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How To Become A Forensic Nurse: Career and Salary Expectations

Amanda Guarniere


The application of medical and legal procedures particularly the scientific investigation of criminal activity is referred to as forensic nursing. It allows healthcare workers like nurses to carry out common duties such as having expert witness testimony, and collecting evidence that is useful for the investigation.

Find out more in this article on how to become a forensic nurse and how much forensic nurses make.

An Overview of Forensic Nursing

Forensic nurses also work in prevention, helping the community and collaborating with local governments and law enforcement to educate the public about symptoms of assault or danger and what to do about it. Moreover, they are required to report suspected or proven incidents of violence and abuse. They are required to contact child and adult protective services when these cases arise.

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History of Forensic Nursing 

Forensic nursing was introduced in 1982 when Virginia Lynch ignited her passion for forensics and crime. She designed the forensic nursing curriculum and concept in the 1980s. She was essential in defining the standards for forensic nursing, which have led the road for improving health and justice across the world (Maguire & Raso, 2017). However, it was in 1992 when the term “forensic nursing” was coined. 

Lynch was the first president of the International Association of Forensic Nursing and has earned multiple accolades for her work. The IAFN’s highest and most prestigious award, the Virginia A. Lynch Pioneer Award in Forensic Nursing was named after her, as one of the founding members of forensic nursing.

Why Forensic Nursing 

Typically, forensic nurses will intervene at this point and make contact with law enforcement so that the victims’ report may be taken before they are released. Forensic nurses can also act as expert witnesses in court and, if sufficiently qualified, make judicial recommendations. This is particularly common in investigations into domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, elder maltreatment, and death. Learn how to become a forensic nurse as you go on through this page.

A medical-forensic examination is not required for every victim of violence to disclose their experience to law enforcement, although many do. In line with this, law enforcement receives any evidence gathered during the test. 

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Is Forensic Nursing the Right Career for Me?

Forensic nurses take care of victims and perpetrators of violent crimes so their work is very stressful and intense. It can be emotionally draining so that is why forensic nurses should possess a deeper sense of empathy and awareness for the emotional aspect this job entails. 

They need to be trustworthy and diligent as well as their work needs cooperation with law enforcement like lawyers, judges and court officials. Despite the involvement in criminal investigations, the sense of meaningful work to bring justice to victims is a huge part of their jobs as forensic nurses.

Pros and Cons 

Forensic nursing is an awesome career path for any healthcare worker or nurse who wants to jump right into improving the health of patients, families, and communities who are severely affected by violence. You can make a difference in someone else’s life just like any other person with passion and purpose to serve. 

Upholding the fundamental commitment to nursing standards, and the ability to cooperate together with other disciplines including law enforcement, advocacy, and prosecution is essential. 

If someone is thinking about pursuing a profession in forensic nursing, it’s good to take some time to explore their motivations and how they intend to care for themselves as they take on a stressful and engaging role that will drive them to reflect so much on. Allow yourselves to have fun with family and friends to avoid stress and prevent burnout.

Exposure to the effects of violence and crime will be part of your role as a forensic nurse. To avoid suffering emotional trauma, a strong personality with firm beliefs is a must in this field. You will become part of the legal workforce so there will be detailed paperwork and documentation that requires accuracy and completeness.

How to Become a Forensic Nurse 

Step-by-step guide on how to become a forensic nurse

How Long Does it Take to Become a Forensic Nurse?

1. You need to become an RN first to specialize in Forensic Nursing. It will take 4 years to complete after passing the qualifying exam, you already have a license. 

2. Develop relevant skills, and attain knowledge and advanced degrees that allow you to be involved and educated with coursework deeper into the nursing practice itself. 

3. You may take a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) certificate course that is offered by the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN). This is a 40-hour course that is usually taken up by nurses who want to start their career as a forensic nurse in an entry-level position.

4. Some nurse practitioners also apply for other professional certifications. It allows certification to show that you are an expert in your field as you master everything in your career.

Forensic Nurse Schooling, Requirements, Certifications & Credentials

    • Attend an accredited Bachelor of Science in Nursing program for 4 years
    • Take the NCLEX-RN examination
    • Obtain relevant experience and nursing education
    • Get certification and advanced degrees

How to Find  a Job as a Forensic Nurse 

Nurses of all sorts are in high demand as the healthcare profession grows faster than many other fields in the United States. 

Your income will also be influenced by your experience and education. Someone with a master’s degree in forensic nursing will earn more than someone with an associate or bachelor’s degree. 

Similarly, someone in their mid-career will most certainly make more than someone just starting out.

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Forensic Nurse Salary Expectations 

List of States Where Forensic Nurses are Highly Compensated 

In this article, we went through the forensic nurse income as well as the tasks, skills, and education needed to attain these numbers. 

The overall salary package varies substantially depending on the company. Tuition assistance for continuing education, health insurance, and other benefits may be included in the package. The cost of living in the area where you live and work is also a factor in the wage you might earn.

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The salary expectations of forensic nurses vary depending on the work setting. In the following states, forensic nurses have the highest salaries:

  • California: $124,000
  • Hawaii: $106,530
  • Oregon: $98,630
  • District of Columbia: $98,540
  • Alaska: $97,230

There are several opportunities to advance your career with The Resume RX following a great career that pays well. Forensic nursing will give you a promising career with different paths to choose from. It’s a challenging but fulfilling role that no ordinary medical practitioner can do.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the highest paid nursing job?

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Fresh grad? Pursuing medicine? Career shift to healthcare? Why not! We’re here to help you organize your resume and build your nursing career!

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist – $195,610

Do forensic nurses go to crime scenes?

Yes, definitely. Forensic nurses obtain the medical and social histories of the victims from their physicians and family. They also perform forensic photography and take specimens as crime scene evidence. As part of their work, they serve as a liaison between the medical sector and the judicial system. 

Is forensic nursing a good career?

 Forensic nurses also examine the bodies and cadavers of the victims. Patients who suffered physical trauma and violence such as human trafficking, mistreatment, abuse, sexual assault and the like, are treated by nurses who are in the forensic field. 


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