Dual Degree: BSHS in Molecular Diagnostic Sciences / MSHS in Clinical Microbiology

Work at the Forefront of Disease Detection

The George Washington University (GW) offers a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences (BSHS) in Molecular Diagnostic Sciences and a Master of Science in Health Science (MSHS) in Clinical Microbiology all in one convenient program.

Through online coursework, hands-on lab work and clinical rotations this dual-degree program provides you with the knowledge and skills to detect and identify biomarkers at the nucleic acid levels in major areas of medicine and to identify and investigate human infectious diseases.

Our dual health sciences degrees are for undergraduate students serious about building their careers quickly. Attention to detail is a must because methods, data, and quality control will be at the center of what you do. If you’re passionate about bringing new standards of excellence to the field and making an impact on health care with molecular testing and clinical microbiology, this program could be a good fit for you.

What are Molecular Diagnostic Sciences and Clinical Microbiology?

A diagnostic molecular scientist is a professional who is qualified by academic and applied education to provide service in molecular diagnostics of acquired, inherited and infectious diseases. Molecular diagnostic testing uses sensitive and specific clinical laboratory techniques to detect and identify biomarkers at the nucleic acid (DNA and RNA) level. Common applications of molecular methods include medical diagnosis, establishing prognosis, monitoring the course of disease, and selecting optimal therapies. Molecular methods are also used in both forensic and non-forensic identification. Molecular diagnostic tests are increasingly used in many major areas of medicine including genetic disorders, infectious diseases, cancer, pharmacogenetics and identity testing.  Moreover, the number of molecular-based laboratory tests is expected to increase dramatically as more information is uncovered about the human genome and disease. Although the medical laboratory sciences (MLS) program includes molecular diagnostics as a three-credit course, molecular biology has become a separate field within the laboratory sciences.  For example, molecular diagnostic questions are not included as part of the MLS board of certification exam.  There is a separate board exam specifically for Molecular Biology that leads to an independent certification, MB(ASCP) as well as a Specialist in Molecular Biology certification (SMB(ASCP).  Some, smaller laboratories include molecular testing within their microbiology section.  Consequently, a combined baccalaureate degree in Molecular Diagnostic Sciences and a graduate degree in Clinical Microbiology make a very nice combination.

Learn About the Dual Degree Program in BSHS in Molecular Diagnostic Sciences / MSHS in Clinical Microbiology at GW

The overall goal of the proposed program is to prepare graduates with the theoretical knowledge and practical skills for positions in diagnostic clinical molecular laboratories, public health laboratories, biotechnology companies, government agencies, law enforcement agencies, and research institutes.

Click to expand the accordions below for more information about each program.

Hybrid (Blended)
  • The blended program has online and on campus requirement. Students need to reside in or relocate to the D.C. area, have completed an associate’s degree or a minimum of 24 credits, and are not Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT) certified through ASCP, AMT, or AAB.
  • This program provides 100% of didactic (lecture) courses online, in-person labs at the GW Virginia Science and Technology Campus (VSTC) in Ashburn, VA, and practicum at an approved diagnostic laboratory.
  • Geared for students who are not MLT certified, such as individuals with an Associate degree in biology, biotechnology or applied sciences, and want to complete a baccalaureate degree in the molecular diagnostic sciences.

Admissions Curriculum Tuition Details

Fully Online
  • A 100% online program is available for students who have Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT) certification through ASCP, AMT, or AAB, and have completed an accredited MLT program. This program provides 100% of didactic (lecture) coursework online with practicum experience in the student’s local area.
  • All didactic (lecture) courses are conducted online in a flexible, asynchronous format. To succeed in this program, students should be self-disciplined, self-directed, and comfortable scheduling their own coursework.
  • Geared for certified MLT’s who want a baccalaureate degree focusing on molecular diagnostic sciences.

