Graduate Curriculum, M.S. in Forensic Science

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 track by the end of their first semester. Tracks offered include forensic biology, forensic chemistry/drugs and toxicology, forensic chemistry/trace and forensic physical evidence. A strong emphasis is placed on laboratory course work, providing students with significant laboratory 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.

The graduate program is a full-time, two-year program. Courses taken will vary depending on the track selected. Required and elective courses are offered at various times, day and night, throughout the week. The Master of Science in Forensic Science degree requires 42 semester hours of course work, including 27 semester hours of required core course work* and 15 semester hours of specialized course work designed for each track (including electives). The required course work includes a directed research project, which is an extensive research experience conducted within a forensic laboratory setting. The curriculum offers four tracks: forensic biology, forensic chemistry/drugs and toxicology, forensic chemistry/trace, and forensic physical evidence.

*For exceptions, see Course Waiver & Substitution Policy

  • Students will be able to apply basic principles and laboratory procedures of Biology and Chemistry to Forensic Science through focused study in concentration tracks (Forensic Biology, Forensic Chemistry/Drug Analysis and Toxicology, Forensic Chemistry/Trace Analysis, and Forensic Physical).
  • Students will demonstrate capabilities, use, potential and limitations of forensic laboratory theory and techniques.
  • Students will demonstrate the ability to perform (report and orally present) independent research in an area of Forensic Science.
  • Students will demonstrate an understanding of legal procedure, rules of evidence, ethical and professional duties and responsibilities of the forensic scientist.

The current bulletin is available on the VCU BulletinCourse descriptions for all graduate courses can be found here.

Core Requirements (27 credits)
FRSC 570 Forensic Science Seminar(attend 3 semesters)
FRSC 661 Analysis of Pattern Evidence (lecture/laboratory) -OR- FRSC 662 Firearm and Toolmark Identification (lecture/laboratory)
FRSC 670 Forensic Evidence and Criminal Procedure 
FRSC 671 Instrumentation in Forensic Chemistry
FRSC 673 Forensic Microscopy
FRSZ 673L Forensic Microscopy Laboratory
FRSC 675 Forensic Serology and DNA Analysis
FRSZ 675L Forensic Serology and DNA Analysis Laboratory
FRSC 677 Professional Practices and Expert Testimony
FRSC 793 Directed Research in Forensic Science
STAT/BIOS 543 Statistical Methods I

Forensic Biology track
FRSC 565 Scientific Crime Scene Investigation (lecture/laboratory)
FRSC 676 Advanced Forensic DNA Analysis (lecture/laboratory)
BIOL/HGEN 516 Population Genetics 
Approved electives (6 credits)

Forensic Chemistry/Drug analysis and Toxicology track
FRSC 672 Advanced Drug Analysis (lecture/laboratory)
FRSC/PHTX 644 Forensic Toxicology
FRSC 663 Forensic Medicine -OR- FRSC 565 Scientific Crime Scene Investigation (lecture/laboratory)
Approved electives (6 credits)

Forensic Chemistry/Trace analysis track 
FRSC 565 Scientific Crime Scene Investigation (lecture/laboratory)
FRSC 681 Analysis of Fire Debris and Explosives (lecture/laboratory)
FRSC 682 Forensic Analysis of Paint and Polymers (lecture/laboratory)
Approved electives (6 credits)

Forensic Physical Evidence track 
FRSC 565 Scientific Crime Scene Investigation (lecture/laboratory)
FRSC 661 Analysis of Pattern Evidence (lecture/laboratory) -OR- FRSC 662 Firearm and Toolmark Identification (lecture/laboratory)
Approved electives (6 credits)