Forensic chemistry is more commonly offered as a specialization within forensic science, but there are a few stand-alone bachelor's degree programs available in this area. These undergraduate programs teach students to apply scientific theories and techniques to assist law enforcement with investigations. There are no prerequisites for admission, but advanced analytical and communication skills are recommended.
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Bachelor's in Forensic Chemistry
The curriculum in a bachelor's level program for forensic chemistry mixes criminal law and science. Students study chemical properties, evidence collection, and specimen testing in a laboratory. Introductory courses in courtroom testimony, criminalistics, and the criminal justice system are also included in order to learn how to translate highly technical information for the courtroom. Core science courses could include:
- Organic, analytical and forensic chemistry
- Principles of chromatography and electrochemistry
- Crime scene investigation procedures
- Biostatistics and bioethics
- Genetics and cell biology
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a much faster than average employment growth, at a rate of 27% over 2014-2024, for forensic science technicians. However, the field is highly competitive because of substantial interest in forensic science. As of May 2015, the median annual salary for forensic science technicians was $56,320 (www.bls.gov).
Continuing Education Information
Many forensic chemistry bachelor's degree holders pursue graduate studies in either forensic science or chemistry, with specializations in areas like toxicology and DNA analysis and supplemental coursework in criminology, scientific principles, and research and analysis. Another option for continuing education 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).
A bachelor's program with a major in forensic chemistry prepares graduates for a career as a forensic science technician. Employment opportunities are both abundant and competitive.