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Forensic Nurse Education, Employment, Career Outlook

Career News September 14, 2013


Forensic nurses work in multiple roles including sexual assault assessment programs, acute care and emergency settings, adult protective services units, psychiatric forensic treatment and evaluation units; forensic nurse investigators, on teams investigating wrongful death, and as educators and consultants.

Specialty certification in Forensic Nursing is, typically, no longer than 12 credit hours and can be obtained within a year while working full time. Programs are offered to students with a minimum of a BSN at highly respected universities such as Johns Hopkins, University of Illinois and Boston College.

Educational Requirements

Forensic Nurses must meet a minimum educational requirement of Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN). A Master’s of Science in Nursing is sometimes preferred.

There is an online Forensic Nursing certificate program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. Students who complete the program receive a certificate in forensic nursing. Students learn to conduct forensic nursing assessments of trauma victims. They also learn to assess and document various forms abuse and neglect. In collaboration with criminologist, health care professionals and members of the justice system, Forensic Nurses help identify and solve crimes.

Boston College has a Forensic Nursing program. Nurses with MSN’s complete a program to gain the specialized experience necessary, to help victims deal with the medical and legal processes they need to follow after being traumatized by crime. The Boston College program is a Post Master’s program open to nurse’s with a master’s degree. It is 10 credits plus 250 precepted hours.

The University of Illinois College of Nursing offers a 12 credit certificate program in Forensic Nursing. The admission requirements include a BSN. Students must complete courses in Forensic Nursing Science, Documentation and Collection of Evidence, Vulnerable Populations and Forensic Health and a practicum.


Forensic nurses assess injuries or death caused by others. It is possible to specialize in sexual assault or elderly neglect and abuse. Forensic nurses can investigate on behalf of the coroner or work as part of a team investigating deaths, resulting from crime or disaster. Forensic nurse may assist law enforcement teams by documenting a victim’s physical and emotional trauma. They will be expected to photograph wounds and collect bodily fluids and tissue.

Trauma centers and government agencies are potential employers. Duties might include providing courtroom testimony about findings and observations. Forensic nurses may work with prosecutors and police.

Salary and Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not collect employment for the forensic nursing specialty. However, May 2011 registered nurse salaries averaged $69,110 per year, which equates to $33.23 an hour. The 2010 to 2020 job outlook for RN’s is 26% (Faster than average).

Some hospitals pay nurses, trained in forensics, a higher hourly rate for their expertise. Salary also depends on the area of the country and individual facilities. Forensic nursing is a relatively new area of specialization; so long-term data is not yet available.

Major online job boards show that there are job openings for Forensic Nurses throughout the US. Examining current employment opportunities, job descriptions and salaries, can provide significant information on what this career path is like.

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