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice also offers a Certificate in Criminal Investigations. This certificate focuses on aspects of criminal investigations and criminalistics. The program provides students with an understanding of forensic science in these competencies:

  • nature of criminal evidence
  • the language of forensic science
  • the scope of investigative specializations and techniques

Required courses include:

  • Introduction to Criminal Investigations
  • Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • Procedural Criminal Law
  • Documenting the Crime Scene

Students also can gain real-world experience by completing an internship.

7.Long Island University

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Brookville, New York

  • Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science

LIU Post’s Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science degree program combines lectures with laboratory instruction and field training.

Students learn a broad range of forensic applications, which include:

  • Forensic anthropology
  • Criminalistics
  • Molecular pathology
  • Human genetics

Taught by practicing forensic scientists, medical professionals and LIU Post professors, courses include:

  • Introduction to Criminalistics
  • Toxicology
  • Forensic Anthropology
  • Forensic Molecular Techniques
  • Criminal Procedure

8.Temple University

College of Science and Technology

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

  • Professional Science Master’s in Forensic Chemistry

The College of Science and Technology offers a Professional Science Master’s in Forensic Chemistry. Students learn the scientific methods used to detect, examine and process non-biological trace evidence to identify unknown materials.

Students learn both the legal and the scientific aspects of forensic chemistry and gain conceptual knowledge and practical skills.

Course topics include:

  • analytical and forensic chemistry
  • applied biopharmaceutics
  • data analysis
  • ethics
  • law
  • toxicology

Students gain skills at seminars facilitated by leaders in forensic chemistry. Students also gain hands-on experience through the onsite forensic chemistry laboratory.

Students can complete an independent study project and an internship.

The university also houses the Temple University Forensics Organization, which introduces students to the field of forensic science. Club members also take trips to the Philadelphia Crime lab, where they can network with professionals in the field.

9.Liberty University

School of Health Sciences

Lynchburg, Virginia

  • Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science
  • online Master’s in Criminal Justice: Forensic Psychology

Liberty University is a leader in online and on campus education. Liberty is one of the largest schools in the nation in number of enrolled students.

Liberty offers the on-campus Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science degree.

The Forensic Science bachelor’s is interdisciplinary, and teaches students from Criminal Justice, Biology, and Chemistry. There are hands-on labs for almost all of the classes taken through the Department of Biology and Chemistry. Liberty accepts transferring in up to 75% of the degree in accepted transfer credits. This degree also provides opportunities for internships in New York City and Washington D.C.

Length: The program is 120 credit hours and students can usually finish in four years.

Major courses include:

  • Forensic DNA Analysis
  • Forensic Entomology
  • Criminal Investigations I
  • Trace Evidence

Liberty offers the online Master’s in Criminal Justice: Forensic Psychology as well. This program is 36 credit hours. Courses are 8 weeks long, and students can usually complete this degree in 1.5 years.

This master’s programs teaches online master’s students how to become professional psychologists for forensic purposes. It’s a degree oriented for assisting people affected by crime or abuse. Forensic psychologists aid law enforcement.

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10.Grand Canyon University

College of Science, Engineering, & Technology

Phoenix, Arizona

  • Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science
  • online Master of Science in Forensic Science

Grand Canyon offers the Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science degree and the online Master of Science in Forensic Science.

Forensic science competencies that students will learn in the bachelor’s program are:

  • forensic DNA analysis
  • crime scene processing
  • toxicology
  • forensic photography
  • serology

As an on-campus program, students will learn to collect and analyze forensic evidence samples in the classroom and field. Students learn best practices on crime scene evaluations. This includes photography, evidence collecting and analyses, for the purpose of making sense of the crime.

The BS in Forensic Science requires 120 credit hours. 76 credits are major courses, with general credits ranging from 34 – 40 credit hours, and 4 – 10 electives.

Core courses include:

  • General Biology
  • General Chemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Crime Scene Processing
  • Body Fluid and DNA Analysis

Seniors will have a Capstone in Forensic Science.

Grand Canyon offers the online Master of Science in Forensic Science program. This program is 36 credit hours in length. Students will be able to conduct hands-on collection and analyses of forensic evidence, using a laboratory at home.

Core courses include:

  • Advanced Topics in Forensic Science
  • Comparative Methods
  • Applied Statistics for Forensic Science
  • Courtroom Presentation of Scientific Evidence

Students will learn forensic science in chemistry, biology, genetics, and statistics.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Forensic Science?

