• Can you tell me more about the program?
  • The Forensic Science Graduate Program admitted its first graduate student in 2002. The program was originally designed to provide a Master of Science degree platform for working forensic scientists. Over time, through our success and the success of our graduates, the program has evolved into a highly acclaimed forensic science institution.

    Through an advanced curriculum and relevant professional training, graduates of the program enjoy tremendous employment opportunities throughout the United States and the world. Our alumni are positioned in every California Department of Justice laboratory in the state, and operate at every level in government laboratories across the nation.

    For example, we have graduates working in the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory in Dover, Delaware, whose mission is to identify the human remains of United States military service members that have died while serving our country. One of our international graduates opened the first private DNA testing laboratory in Kenya and led the effort to establish a DNA database for major ethnic groups, two advancements that will help incorporate forensic science into the country's justice system.

    Our graduates are using their forensic science education to find the truth, often in highly legally contested environments. To meet the needs of a demanding and rapidly evolving field, we are continually developing innovative educational platforms, resources, and opportunities to offer our students and our alumni. With dedication to promoting forensic education and training, we take pride in our students and their contributions to science and to society.

  • Do I need to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) to apply to this program?
  • No, the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is not required for acceptance to the Forensic Science Graduate Program.

  • What are the requirements for admission?
  • Degree requirement: A bachelor's degree (B.A. or B.S.) in any natural or physical science is required for admission.

    Course prerequisites requirement: Applicants must have completed the minimum equivalent of the following UC Davis courses:

       - General Chemistry with lab (15 quarter units, CHE 2A/B/C)
       - Organic Chemistry with lab (8 quarter units, CHE 118A/B)
       - Physics with lab (12 quarter units, PHY 7A/B/C)
       - Calculus (9 quarter units, MAT 16A/B/C)
       - Statistics (4 quarter units, STA 13)

    Click here for course descriptions.

    GPA requirement: Minimum GPA of 3.0 average in all courses.

    Applicants lacking this preparation may be asked to make up deficiencies before consideration for admission.

  • Does my GPA have to be a 3.0?
  • The primary requirement for admission to any graduate program is evidence of academic achievement and promise. Your transcripts will be evaluated as part of your application to assure that your qualifications meet minimum standards as set by the UC Davis Graduate Council. Generally, you must have a minimum grade point average of B (3.0) in undergraduate coursework from an accredited college or university to be considered for admission. We also evaluate prerequisite course grades and generally expect a GPA of 3.0 or better in those courses.

  • Do I have to select an area of specialization right away or can I take a few courses before choosing a specialization?
  • While it is not mandatory to choose an area of specialization immediately, many students will find it helpful in drafting their statement of purpose and in choosing the right elective courses. We expect that by the end of the first year in the program, students will be working on a research project within their specialization of choice.

  • When is the application due?
  • Applications for admission are accepted and reviewed once per year. Applications become available online in September and are due no later than February 1st in the following year. No application received after February 1st will be considered.

  • What does the application entail?
  • Completing a UC Davis Graduate Studies online application requires information about your undergraduate studies, statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, TOEFL or IELTS scores (for applicants from countries whose official language is not English), and the application fee of $105 for U.S. citizens and permanent residents or $125 for all other applicants.

  • Where can I obtain an application?
  • You must apply online.

  • How much does the program cost?
  • The program requires the completion of 54 units. Tuition is $868 per unit.

  • Is financial aid available for this program?
  • Students enrolled in at least five (5) units per quarter may be eligible for federal financial aid and/or educational loans. Each category has different requirements and restrictions. For details on how to apply, please visit the Financial Aid and Scholarships website.

    Students enrolled in less than five (5) units per quarter are not eligible for financial aid. Students enrolling in this program cannot use Cal Vet tuition/fee exemptions—this program is not supported with state funds and is not subject to the state law regarding Cal Vet tuition/fee exemptions.

  • What qualifications do most forensic science crime laboratories require?
  • For those interested in a position in a crime lab, the forensic science laboratories generally mandate a degree in one of the physical or natural sciences with anywhere from eight to 30 units of chemistry. For DNA analysis, students also need to have completed coursework in biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology and statistics or population genetics. In California, most labs require a course in quantitative analysis (lower division) or equivalent.

  • I want to be a crime scene investigator—is this the right education path for me to meet that goal?
  • The focus of our program is to develop graduates who will be working as forensic scientists or criminalists in a crime laboratory. Most laboratories respond only to major crime scenes such as homicides and officer-involved shootings. Some crime labs will not go to crime scenes. If you want to perform crime scene work, consider Evidence Technician or Crime Scene Technician positions in a law enforcement agency. These generally do not require a college degree, although a degree may be helpful.

