Forensic Toxicology Masters in the U.S.

Forensic Toxicology is the applied science in which a specialist uses analytical chemistry, pharmacology and/or clinical chemistry in helping medical and/or legal investigations of death, poisoning and drug use. Obtaining and interpreting the results is the most important concern of the forensic toxicology specialist, along with the methods that are used during the investigation process. The forensic toxicologist has to take into consideration all the context particularities when deciding the type of sampling that is the most suitable for the situation. This decision can influence the entire course of the investigation, and the accuracy of the results as well. Determining the substance ingested is often complicated by the body’s natural processes, as it is rare for a chemical to remain in its original form once in the body.

Urine, blood and hair constitute most of the times the most common samples that are used during investigations, especially under time pressure, because of their capacity of storing essential biochemical information. Forensic toxicologists perform scientific tests on bodily fluids and tissue samples to identify any drugs or chemicals present in the body. As part of a team investigating a crime, a forensic toxicologist will isolate and identify any substances in the body that may have contributed to the crime, such as: illegal or prescription drugs, alcohol, poisons, metals and even gases.


University University of Florida, Department of Forensic Science


Duration 24 months
Type Full time, Part time
Tuition and fees $6,310 in-state, $12,680 out-of-state per year
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University of Florida, Department of Forensic Science, Forensic Toxicology Masters Program Information

The Forensic Toxicology concentration is provided by the College of Veterinary Medicine. It focuses on general and advanced principles of toxicology, forensic toxicology and drug metabolism providing a strong foundation in analytical techniques, pharmacokinetics, drug elimination and toxicology. Modules in forensic pharmacology, doping control, postmortem toxicology, expert testimony and QA/QC procedures are also featured. This program may be of interest to those currently working or seeking employment in the following areas: crime laboratories, medical examiners offices, police departments, criminal defense and prosecution attorneys, hospital and clinical chemistry laboratories, pharmaceutical industry, high school science teachers. The diploma will state Master of Science issued by the Graduate School of the University of Florida. The transcripts will read Master of Science, graduation date, major Veterinary Medical Sciences, concentration Forensic Toxicology. The core modules are:

– Forensic Toxicology I and II

– General Toxicology

– Drug biotransformation and Molecular Mechanisms of Toxicity

– Toxic Substances

– Mammalian Pharmacology

– Applied Statistics for Data Analysis

– Literature Survey of Forensic Toxicology

– Special Topics on Forenisc Toxicology

Other useful information: A maximum of 15 transfer credits are allowed to count toward a MS degree. These can include no more than 9 credits from institution/s approved by UF, with the balance obtained from nondegree and/or certificate courses at the University of Florida. These courses must be graduate level (5000-7999) and earned with a grade of B or better and the course(s) cannot have been taken longer than seven years from the term you begin as a MS student. Concerning the examination procedures, in addition to tests, the examinations and other assessments incorporated in the individual courses, master’s students will be required to take a comprehensive final examination on the courses covered in this program.


University University of Texas, Health Science Center


Duration 24 months
Type Full time, Part time
Tuition and fees $7,327 in-state; $15,949 out-of-state per year
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University of Texas, Health Science Center, Forensic Toxicology Program Information

The Master of Science in Toxicology is designed for students who hold a bachelor’s degree in clinical laboratory sciences, biology, chemistry, or other related discipline from an accredited institution in the United States. The program offers a specialization in forensic/analytic toxicology. There are thesis and non-thesis options. The minimum number of semester credit hours for graduation is 38.0. Research opportunities in specialized laboratories are available at the Health Science Center and throughout Texas.

The Master of Science in Toxicology is a graduate degree program administered by the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS). All coursework is completed at the Health Science Center, except for a maximum of 6 semester credit hours of transfer courses that may be completed at another institution. Students in the program follow policies and procedures of the GSBS. The core modules are:

– Toxicology Practicum

– Principles and Applications in Analytical Toxicology

– Toxicology Seminar

– Medical and Forensic Toxicology

– Applied Toxicology

– Independent Study: Advanced Clinical Chemistry

– Pharmacology and Toxicology

– Applied Statistics for Health Care Practitioners of Equivalent

– Ethics in Research

Other useful information:This program is designed for clinical laboratory scientists who wish to specialize in the area of drug analysis. However, previous training in clinical laboratory sciences is not mandatory. Applicants with bachelor’s degrees in the major sciences, e.g. chemistry and biology are however required to take courses in clinical chemistry. In addition to academic and professional courses in forensic and medical toxicology, the students undertake an internship in the forensic toxicology laboratory of the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s office. There may be opportunities for electives with the San Antonio Police Department.

The program offers two tracks – a thesis option, which requires a major research project or a non-thesis option. After three years of professional experience, graduates who elected to work in the area of forensic toxicology are eligible to sit for examinations offered by the American Board of Forensic Toxicology, which will certify them as forensic toxicology specialists. Our graduates have also found employment in state crime laboratories, The Department of Public Safety and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).


University University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Pharmacy


Duration 24 months
Type Full time, Part time
Tuition and fees $8,082 per year
Program link Program link

University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Pharmacy, Forensic Toxicology Program Information

The university offers a unique opportunity for accomplished students with strong undergraduate training in chemistry and the basic sciences to earn a Master of Science degree in forensic toxicology. The program is located in the College of Pharmacy, an environment of well-developed scientific infrastructure, research orientation, and significant expertise in toxicology and drug chemistry. Within the College, there are four Ph.D. programs in addition to the M.S. program in forensic toxicology and M.S. in forensic sciences.

