Forensic Chemistry Major: Information and Requirements
Bachelor's degree programs in forensic chemistry teach students how to apply scientific ideologies and techniques to assist law enforcement with criminal and civil investigations. These programs are often offered through the chemistry departments at colleges and universities as a specialized degree track. Forensic chemistry programs also have much in common with the broader field of forensic science.
Bachelor's Degrees in Forensic Chemistry
Forensic chemistry is generally a methodical and detailed process, requiring advanced analytical and communication skills. Students who select a forensic chemistry major are given a foundation in theoretical and experimental chemistry, which requires many hours spent in a laboratory. Lab work includes the studies of chemical properties, evidence collection and specimen testing. Students are also taught effective methods of translating this highly technical laboratory information into terms that can be understood in a courtroom. There are no educational prerequisites specific to a forensic chemistry major.
Since much of a forensic scientist's work is done for criminal and civil cases, students are normally required to take introductory courses on courtroom testimony, criminalistics and the criminal justice system. The core science coursework can include the following:
- Organic, analytical and forensic chemistry
- Principles of chromatography and electrochemistry
- Crime scene investigation procedures
- Biostatistics and bioethics
- Genetics and cell biology
The professional field of forensic science, including forensic chemistry, is a relatively small one. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were only about 12,800 wage and salary occupations held by forensic science technicians in 2009. Most of these jobs were at crime laboratories run by a private industry or the local, state or federal government. The BLS states that in 2009 the average annual salary in the forensic science field was approximately $51,000 (www.bls.gov).
Continuing Education Information
Those who successfully complete a forensic chemistry bachelor's degree program traditionally have the option to pursue graduate studies in either forensic science or chemistry. Some of the relevant areas of specialization in a forensic science master's degree program include toxicology and DNA analysis. A graduate forensic science program will include supplemental coursework related to the criminology side of forensics, while a program in chemistry will focus more purely on scientific principles, research and analysis.
Another continuing education option for forensic chemistry majors is to attend conferences and professional training seminars held by industry organizations. These groups include the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (www.aafs.org) and the American College of Forensic Examiners International (www.acfei.com).
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