Forensic Nurse Salary and Factors (Plus How To Become One)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated October 29, 2021 | Published April 14, 2020
Updated October 29, 2021
Published April 14, 2020
Forensic nursing, a somewhat new specialty in the medical field, is a unique role that requires diverse skills and talents in caring for patients as well as liaising with law enforcement. In this article, we explore the earning potential of forensic nurses as well as the duties, skills and education required to earn these salaries.
What is a forensic nurse?
A forensic nurse is a health care professional with criminal justice training who cares for victims of violence and traumatic injuries and assists in the prosecution of alleged perpetrators of violent crimes. Victims receive compassionate care while evidence is meticulously collected for later use in finding and prosecuting the assailant. Forensic nurses work on both the medical and legal front of the difficult and sensitive cases they handle so they are required to receive ongoing education and training.
Patients can include victims of assault, sexual assault, child abuse, elder abuse, homicide or attempted homicide. The medical and legal duality of this role means forensic nurses are both nurses and law enforcement liaisons, requiring them to build trust with their patients due to the nature of law enforcement investigations.
Forensic nurse salaries
Forensic nursing is a very involved field of work with a demand for qualified individuals. Opportunities for obtaining a forensic nurse position with a generous salary are numerous.
Highest paying cities
Indeed.com lists national average salaries for nurses, including forensic nurses. The five highest-paying cities for nurses are:
Philadelphia, PA: $95,015
Las Vegas, NV: $85,068
Chicago, IL: $84,788
Houston, TX: $81,429
Phoeniz, AZ: $79,300
Salaries by state
The national average salary for nurses is $79,174 per year plus $11,250 in overtime. Salaries vary by geographical location, experience, credentials and employer size.
New Hampshire: $82,046
New Jersey: $82,469
New Mexico: $82,127
New York: $81,983
North Carolina: $74,531
North Dakota: $37,165
Rhode Island: $81,478
South Carolina: $74,916
South Dakota: $21,425
West Virginia: $76,533
Factors affecting forensic nurse salaries
The salary you earn as a forensic nurse can depend on several factors, including:
Total compensation package
The total compensation package can vary greatly by employer. The package may include tuition support for continuing education, health insurance, stock options, dependent coverage and more. The cost of living where you live and work is also a determinant in the salary to expect.
Education and experience
Experience and education can also help determine your salary. For example, if you have a master's degree in forensic nursing, your salary will be higher than someone with an associate or bachelor's degree. Someone midway through their career, similarly, will likely earn more than someone just entering the field.
Rate of demand
With the health care field growing at a much faster rate than other fields in the U.S., nurses of all types are in high demand, which translates to higher compensation and incentivization. Moreover, the aging population also affects careers in the health care field in several ways:
Retiring nurses will need to be replaced.
Medical advancements allow for longer lives, causing a higher number of patients in need of care.
How to become a forensic nurse
If you're interested in becoming a forensic nurse, you should possess the passion to not only, treat patients; but to also advocate for them. You need to be dedicated to performing the legal duties of forensic health care work. Follow the steps below to become a forensic nurse:
1. Earn a nursing degree
Earn a nursing degree from an accredited school. You could opt for a two-year program for an associate degree in nursing, a three-year program for a diploma in nursing, a four-year bachelor's program or a master's degree in forensic nursing.
Related: Learn About Being a Registered Nurse
2. Achieve licensure
After you finish your degree program, you'll be required to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), the licensing body for nurses in the U.S. and Canada. Once you pass this exam, you can apply for a nursing job. Additional licensing is available for sexual assault nurse examiners. Licensed registered nurses (RN) and advanced practice nurses (APN) can choose to complete a forensic nurse specialist program. The comprehensive training in forensic nursing requires at least 250 hours of continuing education.
3. Gain relevant experience
You might practice as a registered nurse before advancing to a role in forensic nursing. Becoming a forensic nurse typically requires clinical experience in surgical, pediatric or psychiatric settings.
4. Participate in continuing education
Enrolling in a certificate program can provide the skills and training you need to perform this role. Earning this type of certificate helps further your career as a forensic nurse, but keep in mind that it's not equal to obtaining board certification in forensic nursing. Master's or doctoral degree programs in forensic nursing can prepare you to work in a variety of roles, including teaching, consulting, forensic psychiatric nursing and other roles that involve working with law enforcement and members of the justice system.
Related: 10 Highest Paid Nursing Jobs
FAQs about forensic nursing
Here are answers to commonly asked questions about forensic nursing:
Do forensic nurses have other titles?
Here are other titles for a forensic nurse:
Forensic clinical nurse practitioner
Forensic nurse investigator
Legal nurse consultant
What soft skills does a forensic nurse need?
A forensic nurse should possess the following soft skills:
Attention to detail
Extreme care and procedural collection and preservation of evidence
Ability to balance compassion and professionalism
Ability to foster trust with patients
Where do forensic nurses work?
Forensic nurses can be found working in the following settings:
Medical examiners' or coroners' offices
Urgent care clinics
What duties does a forensic nurse perform?
As a professional who performs in 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:
Treating injuries and providing physical and emotional support to patients and their families and partners
Relaying evidence and analyses to law enforcement and social services when necessary
Following 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
Appearing as an expert witness for the prosecution in trials
Providing information and resources to victims that may include counseling, temporary relocation or state assistance
Read more: How To Become a Forensic Nurse
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