Admissions Curriculum Tuition Details

Accreditation & Rankings

  • GW's program is accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS): http://www.naacls.org/
    • National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences
      5600 N. River Rd., Suite 720
      Rosemont, IL 60018-5119
  • #66 Best National University*
  • #19 Best Online Bachelor’s Programs*

* U.S. News & World Report‘s 2021 Best Colleges Rankings


Program Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the program, learners will be able to:

  • Perform molecular-based testing for laboratory utilization and clinical decisions for patient/client outcomes
  • Apply knowledge of molecular, genetic, and infectious disease theory and principles as they relate to human disease diagnosis
  • Analyze data and patient results
  • Apply ethical decision-making related to research and laboratory practices
  • Utilize proven methods for communicating test results accurately and professionally
  • Collect and store data in accordance with laboratory best practices

Program Highlights

  • Qualify to take the ASCP Molecular Biology (MB) and the Microbiology (M) Board of Certification examinations*
  • Finish both degrees fully online if you are an MLT-certified professional
  • Financial aid eligible 

Career Outlook

Build your career in a variety of settings including diagnostic microbiology labs, public health laboratories, research institutions, law enforcement agencies, molecular sections of hospital laboratories, reference laboratories, biotechnology firms, and pharmaceutical companies.

Qualify to sit for both the Molecular Biology (MB) and Microbiology (M) Board of Certification examinations offered by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), moving you ahead of your competition. Medical technologists with molecular biology skills earn between $43,202 and $90,000 a year.1

With your MSHS in Clinical Microbiology in hand, you can consider career titles such as:

  • Clinical Laboratory Supervisor: $69,539 median salary2
  • Clinical Research Manager: $78,205 median salary3
  • Microbiologist: $79,650 per year4
  • Medical Scientist: $88,790 per year4

Meet the Program Director

Marcia A. Firmani, Ph.D., MSPH, MT(ASCP)MBCM

Chair of the Department of Biomedical Laboratory Sciences, Director of the MSHS in Clinical Microbiology program, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Laboratory Sciences, Assistant Professor of Microbiology, Immunology, and Tropical Medicine.

Dr. Marcia Firmani has more than 20 years of experience in teaching and research. In addition to her administrative duties, Dr. Firmani both directs and teaches several courses within the BLS department, including Clinical Bacteriology, Molecular Diagnostic Sciences, Molecular Epidemiology, and Plagues, Pandemics & Epidemics. She also mentors undergraduate and graduate research projects and has published peer-reviewed articles with students.

Prior to her arrival at The George Washington University, Dr. Firmani was a principal investigator at the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC), where she conducted and managed several research projects involving biothreat agent characterization. Dr. Firmani also held two previous faculty appointments.

From 2002–2007 she was an assistant professor in the CLS department at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC) in New Orleans. She taught lecture and laboratory courses and directed a research lab where she performed basic and applied research on Mycobacterium tuberculosis and MRSA and mentored master’s student thesis projects.

From 2007–2010, Dr. Firmani was an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee (UWM) where she taught various undergraduate CLS courses and graduate-level Biomedical Sciences courses. She also directed a research laboratory where she conducted NIH-funded research on Mycobacterium tuberculosis and mentored both undergraduate and graduate student research projects.

Dr. Firmani has taught numerous continuing education courses in the laboratory science field, including a DVD for the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS) on emerging infections. She has authored several chapters focusing on infectious diseases in textbooks and has also published her research in peer-reviewed journals, such as Infection and Immunity, and the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.


  1. Payscale.com (2019, September 10) Medical Technologist with Molecular Biology Skills Salary. Retrieved March 16, 2020, from https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Medical_Technologist/Hourly_Rate/bed0654f/Molecular-Biology.
  2. Payscale.com (2020, February 28) Laboratory Supervisor Medical/Clinical Salary. Retrieved March 16, 2020, https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Laboratory_Supervisor%2C_Medical_%2F_Clinical/Salary.
  3. Payscale.com (2020, February 24) Clinical Research Manager Salary. Retrieved March 16, 2020, from https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Clinical_Research_Manager/Salary.
  4. Bureau of Labor Stats source https://www.bls.gov/.