Forensic Biology

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there wide interest in forensic science?
What is a degree in “Forensic science”?
Are all forensic science programs the same?
What criteria should I use to make a judgment?
How do I find programs in forensic science?

Is there wide interest in forensic science?
Over the past 10-15 years, forensic science has seen a great deal of interest because of the explosion in technology, and, in part, because of the popular CSI programs on TV.

At UAlbany: We receive over 50 requests for information about the graduate forensic science program.

What is a degree in “Forensic Science ”?
Many Universities offer degrees called “Forensics” at both the bachelors and masters level. The programs train students in the interactions between an academic specialty and the legal system: forensic biology, forensic anthropology, forensic psychology, forensic chemistry, forensic accounting, forensic computer science, etc. A graduate program is for the student who wants to become a technical leader, a supervisor or a director of a smaller forensic science laboratory. An undergraduate four-year program is for the student who wants to become a non-supervisory practitioner, an investigator who wants to work and be a valuable asset to a lab but not to run it . An undergraduate degree in forensic science is not a pre-requisite for graduate study in forensics. Many graduate programs would prefer the strongest possible degree in the relevant academic specialty.
At UAlbany: Our Degree is specifically directed towards the new techniques in molecular Biology and in DNA analysis. Thus, we call the program Forensic Biology.

Are all "forensic" programs the same?
Definitely not! They differ in focus depending upon their area of specialization, and they differ in competence. Some programs are little more than a loose grouping of the courses that any student would take, whereas other programs are very focused with specialized courses taught by practitioners in forensic science.
At UAlbany: The program is specifically directed to train students to work in forensic DNA analysis labs. It has been designed in consultation with the New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center. Although drawing heavily on the Departments existing graduate courses, it adds additional courses necessary for the forensic practitioner.

What criteria should I use to make a judgment?
Obviously this is different for undergraduate and graduate programs, but here are some things to consider:

  1. How long has the program been in existence and how many students have graduated?
    At UAlbany: The program was started in 2001, and has graduated over 75 masters students.
  2. Are there forensic practitioners that are part of the faculty for the forensic science program at that college or university?
    At UAlbany: the program is a collaboration between the University and the New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center. Many of the instructors are active participants in real-world forenic investigation.
  3. Is there a forensic science laboratory/agency associated with the academic program?
    At UAlbany: YES, the New York State Police Forensic Investigation Lab and the Northeast Regional Forensic Institute.
  4. Does the program include internships or research projects?
    At UAlbany: Each student must complete a 6-credit internship project in a laboratory that offers up-to-date training and laboratory expertise in areas that are potentially applicable to forensic biology.
  5. Are students that have graduated from the program hired in an accredited forensics agency?
    At UAlbany: Students have been very successful at competing for jobs as DNA Analysts and Forensic Scientists. [see, Former Students]
  6. Is the university or college respected and accredited?
    At UAlbany: The University at Albany is one of the University Centers of the State University of New York. The forensic science program culminates in a masters degree in Forensic Biology awarded by the Department of Biological Sciences.
  7. What about the facilities and faculty? Are students learning up-to-date theory and practicing on state-of-art technology?
    At UAlbany: All students in the Forensic Biology Program have access to state-of-the-art forensic science training facilities, located on the second floor in the Department of Biological Sciences..

How do I find programs in forensic science?
Search the internet for colleges that have forensic science programs. Specific forensic websites include the Northeast Academy of Forensic Scientists (NEAFS) , the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) and the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD). These websites provide scholarship information. There are also privately run forensic websites, such as Reddy’s, which gives a listing of all of the academic programs, both graduate and undergraduate. These listings not only provide information on academic programs, but they give information on forensic science in general, plus employment opportunities. Once you have found a number of programs that you have identified as potential programs you are interested in, you could go to their website, read more about their programs, then contact them and request more information i.e. brochures, program guidelines. The information you are looking to include are the description of the programs, the pre-requisites for the program, the course requirements, grading policy, internship requirements as well as the answers to the other questions we have previously discussed. At this time you may wish to contact the program director and arrange a visit to see the actual facilities and meet with faculty, support staff and current students.