M.S. program

The department offers a graduate program leading to the Master of Science in Pharmacology and Toxicology. This is a research-oriented degree program comprising graduate course work and supervised research leading to a master’s thesis.

This program is intended primarily as a terminal M.S. degree. Students intending to pursue a Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Toxicology should apply directly to the Biomedical Sciences Doctoral Portal Ph.D. program. The M.S. program will be of interest to individuals planning on technical positions in pharmacology or toxicology research or testing; students in the health professions, such as medicine or dentistry, who desire additional research training; and students interested in a government position, such as with regulatory agencies, who seek training in pharmacology and toxicology and those interested in a career as a technician in the pharmaceutical industry or academia.

Qualified applicants typically have a baccalaureate degree with a major in fields such as biology, chemistry, biochemistry, pharmacy and related sciences. Successful applicants will typically have the following credentials: 300 (verbal plus quantitative) and 3.5 analytical GRE scores (or equivalent scores on the new GRE exam), undergraduate GPA of 3.2 and some laboratory research experience.

The typical student requires 2 years to complete the degree. Many students who earn the M.S. degree enter careers in industry or government, or pursue admission to medical school and other professional schools. Students earning an M.S. degree with exemplary performance may apply to the Ph.D. program but will compete with prospective undergraduate students for admission to the BSDP. Prospective students intending to earn a Ph.D. degree, therefore, are encouraged to apply directly to the BSDP rather than the M.S. program. Students in the M.S. program do not receive stipends, payment of tuition and fees, health insurance or have the opportunity for teaching assistantships. Prospective students should apply to the Pharmacology and Toxicology M.S. program through the VCU Graduate School or for international applicants, the VCU Office of Global Education. Application materials are provided at these sites, respectively.


The minimum requirements for the M.S. degree are:

Fall semester (year 1)
BIOC 530 Protein Structure and Function (variable, 2-5 credits) (modules) (recommended)
PHTX 690 Research Seminar (1 credit)
PHTX 697 Directed Research in Pharmacology (variable credits)

Spring semester (year 1)
PHTX 630 Basic Concepts in Pharmacology for Graduate Students (3 credits)
PHTX 690 Research Seminar (1 credit)
PHTX 697 Directed Research in Pharmacology (variable credits)

Summer semester (year 1)
PHTX 697 Directed Research in Pharmacology (optional)

Fall semester (year 2)
PHTX 636 Principles of Pharmacology (5 credits)
PHTX 690 Research Seminar (1 credit)
PHTX 697 Directed Research in Pharmacology (variable credits)

Spring semester (year 2)
PHTX 690 Research Seminar (1 credit)
PHTX 697 Directed Research in Pharmacology (variable credits)

In addition to the above courses, one advanced course in the student’s specialty is required.

The master’s program differs slightly from the Ph.D. program in that no written comprehensive exam is given, although a final oral defense of thesis exam must be passed to complete the degree program. In addition, the M.S. degree can be completed on a part-time basis, while the Ph.D. requires full-time enrollment. All M.S. students are required to prepare and defend a thesis based upon original research.

Continuing for the Ph.D.

Students who plan to eventually work toward the Ph.D. degree at VCU should apply directly to the Ph.D. program through the Biomedical Sciences Doctoral Portal. Master’s students interested in joining the Ph.D. program can apply, but completion of the M.S. degree does not assure acceptance.

On the other hand, applicants who have not decided whether they want to earn a Ph.D. and who want experience in biomedical research before committing to a doctoral program may be well served by our M.S. program. Outstanding performance in our M.S. program should help the student gain admittance to a doctoral program here or elsewhere. Master’s students seeking to go on to medical or dental school are encouraged to complete their M.S. degree before enrolling in these programs. M.S. students at VCU seeking admittance to our medical school will not be enrolled until they complete the master’s degree.