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Forensic Science Graduate Program


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Mission Statement for the Forensic Science Program

This program aims to (1) provide exemplary forensic science education in Criminalistics, including DNA identification analysis, at the graduate level; (2) select students who have successfully completed an undergraduate science degree with a strong GPA and who aspire to become the future forensic scientists in the various forensic science laboratories; and (3) develop in these select students the skill necessary for working in this profession including ethics, integrity, the ability to devise innovative methods and techniques and the capacity to integrate new technology. This comprehensive program incorporates a unique curriculum that balances breadth and depth of study through scholarly coursework which incorporates the logic and workings of the criminal justice system. In depth coursework covers the theoretical underpinnings of the biological and physical sciences as used in the collection, analysis, interpretation, reporting, and testimony of evidence.

UC Davis Master of Science in Forensic Science Program Statistics (2014)
Year the M.S. Forensic Science program was approved Fall 2002
Number of program graduates with a MS degree 142
Number of student and staff peer-reviewed publications 59
Number of presentations by students to forensic organizations 47
Number of graduate thesis publications 140
Number employed in crime labs or closely related areas 80%+
Current Forensic Science externally-funded research grants 5


  • Present curriculum based on theoretical concepts and real world examples
  • Promote critical thinking skills
  • Focus on innovative M.S. thesis research
  • Present research results at forensic science society seminars
  • Publish thesis research in peer reviewed forensic science journals
  • Maintain the ethical and professional standards of the profession of forensic science
  • Prepare students for future employment in forensic science laboratory careers

Meeting New Challenges and Opportunities

Advances in molecular biology, microanalytic techniques and microscopy have created new challenges and opportunities in the Forensic Sciences and have increased the demand for well-trained professionals. The University of California, Davis is pleased to offer a comprehensive and unique graduate program—the Master of Science in Forensic Science.

Pursue studies in:

  • Fire and arson investigation
  • Alcohol impairment
  • Accident reconstruction
  • Chemistry
  • DNA analysis
  • Failure analysis
  • Firearms and toolmark identification
  • Forensic statistics
  • Identification of materials
  • Impression identification
  • Microanalytical methods
  • Stable isotope techniques
  • Scene investigation
  • Toxicology
  • Trace analysis

Complete Your Degree While You Keep Your Job

The Master of Science in Forensic Science is a research-oriented advanced degree that can be taken on a full-time or part-time basis. The program is designed to accommodate the needs of professionals as well as regular graduate students. Most required courses take place in the evenings or late afternoons. It is possible to conduct research projects at campus labs, at your working lab or at an independent facility, whichever is most compatible with your research interests and your schedule. The program can be completed in two years but most students participating on a part-time basis should complete the degree in about three years.

Career Opportunities in Forensic Science

In the past few decades, forensic science has evolved rapidly from an applied science using basic analytical tools for fingerprint, blood type and material analysis to a cutting edge discipline employing sophisticated laboratory and computer methods to obtain information from and conclusively identify ownership of evidential material. As these methodologies become more demanding and the credibility of expert testimony is subjected to greater scrutiny, the need for postgraduate training has grown. A Master of Science degree is now evolving as the standard of training required for leadership positions in crime laboratories. According to the FBI Quality Assurance Standards for Forensic DNA Testing Laboratories, "the technical manager or leader of a DNA section or laboratory shall have at minimum a master's degree in biology, chemistry or a forensic science-related area." The University of California, Davis Master of Science in Forensic Science represents the only degree in forensic science in the University of California system and the only research oriented Master of Science in the state. It is unique in its emphasis on research and in its collaboration with the California Criminalistics Institute and the Sacramento County Laboratory, both of which ensure graduates will have hands-on experience in the latest analytical technologies and methods in forensic science. These well-qualified graduates will find opportunities in local, state, federal and private crime labs, as well as in consulting, investigation and advanced research. Approximately 80-82 percent of the graduates from the Forensic Science program are working in a forensic science laboratory or in a closely-related scientific field. The remaining graduates have either moved on to Ph.D. programs, have taken positions in other industries, or have chosen not to work because of geographical limitations and/or family obligations.

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