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Forensic Science PhD Program Information and Requirements

Find out how a Ph.D. program in forensic science can train you to work as a college teacher or researcher. Learn what the entrance requirements are and get information on job outlook and potential earnings.

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Essential Information

Forensic science, also known as forensic pathology, is a medical discipline involving the collection and analysis of physical evidence to understand the cause of physical injuries or the cause of death due to accident, crime or negligence. The Ph.D. degree program in forensic science does not currently exist in the United States. Students interested in studying forensic science at the doctoral level can enroll in doctorate in chemistry or biochemistry programs with an emphasis in forensic pathology or science.

Students pursuing a Ph.D. in Chemistry with a forensic science emphasis will receive thorough training in both science and law. These programs usually take anywhere from 4-8 years to complete. In addition to standard coursework, this degree program focuses on a dissertation project chosen by the student in consultation with his or her academic advisers.

Educational Prerequisites

All doctoral-level science programs require applicants to have successfully completed either a bachelor's or master's degree program in one of the life sciences or another related field. A minimum grade-point average and standardized test scores are often required. Non-native English speakers may need to submit TOEFL scores.

Program Coursework

This doctoral degree program features coursework in chemistry, biology and biochemistry, in addition to more specialized forensic science courses such as those listed below:

  • Analysis of forensic evidence
  • Chromatography
  • Forensic toxicology
  • Pharmacological analysis
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Fundamentals of DNA typing
  • Trace analysis

Employment Prospects and Salary Info

Most graduates of forensic science doctoral degree programs work in academia or research. Students interested in hands-on work in a forensic science laboratory should consider a Master of Science in Forensic Science degree program. The American Academy of Forensic Scientists may be helpful in providing additional career information (www.aafs.org).

  • Professor
  • Forensic researcher
  • Forensic consultant
  • Biomedical researcher

Students who complete a Ph.D. program in chemistry with a forensic emphasis can teach chemistry at the postsecondary level. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that college-level chemistry teachers earned median wages of $71,140 as of 2012. Employment opportunities for all postsecondary teachers were projected to increase 17% from 2010-2020, notes the BLS, which is average compared to other career fields.

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