The practitioners here are also positioned to take maximal advantage of the proximity of the other health care related and professional colleges. UIC’s program has established and enjoys cooperative relationships with the Illinois State Police Forensic Science Command (especially the Forensic Science Center at Chicago). The Illinois State Police Forensic Science Center at Chicago (and the Cook County medical examiner’s facility) are located within a few blocks of the UIC West campus. Along with ISP, and other agencies such as DEA and IRS who maintain laboratories in Chicago, we work together to make this Chicago consortium a major, national education, research and training center in forensic toxicology and forensic science in general. The UIC Forensic Science Group additionally operates an animal forensic toxicology laboratory located close to the UIC West campus. This laboratory conducts post-race drug testing on the winning race horses from all tracks in Illinois according to rules and guidelines established by the Illinois Racing Board. The core modules are:

– Foundations of Forensic Toxicology

– Drug Identification Chemistry

– Forensic Science Seminar

– Biochemistry

– Cell Biology

– Transrelational and Applied Psychology

– Medical Phramacology I and II

Other useful information: The M.S. program in forensic toxicology is administered by the Department of Biopharmaceutical Sciences in the College of Pharmacy. The program encompasses a broad knowledge of all areas of forensic toxicology such as forensic urine drug testing, postmortem and antemortem toxicology, human performance testing, alternative specimens, as well as the instrumental analysis of biological specimens, analytical method development and validation, interpretation of the results, expert witness testimony, etc.

University of Illinois at Chicago is a comprehensive public university, and is one of the three campuses of the University of Illinois (the others are at Urbana-Champaign and Springfield). UIC is the largest institution of higher education in the Chicago area, and is dedicated to the land grant university tradition of research, teaching and public service. UIC offers over 90 undergraduate, over 90 masters, and 52 doctoral programs through its 14 academic colleges and professional schools. UIC was formed in 1982 by the merger of the two campuses formerly known as the University of Illinois at the Medical Center and the University of Illinois – Chicago Circle Campus. Today, UIC has an enrollment of around 25,000, including over 8,000 graduate and professional students. The campus has about 80 buildings occupying over 185 acres about a mile from Chicago’s Loop. UIC is one of a select group of institutions classified by the Carnegie Foundation as a Research I University. The College of Pharmacy, which houses the Forensic Toxicology Program, was founded in 1859, and became part of the University of Illinois in 1897. The M.S. program in forensic toxicology is new but it was built on the reputation and tradition of the forensic science program which was called “criminalistics” for much of its history, and it was originally located in the Department of Criminal Justice. Since 1991, the program has been in the Department of Biopharmaceutical Sciences of the College of Pharmacy.


University University of Utah, College of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology


Duration 24 months
Type Full time, Part time
Tuition and fees $7,350 in-state; $15,455 out-of-state per year
Program link

University of Utah, College of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Analytical and Forensic Toxicology Program Information

Analytical and forensic toxicology research in the department is concentrated in the Center for Human Toxicology (CHT). The CHT is a GLP compliant laboratory that provides analytical services, education, and research for the University of Utah, the state of Utah, the inter-mountain area and the nation. The faculty are internationally recognized leaders in the development of state-of-the-art assays for drugs in human tissues and other physiological specimens. Most of these assays are based on immunoassay techniques, gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (GC/MS) and liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry (LC/MS). Graduate students work on projects generated from within the CHT, but student and faculty throughout the Department avail themselves of the expertise of the center. The research emphasis of CHT is on drugs of abuse, including the psychostimulants, and more recently, performance enhancing drugs, such as steroids and has resulted in the establishment of the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory (SMRTL) devoted to the detection and interpretation of performance-enhancing drug use in sports competition. The service component of the lab is supported by the highest levels of professional, collegial, and Olympic sports agencies in the United States. The forensic staff in CHT also support private companies and government agencies with their drug free workplace programs. These consulting services include oversight of their drug-testing programs, preparing and providing blind quality control specimens and the evaluation of toxicology laboratory performance in the programs. The faculty of CHT have received numerous awards including the Irving Sunshine Young Investigators Award from the American Academy of Forensic Sciences to Diana Wilkins, Ph.D for her research efforts and the Gettler Award by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences to Rodger Foltz, Ph.D. for his contributions as an analytical toxicologist. The core modules are:

– Analytical Toxicology

– Mechanisms of Toxicology

– Advances in Endocrine Pharmacology

– Advanced Topics in Cardiovascular Pharmacology

– Biochemical Mechanisms of Signal Transduction

Other useful information: The overall objective is to provide broad, multidisciplinary training that enables the students to pursue careers in a variety of settings, including colleges and universities, pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, government laboratories, and private research institutes and foundations. The guiding philosophy emphasizes the development of scientific investigators who have a broad interdisciplinary background in modern biomedical sciences (cell and molecular biology, physiology and biochemistry), as well as training in the concepts and approaches of pharmacology and toxicology. We also train individuals in state-of-the art approaches to hypothesis-driven research. The program is designed to be exciting and challenging, and at the same time, supportive and flexible enough to meet the specific needs and interests of the students and their mentors.

In the second year, our students take a number of basic and advanced courses in pharmacology and toxicology. Also available is a huge array of graduate level courses that are offered by other programs in the Health Sciences Center, which can be taken depending on career development needs and interests of the students. Students also begin their dissertation research as early as their second year.

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