Forensic Science Major Resources

Forensic Science Major Resources

The major in Forensic Science (FOS) is designed to provide academic and professional training for students seeking to work in forensic science laboratories, or who are planning to pursue careers as research scientists, teachers or medical professionals. The major draws primarily from chemistry (organic, analytical and physical) with courses in biology, physics and law. Students may specialize in one of three tracks: Criminalistics, Molecular Biology, or Toxicology.

Here you will find:
● Key information about your major
● How and when to meet with your major advisor
● Planning tools that will help you track your progress in the major
● Ways to explore career opportunities related to the Forensic Science major
Take a few moments to look at the information below. It will help you plan effectively and avoid surprises during your studies at John Jay.
Forensic Science Requirements

Admission Requirements

To be admitted to the Forensic Science major as a freshman, you must have at least an 81 CAA (high school academic average) and one of the following:
1. Took the New York State Chemistry Regents Exam; OR
2. Took the AP Chemistry Exam; OR
3. Earned at least 3.5 units of High School Mathematics; OR
4. Earned at least a score of 50 on the CLEP Chemistry Exam.
If you do not meet the above criteria, you can attend John Jay with an undeclared major and achieve admission to the major by earning at least a 2.5 GPA in the introductory math courses and science courses. In this case, the course sequence would be: CHE 100 BIO 101 & CHE 101 BIO 102 & CHE 102 BIO 104 & CHE 104. Once you have completed the requirements necessary to take CHE 104, see either Dr. Sandra Swenson or Dr. Larry Kobilinsky for admission to the FOS major.
Continuing Students
If you would like to switch to FOS from another major, consult with Dr. Sandra Swenson ( or Dr. Shu-Yuan Cheng ( to discuss the feasibility of this switch and learn what you can do to put yourself in the strongest position for admission.
Transfer Students
In order to gain admission to FOS as a transfer student, you must have completed core science courses such as biology, chemistry, physics, algebra, or calculus at another college with grades of 2.5 or higher. If you don’t meet these admissions criteria, consult with Dr. Sandra Swenson ( or Dr. Shu-Yuan Cheng ( to discuss your options.

Major Requirements

You are responsible for the major requirements that were in effect when you declared the major. To confirm the requirements you should be following, go to the Undergraduate Bulletin for that academic year. For example, if you declared the Forensic Science major in Fall 2015 or Spring 2016, you would click on the 2015-2016 Undergraduate Bulletin. If you declared the major and then left the College for more than one full semester, you’re responsible for the major requirements in effect when you return, if they have changed. Not sure when you declared the major? Find out here.
Below, find the Undergraduate Bulletin that was in effect when you declared the major.

FOS Courses That Meet General Education Requirements

Below is a list of FOS courses that can also meet your general education requirements. Note that a single science course cannot meet both the Life and Physical Science requirement and the Scientific World requirement. You must meet these requirements with two separate courses.


Math &
Quantitative Reasoning

Life & Physical Science

Scientific World


Major Advising

Schedule an Advising Appointment

The FOS major advisor is Dr. Sandra Swenson, whose advisement hours are Monday and Wednesday, 2 p.m. - 6 p.m. Her preferred way for students to make an appointment with her is through AdvisorTrac:

1.       Go to AdvisorTrac.

2.      Log in with your John Jay email username (firstname.lastname) and password (the same as your John Jay email password).

4.      To schedule an appointment, click “Search Availability” at the top of the page.

5.      In the drop-down box, choose “ Science Department.”

6.      Click the “Search” button to view available appointments. (Leaving the search options set to their default will provide you with the most available appointments.)

7.      Click on a time slot that works with your schedule.

8.     Select a REASON and save the appointment. The Welcome page will appear and show the appointment you have scheduled.

Major Advisors


Professor Nicholas Petraco, Department of Sciences

Referrals will be made to faculty in each of the tracks within the major.




Professor Sandra Swenson, Department of Sciences

Program planning, permission for taking the placement exam, permission for courses



Science Internship Directors

Professor Linda Rourke for forensic science laboratory internships



Edgardo Sanabria-Valentin for research internships

Major Advising in Summer/Winter

If you need FOS advising during summer session 2019, you can email Dr. Shu-Yuan Cheng ( or make an appointment with Dr. Sandra Swenson via AdvisorTrac. Please see the Schedule an Advising Appointment section for simple AdvisorTrac instructions. Dr. Swenson's regular summer advising hours will be Mondays 2:00-5:00 p.m. and Tuesdays 12:30-3:30 p.m. but if necessary she can arrange to meet at other times.

