Students who are interested in working in the field of forensic geology may be considering obtaining a graduate degree in this field. This article will provide information to these students about what types of programs are available in forensic geology, what these programs will entail in terms of course requirements and research, and what types of admissions requirements students will need to fulfill in order to be considered.
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Information about Graduate Programs in Forensic Geology
Forensic geology is a subfield of both geology and the forensic sciences and there are typically very few programs available specifically in forensic geology. Because of this, students who are interested in studying this field at the graduate level will typically have to find master's or Ph.D. programs within a university's college/department of geology or science. Students can enroll in one of these more general programs and then pursue forensic geology through their selected coursework and the research they decide to engage in while enrolled in the program. Below, we will look at five courses that students may take while enrolled in a forensic geology graduate program.
Because forensic geologists will often be working outside in the field, one course that students may take in a forensic geology graduate program is a course that focuses on methods of field geology. In such a course, students will learn about techniques in geological mapping so that they can properly map various structures, as well as how to best test and describe geological substances like soil and groundwater. This course will likely include a field element in which students will put their skills to the test in a real-world environment by taking a trip to geological sites.
A course in forensic chemistry is also commonly found in forensic geology programs since knowing the proper methodologies and techniques used in forensic chemistry is necessary to working in a forensic laboratory, as forensic geologists may do. In this course, students may learn about how to work with various substances and analyze them from a forensic chemistry perspective. A laboratory component is also likely required in this course during which students will practice and improve on their skills in laboratory analysis and techniques.
It is also common for students to take a forensic biology course in these graduate programs, given that as forensic geologists, they will be likely working with various biological substances. This course may focus on molecular biology and how to analyze biological samples in a lab using different types of lab equipment like microscopes. The course may focus on topics like DNA analysis, various methods of biological analysis as they apply to crime scenes, and data interpretation.
Students may also study the relationship between geology and chemistry specifically in a course focused on geochemistry. In this course, students will build upon their knowledge of different chemical processes in order to better understand how these processes and principles apply in a geological setting. Some topics that may be covered include X-ray diffraction, electron microscopy, and atomic absorption.
Criminalistics and Criminal Justice
Because forensic geologists will likely work in some way with the criminal justice system, it is also common for graduate programs in this field to include coursework that focuses on some aspect of criminalistics or criminal justice. Topics that could be covered in this course include the role of chemical and geological evidence and crime scene analysis and investigation. Additionally, the course could provide students with an overview of the criminal justice system, its development over the years, and various pertinent topics in the field at this time.
Admissions Standards for Graduate Programs in Forensic Geology
Students interested in pursuing a graduate degree in forensic geology will need to submit an application to the programs in which they are interested in order to be considered. A complete application file will typically include undergraduate transcripts, letters of recommendation, a personal statement detailing your motivations, a resume or CV, and a completed application form. Some programs may also require students to submit GRE scores. Additionally, each program may set various prerequisites that students must have already completed before beginning the graduate level coursework. Forensic geology programs typically expect students to have taken significant coursework in the natural sciences during their undergraduate career.
To summarize, it is possible for students to study forensic geology if they find programs in the forensic sciences or geology that offer research opportunities or coursework in this field. Interested applicants should have ample background in the sciences as preparation for graduate studies in forensic geology.