Program accreditation
Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission

Program goal

The Master of Science in Forensic Science is one of only a few of its kind in the U.S. The mission of the program is to prepare students for careers as forensic scientists in government and private forensic laboratories. In addition, students will be prepared to pursue further graduate and/or professional academic degrees.

Core courses in the forensic science curriculum offer broad exposure to forensic laboratory equipment and instrumentation, as well as legal issues, expert testimony, forensic biology, forensic chemistry, trace evidence, physical evidence, professional ethics, quality assurance and current topics in research and development within the forensic sciences. Concentrations offered include forensic biology, forensic chemistry/drugs and toxicology, forensic chemistry/trace and forensic physical analysis. A strong emphasis is placed on laboratory course work, providing students with significant laboratory and research experience. Several of the laboratory courses are taught by practicing professional forensic scientists at the Virginia Division of Forensic Science Central Laboratory, which is nationally accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board.

Student learning outcomes

  1. Students will be able to apply basic principles and laboratory procedures of biology and chemistry to forensic science through focused study in the available concentration options.
  2. Students will demonstrate capabilities, use, potential and limitations of forensic laboratory theory and techniques.
  3. Students will demonstrate the ability to perform (report and orally present) independent research in an area of forensic science.
  4. Students will demonstrate an understanding of legal procedure, rules of evidence, ethical and professional duties and responsibilities of the forensic scientist.

VCU Graduate Bulletin, VCU Graduate School and general academic policies and regulations for all graduate students in all graduate programs

The VCU Graduate Bulletin website documents the official admission and academic rules and regulations that govern graduate education for all graduate programs at the university. These policies are established by the graduate faculty of the university through their elected representatives to the University Graduate Council.

It is the responsibility of all graduate students, both on- and off-campus, to be familiar with the VCU Graduate Bulletin as well as the Graduate School website and academic regulations in individual school and department publications and on program websites. However, in all cases, the official policies and procedures of the University Graduate Council, as published on the VCU Graduate Bulletin and Graduate School websites, take precedence over individual program policies and guidelines.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on academic regulations for graduate students.

Degree candidacy requirements

A graduate student admitted to a program or concentration requiring a final research project, work of art, thesis or dissertation, must qualify for continuing master’s or doctoral status according to the degree candidacy requirements of the student’s graduate program. Admission to degree candidacy, if applicable, is a formal statement by the graduate student’s faculty regarding the student’s academic achievements and the student’s readiness to proceed to the final research phase of the degree program.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following degree candidacy policy as published in the VCU Graduate Bulletin for complete information and instructions.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on degree candidacy requirements.

Graduation requirements

As graduate students approach the end of their academic programs and the final semester of matriculation, they must make formal application to graduate. No degrees will be conferred until the application to graduate has been finalized.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following graduation requirements as published in the Graduate Bulletin for a complete list of instructions and a graduation checklist.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on graduation requirements.

Apply online today.

Admission requirements

Admission requirements
Degree:Semester(s) of entry:Deadline dates:Test requirements:
M.S.FallMar 1GRE

Note: Review of application and offers of admission will begin Jan. 15 and proceed until enrollment openings are filled. All applicants are automatically considered for graduate teaching assistantships in the Department of Forensic Science; however, the earlier a student’s application is complete, the better the chance of being selected for an assistantship. 

In addition to the general admission requirements of the VCU Graduate School, the following requirements represent the minimum acceptable standards for admission:

  1. Bachelor’s degree in a natural science discipline, including forensic science, or a degree with equivalent course work
  2. An undergraduate GPA that exceeds 2.9 on a 4.0 scale (Most students entering the forensic science graduate program have a minimum GPA of 3.0 on undergraduate work and a combined score of 300 or more on the verbal and quantitative sections of the GRE.)
  3. Completion of eight credit hours (two semesters or equivalent) of organic chemistry with laboratories and eight credit hours (two semesters or equivalent) of general biology with laboratories
  4. Assessment of prior graduate course work and/or relevant laboratory experience (where applicable)
  5. Three letters of recommendation pertaining specifically to the student’s potential ability as a graduate student in forensic science
  6. Personal statement
  7. Satisfactory scores on GRE

Applicants are required to select a concentration and will be considered only for that concentration. If course work deficiencies are identified, students may be required to take additional foundational courses beyond those required for the concentration.

