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Schools for Aspiring Criminalists: How to Choose

Criminalists, also called forensic scientists, work in crime laboratories and use advanced techniques in biology and chemistry to analyze evidence presented in criminal investigations. Criminalists can specialize in many different areas in forensic science, including forensic biology or microscope analysis, but all should have a bachelor's degree or higher in forensics or a related science.

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Schools that prepare aspiring criminalists for careers generally provide programs at the bachelor's level, although programs may also be available at the certificate and master's degree levels. A bachelor's degree is usually required for employment as a criminalist according to the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS).

Schools With Forensic Science Programs

These schools offer forensic science programs at the undergraduate and graduate degree levels.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition and Fees 2015-2016*
George Washington University Washington, DC 4-year, Private Master's, Certificate $27,851 (graduate)
Seattle University Seattle, WA 4-year, Private Bachelor's $39,690
Drexel University Philadelphia, PA 4-year, Private Master's $31,519 (graduate)
Gannon University Erie, PA 4-year, Private Bachelor's $29,258
Bay Path University Longmeadow, MA 4-year, Private Bachelor's $31,785
Loyola University Chicago, IL 4-year, Private Bachelor's $40,426
Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis Indianapolis, IN 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $9,056 (undergraduate), $9,183 (graduate)
Hamline University Saint Paul, MN 4-year, Private Certificate $37,886
Syracuse University Syracuse, NY 4-year, Private Master's $34,500 (graduate)

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics

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School Selection Criteria

Here are some things to consider when choosing a school:

  • Students should look for programs that offer at least 24 semester hours in natural sciences at basic and advanced levels.
  • Students may want to seek out programs that are accredited by FEPAC (Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission), which will prepare them to become criminalists.
  • Students may consider universities that provide crime lab internship opportunities.
  • Depending on his or her desired specialization, the student might also look for forensic science programs that include courses in digital forensics and computer science.

Bachelor's in Forensic Science or Criminalistics

Undergraduate, 4-year degree programs require intensive study in math and the natural sciences, including biology, chemistry and physics. They also require courses in specialized forensic sciences and practical criminalistics.

Master's in Forensic Science

Relevant graduate programs, which can also be accredited by FEPAC, usually take two years of study and research to complete, including time spent working on the requisite thesis based on original scientific research.

Aspiring criminalists should look for accredited programs that offer their desired specialization. Other considerations may include program length and the availability of crime lab internship opportunities.

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