EDUCATION
December 16, 2021

Top Forensic Nursing Programs for 2022

A forensic nurse is someone who works with crime victims to gather medical evidence and provide expert testimony that can be used in court. Forensic nursing is a unique specialty that blends the worlds of nursing, science, and the legal system. 

According to the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN), forensic nurses do far more than address victims’ physical and emotional needs. They also collect evidence, provide medical testimony in court, and consult with legal authorities. Because nurses are skilled in effective communication, assessment, and documentation, they are the perfect professionals to fill forensic roles.

Fast Facts About Forensic Nurses

Salary

$30.61 per hour or $73,985 annually via Payscale

Program Length

There are two types of Forensic Nurse programs available: Master’s level programs and certificate programs. 

  • MSN Programs: 2-3 years
  • Certificate Program: Less than 1 year

Requirements

  • A minimum of two years nursing experience
  • ADN or BSN
  • RN license
  • GRE if applicable
  • TOEFL test if applicable

Forensic Nursing Program Ranking Methodology

Our ranking algorithm uses the latest and most robust U.S. government data sets, specifically the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and College Scorecard. We take into consideration factors such as graduation rate, student-faculty ratio, program focus and more to help you find the right nursing program for you.

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Top Forensic Nursing Programs

1. Xavier University

Xavier University's online forensic nursing graduate program leads to either an MSN or both an MSN and a master of science in criminal justice. For only the MSN, nurses complete 36 credits, 10 of which focus on forensics. 

Applicants must have a bachelor's degree and at least one year of experience as an RN. Also, while the program calls itself 100% online, nurses are required to complete at least four credits worth of nursing practicum, the only in-person requirements for the degree. 

  • Tuition: $670 per credit
  • Online Options: Yes
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Program Length: 2 to 3 years
  • Contact Information: liggetta@xavier.edu or (513) 745-2813

2. Cleveland State University

Located in Cleveland, Ohio, Cleveland State University offers an online MSN in forensic nursing. The program takes two years of full-time study to complete, though students need to complete 400-500 hours of clinical study throughout the program. 

While completing an MSN in forensic nursing at CSU, students can choose to boost their education with a certification in clinical forensic nurses, legal nurse consultants, forensic psychiatric nurses, forensic correctional nurses, or forensic nurse death investigators. Also, all forensic nursing students receive the same per-credit tuition rate regardless of where they live.

  • Tuition: $578.85 per credit
  • Online Options: Yes
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Contact Information: (216) 687-3598

3. DeSales University

DeSales University offers perhaps the most flexible and comprehensive forensic nursing program. Available part-time or full-time and completed online, on-campus, or through a hybrid of the two, DeSales's MSN in forensic nursing also includes certification in investigative forensics. 

Regardless of online or on-campus study, students are required to complete at least 275 clinical practicum hours, plus 75 clinical lab hours, on-site in Center Valley, Pennsylvania. Upon graduating, nurses should demonstrate excellent leadership, organizational, and investigative skills. 

  • Tuition: $599 per credit
  • Online Options: Yes
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Program Length: 3 years
  • Contact Information: msn@desales.edu or 610.282.1100, x2838 

4. Fairleigh Dickinson University

Available either in-person or online, Fairleigh Dickinson University's MSN lets students choose a specialty. Those interested in forensic nursing select the adult gerontology nurse practitioner, forensic focus. 

This 42-credit track requires 550 hours of clinical service and prepares graduates to become APRNs with a specialization in forensics. FDU's MSN requires more than other programs, but graduates earn certification and could receive higher wages. 

  • Tuition: $825 per credit
  • Online Options: Yes
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Program Length: 3 years
  • Contact Information: 973-443-8905 or grad@fdu.edu

5. Duquesne University

Duquesne University offers two different forensic nursing options: an MSN and a post-master's certificate. However, most aspiring forensic nurses likely don't hold an MSN and will enroll in the full MSN program. 

This entirely online program takes 36 credits to complete and prepares students for any area of forensic nursing. Duquesne University partners with the Wecht Institute to offer this degree, so nursing students complete some courses through a different school within Duquesne. 

  • Tuition: $1,568 per credit
  • Online Options: Yes
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Program Length: 2.5 years
  • Contact Information: nursing@duq.edu or 412.396.6550

6. Texas A&M University

An incredibly affordable MSN for anyone who lives in Texas, Texas A&M University's online MSN in forensic nursing is a 36-credit program completed over 2-3 years, though most students take closer to three years. 

