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Forensic Science Option

Forensic Science Option

The forensic science option is a combination of courses that are taken in conjunction with a larger set of core courses in chemistry, physics and mathematics.

The courses selected for the forensic science option are based on general course recommendations by directors and forensic scientists at state crime laboratories or faculty at institutions offering graduate degrees in forensic science or chemistry. Chemistry and other majors such as biochemistry and microbiology are normally regarded as providing a good foundation for further training beyond the B.S., such as formal education in a graduate school or on-the-job training in a crime lab. OSU does not offer courses in forensic chemistry, but the curriculum provides a strong analytical chemistry background and exposure to many of the techniques and instruments used in crime labs.

The OSU forensic science option allows a chemistry major to gain more experience in biology and biochemistry, and also allows the student to select from elective courses including toxicology, microbiology, environmental forensic chemistry and statistics. This option also includes three advanced courses in analytical chemistry, as is required for the advanced chemistry and environmental chemistry options.

Students with the forensic science option are also well prepared careers not directly involving forensic science, such as in biotechnology, medical or environmental laboratories, or for pursuing graduate degrees in chemistry and related areas where a stronger biological and analytical background is advantageous.

External resources

  1. Comprehensive list including undergrad and grad schools
  2. Listing of all levels of Criminal Justice Programs and great information on Forensic Science degrees and careers.
  3. American Academy of Forensic Sciences
  4. Society of Forensic Toxicologists
  5. FBI summer internships
  6. International Crime Scene Investigators Association's information
  7. Forensic Science Technician - A Guide to Forensic Science Degree Programs

Potential internship locations

  • State Forensics Lab - Springfield - drug and chemical analysis.
  • State Forensics Lab - Salem - ballistics
  • State Forensics Lab - Portland - the largest state crime lab.

"Cops and Robbers 101" (Corvallis Police Academy). 10-week workshop, 3 hrs/week, Wed 6:30-9:30 pm. Taught Fall and Spring. Overview of what Corvallis police do. Includes learning to: drive a police car, firearm safety and use, fingerprinting, etc.

Career opportunities for chemistry majors

Forensic Scientist - an expert in using scientific investigations to establish facts in many aspects of criminal, civil and regulatory cases; works with lawyers.

Criminalistics - analysis, comparison, identification & interpretation of physical evidence obtained through use of technology to reconstruct events of crime; uses analytical skill, experience in investigations and trials (expert witnesses).

Document Examiner - authorship, authenticity, alterations, and physical features of documents. In addition to BS, requires 2-yr apprenticeship with court examiner.

Forensic Toxicology - interpretation of analytical, clinical and environmental data for law & medicine; expert witness;

Forensic Pathology - a medical specialty focused on determining the cause of death of a victim

Also Wildlife Forensics; Computer Forensics; Nursing; Crime Scene Investigation.


Students entering the option program should be aware that obtaining positions in forensic science is very competitive. Many applicants apply for a single position, and employers will choose only the top students. In Oregon, there are less than 100 total positions in state crime labs, and typically, only one or two positions will open a year. We believe that success in our program will make you a competitive applicant for these positions, but will also prepare you for a diversity of career options after graduation.

Curriculum requirements

The Forensic Science Option is appropriate for students interested in working in a crime lab or pursing a graduate degree in chemistry or forensic science. Students can earn a B.S. chemistry degree in four years and also take a combination of courses that enhance a chemistry major's background in biology, biochemistry, and related areas that can be important in forensic science.

Chemistry core (79 - 81 credits)

Forensic science option (30-33 credits)

Courses by year

This page serves as a general suggestion for students looking to complete their forensic science option degree within four years. We always recommend working with your adviser to find the best academic plan for you.

Biology (12): BI 221a, 222, 223
General Chemistry (15): CH 231 (or 231H) & 271, 232 (or 232H) & 272, 233 (or 233H) & 273
Careers in Chemistry (1)b: CH 220b
Elementary Functions (4)c: MTH 112c
Calculus (8): MTH 251, 252
Writing I (Bacc Core) (3): WR 121(or 121H)
Speech (Bacc Core) (3): COMM 111 (or 111H) or COMM 114 (or 114H) or COMM 211 or COMM 218
Fitness (Bacc Core) (3): HHS 231 and PAC or HHS Lab

Organic Chemistry (9): CH 334, 335, 336
Experimental Chemistry I (6): CH 361, 362
Vector Calculus I (4): MTH 254
General Physics (15): PH 211 & 221, 212 & 222, 213 & 223
Cell and Molecular Biology (4)c: BB 314
Writing II (Bacc Core) (3): Writing II (Options here)
Perspectives (Bacc Core) (3): Skills or Perspective Course (Options here)
General Electives (1)

Experimental Chemistry II (6): CH 461 and CH 462 (WIC) or CH 463 (WIC) or CH 464 (WIC)
Physical Chemistry (9): CH 440, 441, 442
Analytical Chemistry (6): CH 421, 422
Perspective or DPD (Bacc Core) (6): Perspective or DPD Course (Options Here)
Synthesis (Bacc Core) (3): Synthesis Course (Options Here)
General Electives (12): Electives

