Frequently Asked Questions

Can you tell me more about the program?

The Forensic Science Graduate Program admitted our 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 attracting 80 to 100 applications per year from prospective students.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. 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, the Forensic Science Graduate Program takes pride in our students and their contributions to science and to society.

No, the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is not required for acceptance to the Forensic Science Graduate Program.
Degree requirement: A bachelor’s degree (B.A. or B.S.) in any natural or physical science is required for admission.

Course prerequisites requirement:

  1. 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.
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.
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.
The degree does not have a comprehensive exam or oral defense but does require that a thesis be completed and approved to earn the degree. Students are required to present their thesis research in quarterly Thesis Presentation Seminars
Forensic Science courses are generally offered one to two times per week, in the evening, typically from 6-9 PM. Courses outside of the Forensic Science curriculum, such as electives offered by other departments, are usually offered during regular campus hours (8 AM – 6 PM).
Applications for admission are accepted and reviewed once per year. Applications become available online in October and are due no later than February 1st in the following year. No application received after February 1st will be considered.
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.
Tuition for students who enter the program after 2016 is $868 per unit. The program requires the completion of 54 units, thus the total cost for students entering the program after 2016 is $46,872. Campus fees are $27 per unit and are included in the tuition. Additional fees include a nonrefundable application fee ($105 for U.S. citizens and permanent residents; $125 for all other applicants) due at the time of application. Books, supplies, lab materials, and cost of living are not included in the tuition. Tuition and fees are subject to change without notice.
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.
Our acceptance rate is approximately 65%. Of those accepted, 56% are enrolled in the program. 
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, labs prefer to employ people who have also completed a course in biochemistry, genetics and molecular biology. In California, most labs require a course in quantitative analysis (lower division) or equivalent.
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.
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 and biochemistry.
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. The average time to degree across all students from 2010-2015 is 2.58 years. Average time to completion for full-time students only is 2.16 years. Average time to completion for part-time students only is 3.01 years.

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.  Also, students on Filing Fee 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.

Are there any special requirements for international students?


International students are required to take 12 units per quarter. International students will be expected to complete the program in two years or less. Contact the Student Affairs Officer, Chris Garcia, 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.
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. Some of our students have paid positions based on their prior work at the university or grants that have been submitted with individual faculty. Teaching assistant positions may also be available, but you would have to contact the various departments that may have openings. Ours is an inter-disciplinary forensic science group with members representing many different departments.
Students can expect to spend approximately 1000 hours on the research effort. This includes conducting the research and writing a thesis. A thesis chair will guide students in what needs to be done for the thesis. Students will be expected to complete a thesis, an article ready for submission to a peer-reviewed journal and the presentation of the results at a forensic science seminar.
The program’s focus on research is based on the assumption that students who have done scientific research have learned the skills needed to identify problems, propose solutions and test these solutions in a laboratory environment. Students are responsible for choosing their research topic under the guidance of their thesis chair. Students are required to have a thesis chair from the graduate group. If you are working in a laboratory and have an area of interest you would like to pursue, you may select one outside advisor.
In general, unless the UC Davis faculty has identified funds for the research, you will not be paid for your research effort. However, most UC Davis sponsors will provide the facilities and the basic supplies.
Essentially, no. To complete the degree, students must complete a research project and write a thesis.
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.