Students can choose from more than 10 schools in Texas to earn a forensic degree. Most schools offer bachelor's degree programs in forensic science or in a specialty area, such as forensic chemistry; however, associate's and advanced degree options are available, as well. Programs often include practicum experiences and/or internships. Unique opportunities, such as the chance to do research in the field in Europe, are offered by some schools.
Sam Houston State University (SHSU)
Located in the town of Huntsville, this institution is recognized by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education as a doctoral research university. Through the Department of Chemistry, undergraduate students can select a major in forensic chemistry. To gain specialized skills, forensic chemistry majors are required to complete a minor in criminal justice. Chemistry students with a concentration in forensic science select a minor in criminal justice and/or biology. The department also offers undergraduates the opportunity to participate in a study-abroad summer research program in Germany.
Students seeking advanced education can earn a master's degree in digital forensics or forensic science. The digital forensics program consists of 36 credit hours and focuses on the security of information assurance systems. Students in the forensic science master's program complete 44 credit hours of coursework in criminal justice, chemistry and biological science. This program requires completion of summer internships and practicum experiences, as well as a final exam.
St. Edwards University
Located in the state's capital city of Austin, this Catholic liberal arts school is ranked as the 17th best university in the West, according to the 2013 regional college rankings published by U.S. News and World Report. Through the School of Behavioral and Social Sciences, students can earn a Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science. The program combines study in crime scene analysis, law and scientific methodologies. Students can select from one of three tracks in general forensic science, biology or criminal justice.
Coursework teaches students how to perform tasks such as analyze forensic photography, identify biological evidence, investigate deaths and process fingerprints. Students also participate in mock crime scene analysis to prepare for real-life investigations. Some local organizations that have hired graduates from this program include the Austin Police Department, the Travis County Medical Examiner's Office and the Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Laboratory.
St. Mary's University
Founded in 1852, this San Antonio school is the state's oldest Catholic institution of higher learning. The university's School of Science, Engineering and Technology offers a baccalaureate program in forensic science with options in biology or chemistry. For the biology option, students will spend three years at St. Mary's and two years in a forensic genetics program at the University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) in Fort Worth or two years in a forensic toxicology program at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA). Upon completion of the program, students will earn a Bachelor of Science from St. Mary's and a Master of Science from UNTHSC or UTHSCSA. For the chemistry option, students complete coursework that focuses on analytic methods and forensic testing.
Tarleton State University (TSU)
TSU is part of the Texas A&M University System and is based in Stephenville, TX. The university also has other campuses across the state, including in Fort Worth, Midlothian and Waco. Students can prepare for career opportunities working in a crime lab by completing a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with a specialization in forensic chemistry. Coursework for this concentration includes criminal justice research methods, criminal procedures, criminal evidence and qualitative analysis. This program option is offered at the main campus only.
Texas A&M University
Situated in the rural community of College Station, Texas A&M University was established in 1862, making it the state's oldest higher learning institution. The school is also among one of three universities rated as Tier One in Texas. Through the Department of Entomology, students can earn a bachelor's degree in forensic and investigative sciences. The program is accredited by the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC).
Students can complete the program with an emphasis in science or pre-law. Topics covered for these areas of study include law and legislation, biochemistry, criminology, genetics, natural resource law and toxicology. Students are required to have at least a 3.0 GPA and a grade of C or better in select classes, like chemistry and physics, to continue to the upper-level portion of the program. Students also complete a supervised research project and an internship.
University of North Texas (UNT)
With a student population of about 38,000, this Denton school is one of the largest universities in Texas and is the 26th largest higher education institution in the country. UNT students can choose from three program options to prepare for careers in forensic science. Through the College of Arts and Sciences, students can complete a bachelor's degree program in biology, biochemistry or chemistry that includes a certificate program in forensic science. The biology option includes a minor in chemistry, and the biochemistry and chemistry options include a minor in biology.
The 48-54 credit hours that make up the curricula include advanced coursework, minor requirements and forensic science courses. Topics covered in the forensic science program include forensic microscopy and molecular biology, criminal investigations, criminalistics and forensic chemistry. Students also complete an internship as part of earning the forensic science certificate.
University of North Texas Health Science Center
Located in Fort Worth, this school offers a program in forensics through the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. At the master's degree level, students can pursue a practical, hands-on focus or a research-oriented focus. The 56-credit Master of Science in Forensic Genetics prepares graduates for work in crime labs using DNA technologies. An oral qualifying exam and thesis are required. Training provided in this program meets the criteria for the National Quality Assurance Standards for Forensic DNA Testing Laboratories used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The state of Texas doesn't regulate the field of forensics. However, organizations such as the International Association for Identification (IAI) offer voluntary certifications, including the Certified Crime Scene Investigator and the Certified Crime Scene Analyst credentials.
School Comparison: At a Glance
|School Name||School Type||Forensic Degree Programs Offered||Undergraduate Tuition and Fees (2015-16)|
|Sam Houston State University||4 year, public; distant town|| Bachelor of Science in Forensic Chemistry,
Master of Science in Digital Forensics,
Master of Science in Forensic Science
|$7,618 in-state and $16,978 out-of-state (undergraduate); $7,213 in-state and $14,233 out-of-state (graduate)*|
|St. Edward's University||4-year, private, not-for-profit; large city||Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science||$38,720 *|
|St. Mary's University||4-year, private, not-for-profit; large city|| Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science: Biology Option,
Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science: Chemistry Option
|Tarleton State University||4-year, public; remote town||Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with a specialization in forensic chemistry||$6,630 in-state and $15,990 out-of-state*|
|Texas A&M University||4-year, public; rural, fringe||Bachelor of Science in Forensic and Investigative Sciences||$10,176 in-state and $28,768 out-of-state*|
|University of North Texas||4-year, public; midsize city|| Bachelor of Science in Biology with a forensic science certificate,
Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry with a forensic science certificate,
Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with a forensic science certificate
|$9,730 in-state and $19,090 out-of-state*|
|University of North Texas Health Science Center||4-year, pubic; large city||Master of Science in Forensic Genetics||$5,780 in-state and $17,925 out-of-state (graduate)*|
Sources: *NCES College Navigator