Colleges and studies

Hello!I'm Eliza. I'm a Junior and high school, and have decided on a career in Forensic Entomology. I have been looking into colleges and universities, but I'd love some personal opinions. Where did you go to college? How was your experience there? What do you recommend?I'm interested in Purdue University, but I'd really like personal opinions from those who have been there.Thank you so much!Sincerely, Eliza

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  • Hi Eliza,

    I am a forensic entomologist at IUPUI, got my BS and MS at Texas A&M University. Purdue is great, Dr. Stamper (another FE) teaches there. We have a great decomp facility there as well. 

    Contact me at if you wan to know more about FE education, meetings, people, and research opportunities. 


  • I would check out university of Nebraska Lincoln
  • Hi Eliza!

    There are probably those with more personal experience with Forensic Entomology whom I hope will address your question, but from a more basic point of view, the specialization in this branch of entomology (or even entomology itself, depending on your career goals) may be more of a graduate school focus than something you will be able to jump into sooner--you perhaps knew this already.  But my point in bring it up is two-fold: many graduate programs in entomology want you to have an excellent foundation in the biological (and other basic) sciences first, and may not have any expectation (or even desire) that you have taken any entomology courses before you enter graduate school (they may even make you take their courses again).  This in truth, can take some of the pressure off of this first decision (finding a school that will prepare you to be a forensic entomologist), and give you the broader task of finding an undergraduate school that will provide the teaching (breadth of classes; class size; range of courses) and opportunities (for student employment or volunteering; exposure to and support for research experiences; encouragement to become involved as a student member of relevant scientific societies) for an excellent foundation in the sciences. 

    Good luck! Visit as many schools as you can and keep talking to people--you'll find an amazing diversity of stories about how we all got where we are, and many were serendipitous! 



    • Thank you Gail! That makes so much sense. But, say I take that route and go into a different school for a degree before entomology. Do you think a BS/BA in general science or in biology would be more beneficial?
      Thanks again :-)
    • I'm not sure what the distinctions in coursework might be (and they may vary by university or college), but a BS with strong coursework in biology (general, ecology, micro, genomics, even intro entomology) and chemistry are probably essential, along with math/statistics and probably general physics.  I don't know how the requirements may have changed over the years, but I know I was expected (eons ago!) to have already had at least two semesters of physics, math through calculus, genetics, and biochemistry, along with a minimum score on the biology Advanced Test of the GRE (Graduate Record Exam).  There were also expectations about language training (for reading foreign texts in your area of concentration).  I had a ways to catch up except for the languages, as I had a B.A. in French (and had luckily taken calculus 10 years earlier!).  Talking about these foundations of science is not meant to scare you (even though some classes seem to do just that) but to prepare you to better understand what you will learn in the interdisciplinary science of entomology.  The study of various types of entomology can expose you to an amazing number of other disciplines, opportunities and colleagues/friends.

      Charity Owings sounds like a good first-hand resource (do pick her brain!!), and the programs pointed out by her, George Sims, and Patti Prasifka may also have information on the web about requirements for their graduate programs.  If you think you may be interested in a particular program, take the plunge and ask if you don't see the information on the web.  If you get a chance, attend an Entomological Society of America meeting and/or join the Society.  Students are particularly welcomed and their membership dues are nominal.  There is also a strong entomology presence on Facebook.



      P.S. Just saw what Patti wrote after I finally finished my answer and she is right--learning about many options never hurts!

    • Eliza,

      I would talk to some professors/department chairs at schools with undergraduate programs in forensic entomology and find out what their placements are like for students with BS's in forensic entomology.... Can people get jobs with just a BS or do most employers require an MS or PhD? If there is a good chance to get a good job which just a BS then I might go for one of those programs but if you find out that an MS or PhD is required to get your dream job then it might be good to get a more general biology or entomology BS or BA and then choose a graduate program with a focus in forensics specifically ... That way you have that broader based education to fall back on. As Gail mentioned you never know what you might get interested in during your undergraduate degree, you could fall in love with some other field of study! I worry a bit that it might be tough to get a forensic entomology job (highly competitive and just not that many jobs), I would try and find someone that is a working forensic entomologist and find out how they got their job. Overall, tryin to increase your possibilities is never a bad thing.
  • Eliza,

    I do know that the University of Tennessee has the famed "Body Farm", where they've been conducting forensic entomology studies for quite a number of years.

    George Sims

    Lander, Wyoming

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