This fall, NJIT has announced it will launch its highly anticipated Forensic Science Bachelor of Science degree program — a unique program designed for undergraduate students interested in the rapidly expanding fields of forensic science and crime scene investigation.
The 120-credit degree will represent New Jersey’s only undergraduate forensic science degree, and the first baccalaureate degree program in the New York metropolitan region designed from the outset to achieve approval by the main accrediting body in college-level forensic science academics, the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC).
The program — offered through NJIT’s College of Science and Liberal Arts’ Department of Chemistry and Environmental Sciences — will feature a dynamic blend of forensic fieldwork opportunities, as well as advanced study of cutting-edge analytical methods, evidence and procedural law, and laboratory procedures used by forensic scientists in crime and investigative laboratories at the state and federal levels.
“This program fills a critically important and unmet need in the State of New Jersey: an accredited Bachelor of Science Forensic Science program, the first of its kind in the state,” said Dr. Kevin Belfield, Dean of NJIT’s College of Science and Liberal Arts. “This STEM-focused program expands our already-impressive slate of high return-on-investment degree programs for our students, and establishes NJIT as a regional resource for future forensic science professionals, as well as the professional community in the state and region.”
The announcement of NJIT’s forensic science program has received early endorsements from some of New Jersey's top law enforcement officials and leaders within the state’s forensic science communities.
“The introduction of a forensic science program at NJIT, a university with a proven record of successful research and development of technologies, has the potential to foster strong working relationship with New Jersey’s public laboratories to advance the field of forensic science,” said Dr. Mathew Wood, Forensic Sciences Laboratory Director at the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office. “New Jersey has always been a leader in the field of forensic science and with this new bachelor’s degree, NJIT will be New Jersey’s leader in forensic science education.”
NJIT currently neighbors some of the most prominent forensic laboratories and investigatory sites in the region. The new program has already established collaborations with leading professional agencies in the field, including New Jersey’s State Toxicology Laboratory, New Jersey’s Office of Forensic Science North Regional Laboratory,the FDA’s Office of Regulatory Affairs New Jersey District Office, and many county sheriffs’ and prosecutors’ offices across the state, among others.
The program will offer vital training and field experience through NJIT’s state-of-the-art forensic lab facilities, as well as at nationally-recognized forensic research sites as part of its internship and co-op requirements — helping students master cutting-edge technologies and methods that are impacting the diverse landscape of forensic science research today.
“All students will participate in a 'Forensic Science Capstone' experience that entails a co-op position in a forensic science laboratory, a series of professional workshops, or extensive forensic science research,” said Belfield. “Students will gain hands-on experience in the latest analytical instrumentation and techniques used for trace evidence analysis, DNA identification, forensic microscopy, chain of custody procedures, and, importantly, expert witness courtroom testimony.”
Recent advances in biological and chemical forensic analysis have dramatically improved the way investigators collect, process and document pieces of evidence to recreate crime scenes. Those advancements have also driven the growth of many new career opportunities for skilled investigators in a variety of forensic science subfields — from document examination to medicolegal death investigation.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics has predicted that employment opportunities for forensic science professionals will grow 17 percent from 2016 through 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.
“In the past, staffing many of these laboratory positions has been a challenge, relying on graduates from out-of-state programs for employment candidates,” said Wood. “Additionally, New Jersey laboratories have been burdened with growing caseloads and it has been difficult to develop and research new methods and techniques for forensic examination. Having a program in New Jersey will provide these labs with high-quality students to fill available and future needs.”
Along with foundational coursework in biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics, NJIT’s forensic science degree will feature a unique “Forensic Science Core” curriculum — courses designed to “equip students with a background in forensic science core concepts, evidence collection, technical analysis, data interpretation and professional regulatory practices.”
Students will also be able to focus their study in the field through two options within the Forensic Science program: a Forensic Biochemistry Option (120 credit hours) and a Forensic Chemistry Option (120 credit hours). Each option contains advanced coursework in analytical chemistry in addition to further specialized courses in either biochemistry or chemistry.
“The forensic science field is in a period of remarkable transition, with rapid technological advances in the analysis of minute quantities of materials and the ever-increasing demands of the courtroom for exact science,” said Belfield. “This requires graduates with a strong foundation in the physical sciences and mathematics combined with a broad range of relevant professional knowledge and skills in forensic science. Never has there been a better time to develop a program to meet these needs at a technological university than now.”
The program’s academic credentials will also serve graduates pursuing careers in fields such as environmental and pharmaceutical industries, biotechnology, chemistry, homeland security, and regulatory agencies. Graduates may also apply their degree to pursue graduate degrees in STEM, medicine, dentistry or law.
To learn more about NJIT’s new Forensic Science B.S. program, including curriculum requirements, coursework details, program descriptions and more, visit: https://csla.njit.edu/sites/csla/files/NJIT_Forensics_Science.pdf