General Biochemistry (7) or Biochemistry (6): BB 450 & 451 or BB 490 & 491
Biochemistry Laboratory Molecular Techniques 1 (3): BB 493 (as of Fall 2015)
Inorganic Chemistry (3): CH 411
Fundamentals of Toxicology (3): TOX 411
Perspective (3): Perspective Course (Options Here)
Synthesis (3): Synthesis Course (Options Here)
Forensic Science Electives (7-11): Forensic Science Electives (More info here)
General Electives (12-17)

Sample course timetable

Fall term

  • CH 231 & 271
    MTH 112a
    BI 221c
    CH 220d

Winter term

  • CH 232 & 272
    MTH 251
    BI 222

Spring term

  • CH 233 & 273
    MTH 252
    BI 223

Fall term

  • CH 334
    CH 361
    PH 211 & 221 (or PH 201)
    MTH 254

Winter term

  • CH 335
    CH 362
    PH 212 & 222 (or PH 202)

Spring term

  • CH 336
    PH 213 & 223 (or PH 203)
    BB 314

Fall term

  • CH 440
    CH 461
    CH 421

Winter term

  • CH 441
    CH 422
    BB 450e

Spring term

  • CH 442
    CH 463 (WIC)
    BB 451e

Fall term

  • TOX 411
    CH 411
    BB 493f

Winter term

  • Electivesb

Spring term

  • Electivesb


aMTH 112 can be taken to prepare for MTH 251 if the score on ALEKS Math Placement test is 59% or less. MTH 112 is not a required course for the chemistry degree.

bFrom elective list (term varies). Requires three electives from the following list:

  • DSGN 255: Textiles (4)
  • CH 661: Separations (4)
  • ST 201 and 211: Statistics (4) / (1)
  • BB 492: Genetic Biochemistry (3)
  • CH 691: Environmental Chemistry of Organic Substances (3)
  • ST 351: Introduction to Statistical Methods (4)
  • BI 311: Genetics (4)
  • CH 692: Environmental Transformations of Organic Compounds (3)
  • TOX 490: Environmental Forensic Chemistry (3)
  • CH 401: Research (3)
  • CH 697: Mass Spectrometry of Organic Compounds (4)
  • BI 331: Introduction to Molecular Biology (3)
  • CH 410: Internship (External) (2-3)
  • MB 302: General Microbiology (3)
  • BI 341: Adv. Human Anatomy and Physiology Lab (2)
  • CH 424: Bioanalytical Chemistry (3)
  • MB 303: General Microbiology Lab (2)

cAs of fall 2020, BI 22X replaces BI 21X. A minimum of C- in BI 22X is an enforced prerequisite for BB 314. BI 22X must be taken in order. If you completed the previous BI 21X series before fall 2020, this series still meets the requirements here.

dChemistry majors are strongly encouraged to take the chemistry major's orientation course, "Careers in Chemistry," fall term. This is 1 credit (P/N).

eGeneral biochemistry, BB 450 and BB 451, are offered three times a year: fall/winter or winter/spring or summer. Alternatively, with advanced planning third year, the professional level BB 49X series (offered fall, winter, spring), may be taken and offers more in-depth coverage of biochemistry.

The order of courses is suggested. For the track-two core courses (CH, MTH, PH), the order is critical because of prerequisites and the fact that most CH courses are taught only one term per year. The options courses (BI, BB, CH, etc.) can be taken at different times than indicated, but one must be concerned with the prerequisites for these courses and many of these courses are taught only one term per year.

Baccalaureate Core courses are not shown on the chart above.

Additional information

Also see policies

1. CH 463 is the recommended WIC course but CH 462 is the recommended alternative and also a recommended extra lab course.

2. Both chemistry and biochemistry advanced laboratories can be scheduled to meet on TR so students should plan carefully if they choose biochemistry as an elective.

3. CH 411 and CH 412 are a sequence so that CH 411 is the specified inorganic chemistry course.

4. DGSN 255 is now the accepted elective in textiles. Chemistry majors may need to get an override to enroll.

5. As of fall 2020, BI 22X replaces BI 21X. A minimum of C- in BI 22X is an enforced prerequisite for BB 314. BI 22X must be taken in order. If you completed the previous BI 21X series before fall 2020, this series still meets the requirements here.

6. BI 314 is an enforced prerequisite for MB 302/303.


BB 492

Biochemistry - 3rd term

BI 311

BI 314 strongly recommended

CH 401

Three credits maximum toward option

CH 410

Internship (external)
Student makes own arrangements to work voluntarily or for pay at a crime lab.

CH 424

Bioanalytical Chemistry
Not taught often

CH 661

Separations, Chromatography and Related Methods

CH 691

Environmental Chemistry of Organic Substances

CH 692

Environmental Transformation of Organic Compounds

CH 697

Mass Spectrometry of Organic Compounds

DGSN 255

Chemistry majors may need an override.

MB 302, 303

Microbiology Lecture and Lab
Enforced Pre-requisite: BI 314

ST 201 & 211


ST 351


TOX 490

Environmental Forensic Chemistry

Z 331

Human Anatomy

Z 341

Human Anatomy Lab

Other applicable courses/studies

  • Firearm Safety Courses
  • Photography (ART 261, 262, or 263)
  • Microscopy
  • MS Courses (100 & 200 level courses open to all)
  • Corvallis offers a Citizens Academy called "Cops and Robbers 101". It is a 10-week workshop, 3 hr/week, optional 1 cr through LBCC, and includes an overview of what Corvallis police do; including learning to: drive police cars, firearm safety and use, fingerprinting, etc. Usually offered in April.