Forensic science utilizes science to aid in law enforcement. Forensic scientists work to provide unbiased, impartial, scientific evidence professionals can use in courts and criminal investigations. Forensic science, a multidisciplinary field, utilizes information acquired from a wide array of fields and disciplines such as chemistry, physics, biology, psychology, information technology, geology, as well as the social sciences. Forensic scientists primarily work in crime laboratories. A crime laboratory typically includes units such as a Physical Science unit, a Biology unit, a Firearms unit, a Document unit, and a Photographic unit. A crime laboratory may provide additional services such as fingerprint analysis, voiceprint analysis, toxicology, and evidence collection.

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What Do Forensic Scientists Do?

A forensic scientist performs tests and evaluates evidence and provides reports and/or expert testimony in a court of law. Many forensic scientists are employed in crime laboratories, some of them may collect evidence at crime scenes. For example, a forensic chemist evaluates non-biological trace evidence discovered at crime scenes to identify unknown materials and match samples to known substances. A forensic biologist typically specializes in DNA analysis. A forensic geologist provides soil analysis to crime investigations.

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How do you become a Forensic Scientist?

Forensic Scientists typically need a bachelor’s degree, such as forensic science or a science degree including chemistry, biology, and physics. They may also want to take courses in math, statistics, biostatistics, genetics, and general and organic chemistry, as well as courses which provide writing skills. Courses in criminal justice may provide some useful knowledge. Forensic technicians need extensive laboratory experience. Some forensic scientist jobs require an advanced degree such as psychiatrist, pathologist or anthropologist. A Master’s degree in forensic science can help to obtain a leadership position as a forensic scientist or criminologist within crime labs.

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What Do You Study in a Forensic Science Program?

Forensic science students will study the following forensic science fields: Ballistics, Chemical Trace Evidence, Computer Forensic Examination, Criminalistics, Criminal Investigation, Digital & Multimedia Sciences, DNA Profiling, Drug Analysis, Facial Identification, Fingerprints, Firearms/Toolmarks, Fire Debris & Explosives Analysis, Forensic Anthropology, Forensic Biology, Forensic Engineering, Forensic Photography and Electronic Digital Imaging, Handwriting, Information Security, Jurisprudence, Microscopy, Mobile Phone Forensic Examination, Paternity Testing, Questioned Documents, and Toxicology.

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What Are Some Forensic Science Careers?

Many forensic scientists work in forensic science (crime) laboratories. The United States, has over 4000 crime laboratories administered by federal, state, or local governments or private industry. Many crime laboratories employ scientists in the areas of forensic chemistry, forensic biology and criminalistics. Graduates of a Bachelor in Forensic Science degree program can seek an entry-level position as a crime lab technician and other positions. Some of the careers in forensics include: Crime Laboratory Analysts use their refined scientific knowledge to assess the evidence obtained.Digital Forensic Examiners are involved in searching a suspect’s hard drive or cell phone for evidence of a crime. They often perform this work in close collaboration with Law Enforcement. Forensic Pathologists do autopsies on victims to assess the reason for dying. Forensic Science Technicians work in crime labs analyzing the evidence collected from crime scenes. Forensic Toxicologists look at the chemistry of people who have passed away to assess the use of chemicals, drugs, or poisons. DNA Analysts help to connect potential DNA evidence to crime suspects. Here are some forensic science careers outside of the crime laboratory: Forensic Anthropology, Forensic Engineering, Forensic Entomology, Forensic Odontology, Forensic Pathology, and Forensic Psychiatry.

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What Government Agencies Hire Forensic Scientists?

Government agencies that hire Forensic Scientists include the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, U.S. Department of Justice, Central Intelligence Agency, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service Headquarters, State Crime Labs/State Police Departments, Coroner Offices, Medical Examiner Offices, and Law Enforcement Offices.

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Do Law Enforcement Officers or Federal Agents Need To Have a Forensic Science Degree?

Typically no. Most law enforcement agencies at the local, state, or federal levels require a four-year degree of some type, but not specifically a forensic science degree.

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What are Major Forensic Science Certifications?

The major Forensic Science Certifications are the American Board of Forensic Document Examiners, which offers the Forensic Document Examiner certification, The American Board of Forensic Toxicology provides a certification program in forensic toxicology, The American Board of Criminalistics provides certification, The International Association for Identification offers several certifications, and Forensic Science Technicians.

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What Are Some Forensic Science Professional Organizations?

Professional organizations in Forensic Science include: American Academy of Forensic Sciences, Society of Forensic Toxicologists, Inc., American Forensic Association, American Board of Criminalists, Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences, International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists, International Society of Forensic Computer Examiners, and the International Association of Identification: The International Association of Identification is the oldest and largest forensic association in the world. The Association represents a diverse, experienced and knowledgeable membership which educates, shares, critiques and publishes methods, research, and techniques in the physical forensic science disciplines. The Association provides student membership to full-time college students at an accredited college with a major in a forensic science related field or law enforcement.

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