  • I am an undergraduate student/high school student, and I was wondering what you would recommend as a major for a college undergraduate program.
  • We would suggest a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in one of the physical or natural sciences such as biochemistry, chemistry, molecular biology, biology, genetics, etc. This will provide good qualifications in order to be well prepared to work in the forensic sciences. To become a DNA analyst in a crime lab, besides having a science degree, national standards also require coursework in molecular biology, genetics, biochemistry and statistics or population genetics.

  • On average, how long does it take to earn the Master of Science Degree in Forensic Science?
  • For the student who does not have a full-time professional position, we expect completion of the program in two years. For those who are working as a professional in a crime lab, we expect the degree to be completed within three years.

  • How many units do part-time and full-time students take?
  • As approved by the Office of Graduate Studies for students enrolling in Fall of 2020 onwards, students need to enroll in the following number of units each quarter:

    Full-time = 9 units or more per quarter

    Part-time = 5 units or less per quarter

    Please note that these unit levels may differ from those defined by other campus departments, such as the Financial Aid Office. Students in their final quarter are not required to enroll in any course units provided they have already completed their 54 course and research units for graduation, and apply for Filing Fee status.

  • Are there any special requirements for international students?
  • International students are required to take 12 units per quarter, and will generally be expected to complete the program in two years or less. Contact the Program Director, Ashley Hall, for relevant information on visa issues. You may also have to meet the English language requirement for the graduate division, which sets the minimum TOEFL and IELTS scores.

  • Do you have any fellowships or grants?
  • This program is a self-supporting program that currently does not have any fellowships, but occasionally the program does have paid graduate student researcher (GSR) positions depending on the research grant status of the program and/or the members of the graduate group. Teaching assistant positions may also be available.

  • What type of research will I be doing?
  • The program is interdisciplinary, so you may seek a research project in any area that interests you.  You will work with your Principal Investigator (Thesis Chair) to identify a research project.

  • Can I earn the Master of Science in Forensic Science by doing only coursework?
  • No. To complete the degree, you must complete a research project and write a thesis.

  • What are the job opportunities for graduates of your program?
  • Job opportunities in forensic science are available in many geographical areas. The American Academy of Forensic Sciences has a listing of available jobs. You should also check the human resource department websites of the cities and counties that have forensic science laboratories.

  • Can you be a forensic scientist with a master's degree?
  • Yes! In fact, a master's degree in forensic science is increasingly becoming an expectation/requirement for most local, state, federal and private crime labs. Although an advanced degree is not required for some entry-level and non-leadership positions, candidates who possess an advanced degree will have better career opportunities. A Master of Science degree is emerging as the standard of training required for leadership positions in crime laboratories. The UC Davis Forensic Science Graduate Program is deeply engaged with employers and professional associations. Our curriculum is guided and updated by their feedback and directly aligns with the most current employment requirements.
  • Is a master's in forensic science worth it?
  • Absolutely – at least if you want to build your career as a forensic scientist, crime scene investigator or any related job in the industry. The field of forensic science is growing rapidly and, as a career, it's incredibly rewarding. But to be a part of it, particularly at a leadership level, you really do need an M.S. in forensic science.
  • What master's degree should I get for a career in forensics?
  • A master's degree in forensic science is the preferred M.S. in the field. A degree from the UC Davis Forensic Science Graduate Program provides you with the academic theory, practical experience and ethical foundation to excel in the field.
  • What is the highest paid forensic science job?
  • While salaries vary by state, forensic scientists and other professionals in the field are well paid. In 2021, forensic scientists had an annual median salary of $61,930. Those working in the federal government had a mean annual wage of $114,220, while those who worked in local government averaged $68,480 and state government employees earned an average of $64,790 a year. The top paying states for forensic scientists were California (which employs 15% of the nation's forensics science technicians), Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon and New York.
  • Does the FBI hire forensic scientists?
  • Opportunities abound for forensics science program graduates, including with the FBI. Forensic scientist employment opportunities include local, regional and state forensic laboratories; private firms; colleges and universities; public defender contracts; district/prosecutor/state attorney's offices; and federal agencies such as the DEA, ATF, Customs and FBI. Forensic scientists can also be found in the U.S. Post Office, major corporations, and retail stores, and in prison administration.
  • What are some careers in forensic science?
  • Forensic scientists are in demand. In the last 10 years, employment in forensic science and technology has increased by 42% (compared to 8% for the average occupation in the U.S.). A master's degree in forensic science prepares you for a number of jobs, including: forensic scientist, crime scene technician, forensic analyst, forensic technician, crime scene investigator and many other professional jobs in the field. Job growth in the field of forensic science is attributed to increased use of forensic evidence in criminal investigations, advancements in forensic technology that have made it more effective in solving crimes, and increased funding for forensic laboratories based on the expected value of new innovations in the field.