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Investigating the Difference Between Criminal Justice and Forensic Science at UNH

Release Date:
2/7/2012 3:13 PM

By Nikki Cardillo,
Assistant Director / Coordinator of Transfer Admissions

University of New Haven: Indoor Crime Scene

We offer comprehensive programs in both criminal justice and forensic science. Now, after reading that statement, you are probably wondering to yourself “Well, okay, so what’s the difference? Aren’t they both the same — crime scenes, detectives, courts?” Not quite! 

The technical definition of forensic science is “science applied to law.” At UNH, the forensic science program combines biological and physical science methods to examine and evaluate physical evidence relating to matters of criminal and civil law. The objective of the degree is to provide scientific background to students planning careers as physical evidence examiners in crime laboratories. At the end of their first year, students choose a concentration in either Forensic Chemistry (i.e., toxicology) or Forensic Biology (i.e., DNA).

Our criminal justice program focuses less on science and instead provides students with a full and professional understanding of crime and the administration of justice. It prepares students for professional careers in criminal justice, public service, and social service organizations. Think of criminal justice as the interpersonal, on-the-scene aspect of the law. The university offers eight different concentrations in criminal justice that help students tailor their studies to their interests. 

When thinking about choosing forensic science or criminal justice, students must step back and try to picture themselves in either a laboratory setting — analyzing evidence, testing DNA, studying the toxicology of a substance (this is forensics) — or in the field enforcing laws, gathering evidence, or interviewing people (criminal justice scenarios). If you need help deciding what you would like to major in when attending the University of New Haven, please don’t hesitate to contact the Office of Undergraduate Admissions at 203.932.7319.