Additional admission requirements for concentration in forensic chemistry/drugs and toxicology

In addition to the M.S. in Forensic Science general admission requirements, applicants to the concentration in forensic chemistry/drugs and toxicology must have completed a minimum of nine credit hours or equivalent of upper-level chemistry or biochemistry course work. This may include, but is not limited to, course work in physical chemistry, instrumental analysis, quantitative analysis, pharmacology and/or general biochemistry.

Degree requirements

The graduate program is a full-time, two-year program. Courses will vary depending on the concentration selected. Required and elective courses are offered at various times, day and night, throughout the week. The M.S. in Forensic Science requires 42 graduate credit hours of course work, including 27 credit hours of required core course work and 15 credit hours of specialized course work designed for each concentration (including electives). The required course work includes a directed research project, which is an extensive research experience conducted within a forensic laboratory setting.

In addition to general VCU Graduate School graduation requirements, students are required to complete course work in core and elective courses and to conduct significant research.

  1. Credit hour requirements: Students must complete a minimum of 42 graduate-level credit hours as outlined in the list of core and concentration requirements, including electives.
  2. Grade requirements: Students must maintain an ongoing, cumulative minimum GPA of 3.0. Receipt of a grade of C in two or more courses will constitute an automatic dismissal from the graduate program in forensic science. Receipt of a grade of D or lower in any one course will constitute an automatic dismissal from the graduate program in forensic science.
  3. Other requirements: Students must maintain continuous, full-time enrollment. Interruption in continuous enrollment or full-time status for any reason without a leave of absence approved by the forensic science graduate committee will require that students reapply to the program. Request for credit for graduate course work taken at other institutions must be submitted to the director of graduate studies in forensic science and will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the forensic science graduate committee. If course work deficiencies are identified, students may be required to take additional foundational courses beyond those listed below. These will not count toward the 42 required credit hours.

Curriculum requirements

FRSC 570Forensic Science Seminar (one credit course repeated for three credits) 1,23
FRSC 661Analysis of Pattern Evidence 33
or FRSC 662 Firearm and Toolmark Identification
FRSC 670Forensic Evidence and Criminal Procedure3
FRSC 671
FRSZ 671
Instrumentation in Forensic Chemistry
and Instrumentation in Forensic Chemistry Laboratory 2
FRSC 673
FRSZ 673
Forensic Microscopy
and Forensic Microscopy Laboratory 2
FRSC 675Forensic Serology and DNA Analysis2
FRSC 677Professional Practices and Expert Testimony3
FRSC 793Directed Research in Forensic Science3
STAT 543Statistical Methods I3
or FRSC 580 Applied Statistics for Forensic Science
or BIOS 543 Graduate Research Methods I
Forensic chemistry/drugs and toxicology concentration courses
FRSC 565Scientific Crime Scene Investigation 33
or FRSC 663 Forensic Medicine
FRSC/PHTX 644Forensic Toxicology3
FRSC 672Advanced Drug Analysis 33
Recommended electives
Select seven credit hours from the following: 47
Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology
Introduction to Spectroscopic Methods in Organic Chemistry
Advanced Spectroscopic Methods in Organic Chemistry
Electroanalytical Chemistry
Separation Science
Mass Spectrometry
Surface Science
Spectrochemical Analysis
Forensic Entomology 3
Forensic Fire Investigation
Scientific Crime Scene Investigation 3
Advanced Crime Scene Investigation 3
Applied Statistics for Forensic Science
Forensic Taphonomy 3
Forensic Medicine
Analysis of Fire Debris and Explosives 3
Forensic Analysis of Paint and Polymers 3
Scientific Writing
Forensic Science Independent Study
Current Topics in Forensic Science
Research Techniques
Mammalian Physiology
Drug Dependence
Basic Concepts in Pharmacology for Graduate Students
Principles of Pharmacology
Total Hours42

FRSC 690 may substitute for one credit of this requirement.


Courses required during the first fall semester upon entry in to the program


Course consists of lecture and laboratory


In consultation with adviser

The minimum total of graduate credit hours required for this degree is 42.

Sarah Seashols Williams, Ph.D.
Assistant professor and graduate program director
(804) 827-8597

Program website: