Get information about bachelor’s degree programs in forensic chemistry and their coursework, career choices, and continuing education choices.
Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Forensic Chemistry
Students enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs in forensic chemistry are taught ways of applying scientific techniques and ideologies to aid law enforcement with civil and criminal investigations. The chemistry departments at universities and colleges often offer these programs as a specialized degree track. The broader field of forensic science shares much in common with forensic chemistry programs. A forensic chemistry major does not have any specific educational prerequisites.
The detailed and methodical process of forensic chemistry requires advanced communication and analytical skills. Students enrolled in forensic chemistry majors gain a strong foundation in experimental and theoretical chemistry, including many hours of laboratory experience as well as the studies of specimen testing, evidence collection, and chemical properties.
Students also learn effective ways of translating the highly technical language used to convey laboratory information into easily understood terms that can find usage in the courtroom.
Given the primary focus of a forensic scientist’s work on civil and criminal cases, coursework includes introductory courses on the criminal justice system, criminalistics, and courtroom testimony. Core science coursework covers subject areas such as the following:
•Biostatistics and bioethics
•Crime scene investigation procedures
•Principles of chromatography and electrochemistry
•Organic, analytical, and forensic chemistry
•Genetics and cell biology
In the relatively small professional field of forensic science, including forensic chemistry, forensic science technicians held only about 12,400 paid jobs in 2012 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), which included several in crime laboratories run by the federal, state, or local governments as well as private industry. In May 2012, forensic science professionals brought home an average annual wage of $52,840 (BLS).
Continuing Education Choices
Graduates from a forensic chemistry bachelor’s degree program can seek continuing education in either chemistry or forensic science. They can seek specialization in relevant areas such as DNA analysis and toxicology.
Supplemental coursework within a graduate forensic science program relates to the criminology aspect of forensics. The focus of the chemistry program is primarily on scientific principles, analysis, and research.
Forensic chemistry majors may also pursue continuing education by attending professional training seminars and conferences conducted by industry organizations such as the American College of Forensic Examiners International and the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.