Forensic and Investigative Science
One of WVU’s most highly ranked majors, Forensic Investigative Science is for students with a passion for research and a desire to apply scientific analysis to legal proceedings.
WVU’s undergraduate program has three areas of emphasis: Forensic Examiner, Forensic Biology and Forensic Chemistry. All students take the same courses the first year and then as part of the admissions process, select the area or areas in which to specialize. The curricula are designed to facilitate obtaining a second major in biology, chemistry or other areas.
How to choose? First, make sure you have a realistic understanding of what a forensic job is and what it entails. It is not like television where characters participate from crime scene through investigation, scientific analysis and testimony. In reality, these responsibilities are compartmentalized. Crime scene analysts rarely work in the lab while forensic chemists and biologists rarely go to crime scenes. A good place to start your research is at the website of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and their sections on forensic careers and forensic jobs. Look over these job listings to get an idea of what the real world of forensic science is like.
Do you want to work in a laboratory or in the field? Are you more inclined to scientific laboratory environments or investigative work? Read the descriptions below to see what fits best and remember that you don’t have to choose until your sophomore year. However, knowing sooner makes it easier to plan your program and obtain the best second major to complement your program.
Forensic Examiner Track: This track prepares students for entry level positions as crime scene analysts, latent fingerprint examiners, forensic photographers, evidence technicians, investigators and law enforcement officers and agents. It also is well suited as a pre-professional program for dental, medical and law school.
Forensic Biology Track: This track prepares students for entry level positions in forensic labs as DNA analysts. It also is well suited as a pre-professional program and as excellent preparation for graduate work in biological disciplines. Forensic DNA work is a laboratory based profession with employment opportunities in local, state, federal and private laboratories.
Forensic Chemistry and Toxicology Track: This track prepares students for entry level positions in forensic labs as forensic chemists, arson analyst and investigator, forensic toxicologists and trace evidence examiners. Like the biology track, it too is well-suited as a pre-professional program and as excellent preparation for graduate work in biological disciplines. Forensic chemistry work is a laboratory based profession with employment opportunities in local, state, federal and private laboratories.
Sample Course Schedules
Wondering what your typical day might be like? We used students’ real course schedules to create these examples.
Freshman YearBIOL 115 Principles of Biology CHEM 115 Fundamentals of Chemistry MATH 155 Calculus 1 SPA 270 Effective Public Speaking WVUE 191 First Year Seminar
Senior YearFIS 401 Professional Forensic Communication FIS 402 Crime Scene Investigation 2 FIS 404 Law and Evidence FIS 406 Court Testimony SOCA 101 Introduction to Sociology
By the Numbers
Facts and figures that make this major unique:
- WVU has facilities that are second-to-none: three crime scene houses, a forensic garage and an 18,000 square foot forensic laboratory.
- Forensic and Investigative Science students complete a 420-hour summer internship.
English Proficiency Requirements
All applicants whose first language is not English must provide proof of English language proficiency. WVU accepts either the TOEFL or the IELTS for this purpose. Learn more about our English language proficiency requirements.
WVU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The Forensic and Investigative Science Program is fully accredited by the American Academy of Forensic Scientists, Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission.
Kate Hart has been a crime scene investigator for the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office in Florida for three years. She believes that “The hands-on aspects of WVU's Forensic and Investigative Science Program prepared me for my job in crime scene investigations. I came in with a broad range of basic experience and knowledge, which made it easier to complete my first phases of training and also allowed me to fit in as a member of the Crime Scene Unit quickly.”
Marci Smeltz, a native of Harrisburg, Pa., was a member of the Honors College, Forensics Club and received a Department of Homeland Security Scholarship to promote research in science and math for national defense. She was named an Outstanding Senior in 2011 and graduated with degrees in forensic and investigative science and in chemistry. She says, “I came to WVU for my major. The program is regarded as one of the best in the United States. I thought I could make my dreams come true at a place like WVU since the opportunities seem endless.”