Forensic Nurse Salary and Factors (Plus How To Become One)

Updated May 31, 2023

Forensic nursing, a somewhat new specialty in the medical field, is a unique role that requires diverse skills and talents in caring for patients and liaising with law enforcement agencies. It's often the connection between the knowledge of medical practitioners and identifying crime scenes, and its primary practitioners are forensic nurses. Understanding what the salary of a forensic nurse is can help you decide if this career is right for you.

In this article, we explore the earning potential of forensic nurses and the duties, skills and education required to earn these salaries.

What is forensic nursing?

Forensic nursing is the application of medical practice to legal or public proceedings. This includes giving medical opinions about possible legal and criminal events like domestic violence, applying medical knowledge to investigations and understanding how different traumatic events can affect the body.

Forensic nurses are practitioners in this field and use their skills to support legal and investigative processes as medical examiners or expert witnesses, while also supporting the medical needs of patients. The goal of forensic nursing is to help crime victims, which also includes gathering evidence from patient bodies that relate to criminal investigations.

Related: 17 Unique Nursing Jobs To Consider (With Salaries and Duties)

What does a forensic nurse do?

As a medical practitioner who performs a dual role in medical care and law enforcement, the job of a forensic nurse can include many duties depending on the type of facility where they work. Some of the duties performed by forensic nurses include:

  • Treat injuries and provide physical and emotional support to patients and their families and partners

  • Relay evidence and analysis to law enforcement and social services when necessary

  • Follow proper procedures to collect and preserve evidence for analysis and future use in the prosecution of the perpetrator, including clothing, biological evidence and photographic documentation of physical wounds

  • Appear as an expert witness for the prosecution in trials

  • Provide information and resources to victims that may include counseling, temporary relocation or state assistance

Related: 32 Non-Bedside Nursing Jobs (Plus Duties and Salaries)

Forensic nursing salary

According to Indeed Salaries, the national average salary for registered nurses, which includes forensic nurses is $92,730 per year. This can vary based on location, education level and level of experience. Beyond the national average salary, each state lists a salary for registered nurses:

For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, visit

  • Alabama: $76,408 per year

  • Alaska: $54,169 per year

  • Arizona: $87,692 per year

  • Arkansas: $115,578 per year

  • California: $115,409 per year

  • Colorado: $86,138 per year

  • Connecticut: $129,950 per year

  • Delaware: $230,492 per year

  • Florida: $79,431 per year

  • Georgia: $86,893 per year

  • Hawaii: $146,812 per year

  • Idaho: $86,392 per year

  • Illinois: $87,361 per year

  • Indiana: $88,993 per year

  • Iowa: $90,337 per year

  • Kansas: $129,591 per year

  • Kentucky: $125,268 per year

  • Louisiana: $85,447 per year

  • Maine: $138,829 per year

  • Maryland: $94,717 per year

  • Massachusetts: $112,112 per year

  • Michigan: $94,454 per year

  • Minnesota: $84,291 per year

  • Mississippi: $69,988 per year

  • Missouri: $89,341 per year

  • Montana: $90,145 per year

  • Nebraska: $84,672 per year

  • Nevada: $94,079 per year

  • New Hampshire: $91,518 per year

  • New Jersey: $94,454 per year

  • New Mexico: $79,692 per year

  • New York: $107,655 per year

  • North Carolina: $85,687 per year

  • North Dakota: $91,704 per year

  • Ohio: $85,697 per year

  • Oklahoma: $118,506 per year

  • Oregon: $47,806 per year

  • Pennsylvania: $95,377 per year

  • Rhode Island: $93,879 per year

  • South Carolina: $85,370 per year

  • South Dakota: $82,782 per year

  • Tennessee: $110,729 per year

  • Texas: $81,466 per year

  • Utah: $78,243 per year

  • Vermont: $125,059 per year

  • Virginia: $92,402 per year

  • Washington: $44,302 per year

  • West Virginia: $129,471 per year

  • Wisconsin: $135,950 per year

  • Wyoming: $83,615 per year

Related: 11 Jobs in Medical Law (With Salaries and Primary Duties)

How to become a forensic nurse

Below are steps you can follow to become a forensic nurse:

  1. Earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

  2. Take the NCLEX-RN exam.

  3. Earn a master's degree in forensic nursing.

  4. Earn forensic nursing certifications.

  5. Research and apply for forensic nursing positions.

Read more: How To Become a Forensic Nurse (Plus Skills and Salary)

Frequently asked questions

Can you increase your pay as a forensic nurse?

Yes, there are several ways you can increase your pay as a forensic nurse. First, you can consider pursuing certifications, which increase your skills and make you a more valuable employee. You can also continue your education by earning a master's degree or pursuing a doctorate degree. Finally, you can pursue a different practice setting, since different practices pay different salaries to their employees.

Related: 12 Alternative Nursing Career Options

What certifications do forensic nurses need?

There aren't any specific certifications required to be a forensic nurse, but researching the requirements in your state and for the organizations you want to work with can help you find the certifications they prefer. Some certifications forensic nurses can pursue include:

  • Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE)

  • Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE)

  • Forensic Nurse Examiner (FNE)

  • Sexual Assault Nurse Clinician (SANC)

  • Sexual Assault Examiner (SAE)

Related: What Is a SANE Nurse? (And How To Become One in 9 Steps)

Is forensic nursing in high demand?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the expected growth rate for registered nurses is 6% from 2021 to 2031, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. The openings in this field come from typical events including retirement and people who change careers.

Related: 35 High-Demand Occupations

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