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Why is there a dynamic forensics program at Prince George?s Community College (PGCC) in Largo, Maryland?

The answers to that question started in 1997 when several criminal justice students from the FBI asked why the college did not have a forensics program. In response, PGCC conducted a needs survey by contacting the municipal, county, state, and federal law enforcement and forensic science laboratory departments in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and West Virginia. This survey indicated a critical need of 350 forensic scientists, from crime scene investigators to forensic science specialists.

PGCC started an Associate of Applied Science degree in Forensic Science in 1999. This program is a 2-year career-tracked vocation for those students electing not to obtain a baccalaureate degree from a 4-year academic institution. However, the continued demand for baccalaureate-trained forensic science investigators prompted us to establish in 2001 an Associate of Science curriculum for students who wished to transfer to colleges that offered undergraduate degrees in forensic science.

To the best of my knowledge, PGCC is the only community college in the United States with an in-depth complementary course curriculum, encompassing some 14 forensic disciplines. This program is unique in that it has 42 adjunct forensic science professionals teaching the diverse curriculum, each of whom practices their special skills.

The core training requirements for the A.A.S. degree are that students complete 35 credit hours in criminal justice and forensic science. These courses include criminal law, criminal evidence and procedures, introduction to forensic science, crime scene investigation, DNA and fingerprint analysis, death investigation, firearms and tool-markings identification, toxicology, and an internship at a forensic crime laboratory or criminal investigation division of a police department.

The A.A.S. forensic program limits the science requirements to introduction to biology, forensic biology, and chemistry. However, the transfer program has a strong science emphasis in which the following courses are required: biology I, forensic biology, chemistry I and II, introduction to organic chemistry, physics I and II, and genetics.

The PGCC student demographics show that minorities make up 86% and females 66% of overall student enrollment. There are 485 students currently enrolled in the forensics program, 81% of which are female 78% of which are minority students.

Graduating PGCC students go on to pursue a variety of occupations, including wildlife science (Endangered Species Act), toxicology, medical insurance fraud, forensic nursing, juvenile delinquency, police crime laboratory, engineering, law, FEMA, ATF, FBI, DEA, fire departments, forensic education, physical anthropology, forensic herpetology, and forensic accounting.

For further information about the Forensic Science Program at PGCC, please send e-mail to Professor Ray Harris at harrisrl@pg.cc.md.us.