Forensic Toxicology Colleges and Schools in the U.S.
Forensic toxicologists test bodily fluids and tissues to identify chemicals and analyze their relevance to a crime. The field includes aspects of biology, chemistry and physics. Graduate degree programs in toxicology prepare individuals to work in government and private industry.
How to Select a Forensic Toxicology School
Students can prepare for a graduate program in toxicology by obtaining a Bachelor of Science in chemistry, biology or physics. Each of these degree programs contains a slightly different curriculum, but all are commonly accepted by graduate degree toxicology programs. Bachelor's programs in toxicology, while not as prevalent, are also adequate preparation, and associate's programs in toxicology or one of the sciences can prepare individuals to continue their studies at the bachelor's level. There are several factors to consider when choosing a graduate program.
List of Considerations
- Type and length of program
- Funding for students
Type and Length of Program
Some schools offer a combined 5-year bachelor's and master's degree curriculum in toxicology. This type of program can reduce the amount of time it takes to earn a master's degree by almost half.
Prospective toxicology master's or Ph.D. students should investigate the school's reputation, grant awards, faculty recognition and scientific agency affiliations. Grant awards and faculty recognition indicate that a toxicology program is well regarded in the field. Attending a prestigious institution could make it easier for graduates to find employment after graduation.
Individuals choosing a toxicology graduate degree program should also consider the state of the school's labs, the networking opportunities it provides students and any possible financial awards. A program consisting of extensive amounts of lab time using state-of-the-art equipment may better prepare students for working in the field.
Funding for Students
Some schools offer master's and Ph.D. students full scholarships that include a living stipend. This financial aid can reduce the amount of debt students assume for their studies and make it possible to attend the program full-time.
Forensic Toxicology Program Overview
Associate of Science in Biology, Chemistry or Physics
These programs consist of 60-70-course credit hours. In addition to general education coursework, students take a core curriculum based on the program's focus. Credits earned in the majority of these degree programs are transferable to 4-year colleges or universities. Depending upon the specific degree type, students might take courses in:
- Organic chemistry
- Inorganic chemistry
- Cell biology
Bachelor of Science in Biology, Chemistry or Physics
These programs typically require four years of study and consist of approximately 120 course credit hours. Specific coursework depends on the field of study, but all three types of programs contain some of the same courses. Some schools permit students to concentrate their studies on forensics. Course examples include:
- General chemistry
Master of Science in Forensic Toxicology
Forensic toxicology master's degree programs typically consist of two years of study. In these programs students learn drug design theories, neurochemical pharmacy, molecular biology and criminal law. Students complete either a thesis or a research project. Most programs consist of extensive amounts of lab time or internships in local labs. Toxicology-specific classes include:
- Drug metabolism
- Occupational toxicology
Doctor of Philosophy in Toxicology
Some Ph.D. programs are offered as pharmacology rather than toxicology degrees. Ph.D. toxicology programs are research-intensive. The first two years is typically dedicated to coursework. During the final years students write a dissertation on a toxicology topic of their choice. Most programs permit students up to five years to complete the dissertation. Students take courses in:
- General pathology
- Cardiovascular biology
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