A photo of the base of two bullets up close side by side.
The program will prepare entry-level trainees to serve as bench-ready firearms analysts in the area of microscopic comparisons of firearms-related evidence. (Photo courtesy of Stephanie Stephanie Walcott, VCU Department of Forensic Science).

New noncredit VCU certificate program will train crime lab analysts

Addressing national demand, the 18-month curriculum in forensic firearms examination broadens VCU’s footprint in the field.

Share this story

Virginia Commonwealth University is launching a certificate program to train crime lab analysts in forensic firearms examination.

The Forensic Firearms Identification Training Certificate Program is led by the Department of Forensic Science in the College of Humanities and Sciences and is offered by  VCU Continuing and Professional Education. The first module of the six-part program is tentatively scheduled to begin in February 2024.

“The VCU Department of Forensic Science is dedicated to hosting relevant and meaningful continuing educational opportunities for the forensic practitioner community,” said Tracey Dawson Green, Ph.D., chair and professor of forensic science. “We are excited to host this one-of-a-kind forensic firearms training program, which will include instruction by highly skilled, experienced firearms examiners and our brand new state-of-the-art forensic microscopy facility.”

The 18-month noncredit program is designed to be an external training resource for trainees working at crime labs or in firearms analysis units within police or investigative agencies. It will prepare entry-level trainees to serve as bench-ready firearms analysts in the area of microscopic comparisons of firearms-related evidence.

There is a significant need in crime labs and other agencies across the country for efficient and effective professional training programs in firearms analysis, Dawson Green said.

“There is a growing push at the national level for independent training programs to be stood up by professional organizations and/or academia,” she said. “We are one of only a very few programs in the country that has a full-time faculty member who has subject-matter expertise in this field.”

The Forensic Firearms Identification Training Certificate Program is modeled after a federal program administered by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. It was launched after the American Society of Crime Lab Directors reached out to the Department of Forensic Science to inquire about establishing such a training program at VCU.

“Our faculty member, Professor Stephanie Walcott, was clear on wanting to do this when she was hired,” Dawson Green said. “Now — with three years under her belt, strong partnerships with the Virginia Department of Forensic Science laboratory and the VCU Police Department, and the opening of a brand new forensic microscopy facility in the new STEM building — it’s the perfect time. We are so excited to launch this program.”

For more information about the program, please visit: go.vcu.edu/forensicfirearmsid.