Forensic Nursing Careers and Degrees

Forensic nurses are critical to crime-solving and are involved in the process from victim care to testifying in court.

forensic nurse holding vial of fluids after victim exam

The criminal justice system isn't just full of police, detectives and FBI agents. There's also a place for nurses.

With forensics training, a registered nurse can help solve crimes and treat victims in traumatic situations.

What You'll Do

As a forensic nurse, you may have a wide range of duties. You'll be caring for victims of a crime, as well as helping to investigate crimes. Your career might also involve collecting DNA evidence and testifying about your findings in court.

Typical places that employ forensic nurses may include the following:

  • Acute health care facilities
  • Correctional institutions
  • County coroner
  • Prosecutor offices
  • Medical examiner offices
  • Psychiatric facilities
  • Insurance companies

In addition, many forensic nurses choose to work independently as consultants.

According to the International Association of Forensic Nurses, there are different fields within forensic nursing you can work in:

  • Sexual assault
  • Domestic violence
  • Child abuse and neglect
  • Elder abuse
  • Death investigation
  • Corrections
  • Disaster relief

Forensic Nursing Degree and Certificate Programs

As an RN, one of the easiest ways to get started as a forensic nurse is to enroll in a forensic nursing program. Generally, these programs can be completed online in about twelve months after which you'll earn a Forensic Nursing Certificate.

If you're interested in furthering your education even more, master's degree and PhD programs in forensic nursing are available at a variety of schools. You'll learn about the theories of violence, trial preparation, civil law and other topics.

Forensic Nurse Salary and Job Outlook

The job growth outlook for forensic nurses is very good, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics' 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook predicting a 19 percent growth rate through 2022, which is faster that average for all occupations.

The BLS puts the median national annual salary for registered nurses at $65,470.

Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.