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How do I Choose the Best Forensic Science School?

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  • Written By: Mary Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 May 2018
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Choosing the best forensic science school for your purposes depends both on your goals and at the stage of your education. There are two reasons for why your goals and stage of education should influence your choice of forensic science school. First, depending on what area of forensic science you ultimately wish to pursue, your initial groundwork for this career may lie in a school and degree program that don’t have the words forensic, criminal justice, or pathology in the main part of their names. Second, according to the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science, an associates degree is not sufficient training to gain employment as a forensic scientist, nor is it sufficient for certification. Other factors you should consider in choosing the forensic science school best suited to you include the degrees offered, the school’s accreditation, the laboratory component, and any forensic certification criteria that you are aiming to meet.

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The fact is that many forensic science careers begin with an undergraduate degree in the natural sciences from a college or university that does not even have a forensic science department. Another reason why such a school may be important to you is that there are only 74 colleges and universities in the United States with forensic science or criminal justice undergraduate degrees and 35 with undergraduate degrees that list forensic science as a specialty according to an April, 2009 posting by the American Academy of Forensic Scientists (AAFS). The programs that AAFS has accredited, either conditionally or fully, are even fewer: ten undergraduate degrees with forensic or criminal in the degree-name proper, and two with forensics as a concentration, and two certificate programs. The only other accreditations are 11 master’s programs in forensic science.

The lack of any AAFS accreditation for any online courses in forensic science, some of which are not accredited at all, is one thing that may lead you to prefer a campus-based program. Another is the very great importance of laboratory work not only in the training and certification for forensic science jobs but also in the actual employment. Even if a virtual laboratory experience is available, it may not give you the kind of training that you need to be comfortable performing forensic science jobs that you may be seeking.

As when planning a career in any specialized field that requires certification or licensing, it is well to look ahead to the Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board’s linked list of the eight accredited boards that certify forensic scientists to find out their certification criteria. This will help you choose a forensic science school which will prepare you for work or a qualifying exam.

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