VCU Bulletins

Forensic Science, Master of Science (M.S.) with a concentration in forensic biology

Program accreditation
Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission

Graduate program director
Tracey Dawson Cruz, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
(804) 828-0642

Program website:

Refer to the program search function of the online VCU Bulletins for a complete listing of all programs, concentrations and related curricular options.

Forensic Science, Master of Science (M.S.) with a concentration in forensic chemistry/trace
Forensic Science, Master of Science (M.S.) with a concentration in forensic chemistry/drugs and toxicology
Forensic Science, Master of Science (M.S.) with a concentration in forensic physical analysis

Apply online at

Admission requirements

Forensic Science, Master of Science (M.S.) with a concentration in forensic biology

of entry:


Mar 1

Note: Review of application and offers of admission will begin Jan. 15 and proceed until enrollment openings are filled.

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 biology

In addition to the M.S. in Forensic Science general admission requirements, applicants to the forensic biology concentration must have completed a minimum of nine credit hours or equivalent of upper-level course work in the biological or biochemical sciences. This may include, but is not limited to, course work in cell biology, general biochemistry, genetics and/or molecular biology.

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.

General academic regulations for
all graduate students in all graduate programs at VCU

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. Students entering the program will be required to select a concentration by the end of the first semester. 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.

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

Courses Credit hours
Core courses 27
FRSC 570 Forensic Science Seminar [1, 2] 3
FRSC 661 Analysis of Pattern Evidence* or FRSC 662 Firearm and Toolmark Identification* 3
FRSC 670 Forensic Evidence and Criminal Procedure 3
FRSC 671 Instrumentation in Forensic Chemistry [2] 3
FRSC and FRSZ 673 Forensic Microscopy and Laboratory [2] 3
FRSC and FRSZ 675 Forensic Serology and DNA Analysis and Laboratory [2] 3
FRSC 677 Professional Practices and Expert Testimony 3
FRSC 793 Directed Research in Forensic Science 3
STAT 543/BIOS 543 Statistical Methods I 3
Forensic biology concentration courses 9
BIOL/HGEN 516 Population Genetics 3
FRSC 565 Scientific Crime Scene Investigation* 3
FRSC 676 Advanced Forensic DNA Analysis* 3
Recommended electives 6
Choose courses from list below in consultation with adviser. At least one elective must be a graduate-level molecular biology-related course.  
BIOC/MICR 503 Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology 3
BIOC/MICR 504 Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology 3
BIOL 530/HGEN 501 Human Genetics 3
BIOL/BNFO 540 Fundamentals of Molecular Genetics 3
BIOL 693 Current Topics in Biology (molecular biology) 3
CHEM 506 Introduction to Spectroscopic Methods in Organic Chemistry 1.5
CHEM 606 Advanced Spectroscopic Methods in Organic Chemistry 1.5
CHEM 630 Electroanalytical Chemistry 1.5/module
CHEM 631 Separation Science 1.5/module
CHEM 632 Chemometrics 1.5/module
CHEM 633 Mass Spectrometry 1.5/module
CHEM 634 Surface Science 1.5/module
CRJS 591 Topic Seminar (drugs and crime) 3
FRSC 520 Forensic Fire Investigation 3
FRSC 566 Advanced Crime Scene Investigation* 3
FRSC/PHTX 644 Forensic Toxicology 3
FRSC 661 Analysis of Pattern Evidence* 3
FRSC 662 Firearm and Toolmark Identification* 3
FRSC 663 Forensic Medicine 3
FRSC 672 Advanced Drug Analysis* 3
FRSC/CRJS 680 Forensic Psychiatry 3
FRSC 681 Analysis of Fire Debris and Explosives* 3
FRSC 682 Forensic Analysis of Paints and Polymers* 3
FRSC 692 Forensic Science Independent Study 1-3
FRSC 693 Current Topics in Forensic Science 1
PHIS 501 Mammalian Physiology .5-5
PHTX 536 Principles of Pharmacology and Toxicology 5
PHTX 548 Drug Dependence 3
Total graduate credit hours required (minimum) 42
[1] One-credit hour must be completed each semester during first year  
[2] Courses required during the first fall semester upon entry into the program  
* Course consists of lecture and laboratory  

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.

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.

Graduation requirements

Other information

The forensic science graduate student handbook is available at



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