Bachelor of Science in Criminalistics, ACS Track

What is Criminalistics?

Criminalistics is the application of scientific methodologies to legal matters. Criminalists are laboratory scientists who are primarily concerned with characterizing trace evidence associated with a crime. Analytical results are often given as evidence in a Court of Law. The trace evidence may include: flammable substances and explosives; fire debris, gunshot residues bodily fluids, plastics, metals, glasses, hair, fibers, vegetation, paint, and over-the-counter, prescription, and illicit drugs. Criminalists may also be called upon to analyze firearm and ballistic characteristics; documents; imprints; computer files; and voice patterns.

A criminalist with a degree based in chemistry represents one of the most sought-after backgrounds in criminalistics. Our curriculum prepares students with hands-on experience involving the fundamental techniques and instrumentation of a modern crime laboratory. This experience includes:

  1. The chromatographic techniques used in drug and arson residue analysis
  2. Trace analysis using a variety of techniques with a large variety of sample matrices 
  3. Genetic analysis using electrophoretic techniques.

Demand for Criminalistics Majors

There are approximately 40,000 different police agencies in the United States which gather physical evidence which must be analyzed. Their case load is increasing. Analysis of smaller size samples enabled by advances in chromatography and spectroscopy is also creating an increased demand for highly skilled scientists. Placement of UW-Platteville criminalistics majors in crime laboratories and graduate schools has been 100 percent for the last twenty years.

Criminalistics: Why UW-Platteville?

At the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, the criminalistics emphasis in chemistry is a four-year program that provides a very strong preparation for employment or graduate studies in forensic science. The program includes interdisciplinary training in the examination and analysis of physical evidence and substantial coursework in criminal justice and biochemistry. This provides graduates with valuable cross-disciplinary experiences related to the field including expert witness testimony.

The strength of the criminalistics emphasis at UW-Platteville is its foundation in a chemistry degree, and this provides a significant advantage in its flexibility. In addition to being perhaps the strongest preparatory degree in the field of forensic analysis, the program produces graduates with a complete chemistry degree. Many undergraduate programs in forensic science may leave graduates without a complete major in chemistry or biology. However, in addition to preparing students for careers or subsequent graduate study in forensic sciences, this program provides a chemistry degree with a significant biological chemistry experience needed for a variety of alternative careers.

At UW-Platteville, advanced chemistry classes are kept small to ensure that there is considerable opportunities for interaction with the faculty. The faculty are dedicated to providing sound, balanced instruction. The chemistry program is accredited by the American Chemistry Society.

The criminal justice major is one of the largest on campus. Since its creation in 1966, the department of criminal justice has been recognized by criminal justice agencies across the nation for the excellence of its academic program and the professional accomplishments of its graduates.

Recommended High School Courses

Student success is enhanced when students take the maximum number of courses in mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, and English. UW-Platteville offers test-out examinations for students with advanced preparation.


Total for graduation 126-130 credits
General Education 31 credits
Major Studies 67 credits

Every student majoring in chemistry must meet the writing certification requirement as established by the department. Details may be obtained from the department chairperson.

Course Number Course Name Credits
Chem 1140 and 1240 General Chemistry I and II 8
Chem 2150 Quantitative Analysis 4
Chem 2730 Inorganic Chemistry 4
Chem 3540 and 3510 Organic Chemistry I, Lecture and Lab 5
Chem 3630 and 3610 Organic Chemistry II, Lecture and Lab 4
Chem 3810 Chemical Synthesis and Characterization 1
Chem 4060 Seminar 1
Chem 4130 and 4110 Physical Chemistry I, Lecture and Lab 4
Chem 4230 and 4210 Physical Chemistry II, Lecture and Lab 4
Chem 4240 Instrumental Analysis 4
Chem 4630 General Biochemistry 3
Chem 4730, 4810, 4820 or 4830 Advanced Topics (Inorganic, Organic, Physical or Bio Chem) 2-3
CrJ 1130 Intro. to Criminal Justice 3
CrJ 31303 Criminal Investigation 3
CrJ 3140 Criminalistics 3
CrJ 4880 Internship 8
CrJ XXXX Criminal Justice Electives 3
Math 2430 Elementary Statistics 3

Phys 1350/1450 or 2240/2340 (Introductory or General Physics) and Math 2640/2740/2840 (Calculus and Analytic Geometry), or equivalent, are required as prerequisites to advanced chemistry courses. Student selecting the criminalistics emphasis are required to take Biology 160 Unity of Life, as part of their general education requirements.

A student who is considering one of the criminalistics emphases should print and review a representative 4-year plan, for either the ACS-track or the DNA-track, and then discuss it with their advisor.

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