Forensic biology is a sub-specialty of forensic science that includes the investigation of human or animal body fluid and tissue, DNA analysis, pathology (cause and time of death or injury), odontology (dental analysis) and entomology (the study of insects). Nationally recognized programs in the field share tough admissions standards, access to state-of-the-art biological and technical facilities and partnerships with police or investigative departments giving students valuable experience while in school. The Forensic Science Education Accreditation Commission evaluates academic programs in an effort to maintain high professional standards, and the programs listed here are FEPAC accredited.
The Master of Science degree program at the Marshall University Forensic Science Center in Huntington, West Virginia, ranks high among similar programs by World Ranking Guide. In 2013, Marshall students earned the highest scores on the Forensic Science Assessment Test administered by the American Board of Criminalistics. The forensic science program admits only 20 students a year to its center and each must have earned an undergraduate grade-point average of 3.0 and taken an extensive range of courses in the natural sciences. One of the selling points for prospective students is the center’s intensive DNA analysis training program.
Michigan State University
The forensic biology master's program at Michigan State has been training investigative professionals since 1946. Ranked in the top 10 forensic science programs by Forensics-School.com and as a top university by “The Princeton Review,” the forensic biology program is part of the school of criminal justice. Applicants to the program must complete an undergraduate degree in biology, zoology, genetics or biochemistry and achieve a recommended grade-point average of 3.5. The university partners with the Michigan State Police Forensic Unit to provide internships in its laboratories. Students may specialize in forensic pathology, entomology and biometrics.
University of California, Davis
U.C. Davis has consistently been ranked as a top school by “U.S. News & World Report” and “The Princeton Review.” This master’s degree program in forensic biology is the only one available in the California State University system. Students are able to work closely with the California Criminalistics Institute and the Sacramento County Laboratory. This practical experience enables graduates to find professional opportunities in local, federal and private crime labs, and according to the program’s website, 82 percent of the program’s graduates are currently employed in law enforcement. As with other highly ranked forensic science programs, admission requirements are rigorous and applicants need an undergraduate background in the natural sciences.
State University of New York at Albany
As part of the State University of New York, the University at Albany partners with the New York State Police Investigation Center to offer a demanding course of study leading to an M.S. degree. Forensics-School.com ranks SUNY Albany as one of the top forensic science graduate programs, and “The Princeton Review” ranks the school as one of the top 378 colleges in the United States. With the ever-increasing dependence on DNA evidence in the investigation of criminal and civil legal cases, students in the forensic biology program are required to master the theories and techniques used to analyze biological evidence.
Andrea Godbout has been writing professionally since 2000. She has served as a columnist for Angie's List, highlighting products and businesses in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Godbout earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and creative writing from Barnard College and a Master of Arts in education from New York University.