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Ph.D. in Forensic Science

Learn to critically assess the current state of knowledge within the field, and to solve complex problems at the frontier of our discipline.

The Ph.D. in Forensic Science program is only the second such program in the United States and has a much wider scope than that of the M.S. program. 

The major emphasis of the program is the development and completion of a research problem that involves advanced techniques and concepts, culminating in an oral defense of the Ph.D. dissertation. Ph.D. students take a common core of advanced forensic science courses and additional courses as deemed necessary by their dissertation committees.

The objective of the Ph.D. program in Forensic Science is to prepare students to work as professionals in academia, government laboratories, or private industry as laboratory specialists. Through a core of advanced course work and a requisite independently executed research project, the program is designed to provide students with the skills needed to critically assess the current state of knowledge within the field, and to solve complex problems at the frontier of the discipline.

Because of the lack of doctoral programs nationally in forensic science, the offering of a Ph.D. program in Forensic Science at WVU establishes the department’s position as a leader in this critically important area of study. The program is strongly science-based and prepares students to work across the foundations of criminalistics: students learn the underpinnings of the discipline, research design, quantitative methods, statistical analysis, and communication skills such as scientific writing and presenting. Since students may enter the program with a wide array of backgrounds, Ph.D. candidates typically enroll in a common core of advanced forensic science courses, followed by additional courses as deemed necessary by their dissertation committees.

The program for the Ph.D. degree reflects a combination of prescriptive coursework as well as a flexible, research-oriented approach geared to develop the interests, capability, and potential of the student. In addition to the curriculum for the M.S. degree, doctoral students are required to take three additional core courses and two colloquium courses. These courses present the essentials of a given discipline on an advanced level and expose the student to the frontiers in a specific area of research. The course offerings are designed to provide guidelines from which students can launch their independent research projects. Ph.D. students are required to enroll and participate in the departmental seminar program for at least four semesters. By doing so, it is anticipated that they will serve as role models for the graduate students in the M.S. program.

Ph.D. in the Course Catalog

Pathway to the PhD via the Department’s M.S.

Students who have completed the M.S. at WVU must formally apply for admission to the Ph.D. program. 

Pathways to the PhD beside that of the Department’s M.S.

Students who have completed an M.S. at another institution can enter the Ph.D. program; their course work will be evaluated against that of WVU’s M.S. program and each student will be appraised of any course deficiencies that need to be completed as part of his/her course of study under the Ph.D. program. 

Academic standards are similar for the M.S. and Ph.D. program. Thesis research is different in that students are encouraged to use the manuscript model for preparing the results of their research, which consists of a series of interrelated chapters/papers on the topic. The quality and contribution of each chapter/paper should be that of an article published in a peer-reviewed scholarly journal. Some chapters/papers may actually be published in advance of the final dissertation. In fact, this latter approach is generally preferable because the chapter/paper in question will already have gone through peer review by experts outside the institution. 

The form for the dissertation, should include 1) an introductory chapter that clarifies the theme of the dissertation, 2) a number of interrelated papers, and 3) a concluding chapter that synthesizes and integrates the papers and proposes ideas for future work.

Requirements for Application

  • Personal statement
  • GRE taken within the last seven years with a score of 300 or better
  • Academic transcripts
  • Research writing example of a peer-reviewed publication or thesis 
    • If you wish to submit an alternative document for review, please contact the Graduate Studies Coordinator, Tina Moroose, to determine suitability.
  • Three letters of recommendation 
    • All references must be familiar with, and able to comment on, the applicant’s academic and/or research skill set

Application Deadline

Although early review of applications will begin December 15, the application deadline for the Ph.D. program is January 15. Late admissions will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. For additional information, please contact the Graduate Studies Coordinator at: or 304-293-5346

Application to WVU