Registration and Major Holds

Sophomores with 45-59 credits may have a hold on their registration. The hold will be removed when they have a major advising appointment with Dr. Sandra Swenson (212.237.8820, This discussion will encourage wise planning and allow students to ask any questions they may have about the major. How do you know if you have a major hold? Go to CUNYfirst and complete the following steps:


  1. Check the Holds box of your CUNYfirst Student Center. If "Advisement Required" appears, click on “details.”



  1. Click on “Advisement Required.”

  1. See which type of advisement you need. If you must see a major advisor, then make a major advising appointment following the steps preferred by this department.



Plan Ahead: Graduate on Time

Avoid Course Planning Mistakes!

The Forensic Science major has several courses that build on each other in a sequence, so it is important to be aware of this and plan accordingly.


HQ FOS Math Sequence.jpg


You are required to take two semesters of calculus (MAT 241 and MAT 242) and one semester of probability and statistics (MAT 301).  If you place into MAT 105, you will need that course and then MAT 141 as foundation for the MAT 241-242 calculus sequence, so it is important to take these math courses as early as possible.

Other important considerations:
  • MAT 105 or higher is a prerequisite or co-requisite for certain Biology and Chemistry courses.
  • MAT 241 is a prerequisite for PHY 203. MAT 242 and PHY 203 are both prerequisites for PHY 204. You are expected to take Physics in your sophomore year.
  • If you start with MAT 105 in a Fall semester, then take MAT 141 in spring, you can take MAT 241 during summer session to be ready for Physics in the upcoming fall.






You will take a placement test in the Science Department to determine your first Biology course. You will start with either BIO 101 or BIO 103.


  • If you start with BIO 103 (a 5 credit lab science course), you will then take BIO 104.
  • If you start with BIO 101 (a 2 credit course), you will then take BIO 102 (3 credits) before taking BIO 104.


The Biology sequence should be completed by the end of freshman year or fall of sophomore year.



You will take a placement test in the Science Department to determine your first Chemistry course. You will start with either CHE 101 or CHE 103.


  • If you start with CHE 103 (a 5 credit lab science course), you will then take CHE 104.
  • If you start with CHE 101 (a 2 credit course), you will then take CHE 102 (3 credits) before taking CHE 104.


Be sure to complete the Chemistry sequence by the end of your freshman year (spring or summer) to prepare for the Organic Chemistry sequence in your sophomore year.








An internship is required for the forensic science degree. You may fulfill this requirement with either FOS 401 or FOS 402. The internship is to be completed after the junior year in the Forensic Science major progression. To learn more about your internship options, please contact one of the Science Internship Directors below:
Professor Linda Rourke for forensic science laboratory internships
Edgardo Sanabria-Valentin for research internships

Monitor Your Progress in the Major

  • DegreeWorks degree audit - Use this online planning tool to track your overall progress toward graduation. You will see which of your general education and major requirements are completed, in progress, or still needed.  Refer to the DegreeWorks FAQs to better understand how to use this helpful tool. Note: be sure to confirm the accuracy of your degree audit with a general advisor and major advisor.
  • Forensic Science Advisement Form - Fill out this printable worksheet to keep track of which major requirements you have completed and which ones you still need.

Meet with a General Academic Advisor

A General Academic Advisor will confirm what general academic requirements you still need, make suggestions about smart course planning that will help you graduate without delays, discuss your interest in adding a minor or second major, inform you about opportunities such as study abroad, discuss general questions and concerns, and make helpful referrals. Visit the Academic Advisement Center's webpage for more information.


Forensic Science and Careers

Masters of Science Degree in Forensic Science

The Master of Forensic Science degree program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice-CUNY is designed to provide training and expertise to individuals planning to become scientists, administrators, laboratory directors, educators, and professionals in a variety of forensic science sub-specialties. More information is available on the Master of Forensic Science webpage.

Careers in Forensic Science


Learn about FOS-related careers on the American Academy of Forensic Sciences website.


For personalized guidance concerning internships, jobs, and careers, visit John Jay’s Center for Career and Professional Development. CCPD staff are available to meet individually with students and alumni in L72.00 New Building. To request a 45-minute counseling appointment, log on to John Jay Careers Online. 15-minute drop-in sessions are available all day Mon-Fri. (Stop by in person earlier the same day to make a drop-in appointment.)


Background Checks

Because forensic science is part of the criminal justice system, personal honesty, integrity, and scientific objectivity are paramount. Those seeking careers in this field should be aware that background checks similar to those required for law enforcement officers are likely to be a condition of employment. The following may be conducted and/or reviewed before an employment offer is made and may remain as ongoing conditions of employment (This list is not all-inclusive):

  • Drug tests

  • History of drug use

  • Criminal history

  • Personal associations

  • Polygraph examination

  • Driving record

  • Past work performance

  • Credit history

  • Medical or physical examination