While nurses complete most courses online, Texas A&M does require a total of 45 in-person hours at the Bryan-College Station campus to meet clinical requirements set by the AACN. The university separates this into two visits taken during the second half of the degree. 

  • Tuition: $33,888 per year
  • Online Options: Yes
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Program Length: 2 to 3  years
  • Contact Information: (979) 436-0110 or con-admissions@tamu.edu

7. Mount Mercy University

Available in an online or hybrid format, Mount Mercy University's MSN lets students choose one of five emphases, including an emphasis in forensic nursing. Students who choose the hybrid format to attend courses on Wednesday evenings in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. 

The forensic nursing route requires 36 credits, and students take courses about the theories of crimes and justice, administration of justice, and presenting evidence during a trial. This quick program uses a per-credit tuition rate, so part-time students don't pay higher tuition as they might elsewhere. 

  • Tuition: $690 per credit
  • Online Options: Yes
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Program Length: 16 to 21 months to complete
  • Contact Information: gradprograms@mtmercy.edu 

8. Penn State World Campus

The online portion of Penn State, Penn State World Campus, extends higher education to tens of thousands of students across the globe. Instead of completing an MSN, those interested in forensic nursing complete Penn State's undergraduate certificate in nursing forensics. This 12-credit certificate takes less than a year to complete and costs far less than an MSN. 

However, only current RNs without a BSN should consider this program. That being said, graduates can transfer their forensic nursing credits into Penn State's online RN-BSN, making this a great option for RNs looking for both a BSN and a forensic nursing position. 

  • Tuition: $590 per credit
  • Online Options: Yes
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Program Length: 9 months
  • Contact Information: worldcampus@psu.edu or 800-252-3592

9. University of California Riverside

Another option for nurses who don't want to complete an MSN, the University of California Riverside's professional certificate in forensic nursing leads to various forensic nurse positions. 

Current RNs and LPNs can enroll in the program, and RNs can count either 20 hours or more of continuing education or a SANE certification toward elective credits, reducing the length and cost of the certificate. This short 16-credit certificate takes as little as nine months to complete. 

  • Tuition: $4,500 total cost
  • Online Options: Yes
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Program Length: 9 to 15 months
  • Contact Information: 951.827.4105

10. Aspen University

Aspen University specializes in online education and offers its MSN with a forensic nursing specialization entirely online. Available to current RNs who hold a BSN, the MSN takes as little as two years to complete, though some part-time students take longer. 

While the program doesn't include any clinical practice, graduates learn all the skills necessary to succeed as a forensic nurse. To keep the degree affordable, Aspen University also set up an optional monthly payment plan, covering the cost of the program over a 41-month period.

  • Tuition: $13,318 total cost
  • Online Options: Yes
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Program Length: 24 to 41 months
  • Contact Information: 800.373.7814

 

FAQs About Working as a Forensic Nurse

  • How Do You Become a Forensic Nurse?

    • To become a forensic nurse, you first must graduate from an accredited nursing program and earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing and pass the NCLEX. Then after gaining the appropriate bedside experience, you will need to apply and gain acceptance to a Forensic Nurse MSN or certificate program. Finally, depending on your career path - you can sit for a national certification examination. 
  • How Long Does it Take to Become a Forensic Nurse?

    • Forensic nurses can earn either a certificate or a master’s degree. A certificate program can take less than one year to complete and an MSN can take two to three years depending on the program.
  • What Classes Will You Take in a Forensic Nursing Program?

    • Forensic Nurse MSN programs are fairly standard regardless of which program you attend or the field you decide to pursue upon completion of the program. Certificate programs require less coursework than MSN programs. Typical courses for the MSN include, 
      • Advanced Assessment, Pathophysiology & Pharmacology 
      • Advanced Criminological Theory
      • Crime/Victimology/Social Justice
      • Criminal Law: Substantive and Procedural
      • Ethics for Nurses
      • Evidence-Based Practice
      • Forensic Methodologies 
      • Forensic Nursing: Caring for Perpetrators
      • Forensic Nursing: Caring for Victims
      • Forensic Science and Technology
      • Interpersonal Violence
      • Introduction to Demography & Epidemiology
      • Introduction to Forensic Nursing
      • Population Assessment & Intervention
      • Psych Bases of Criminal Behavior
      • Scientific Foundations for Forensic Nursing Interventions
      • Sociology of Crime and Delinquency
      • The Legal System
      • Theoretical Foundations for Population Health
  • Is Forensic Nursing in Demand?

    • Forensic nursing is a new and emerging field. As long as there is a crime, there will be an ongoing need for these types of nurses. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1.2 million people older than age 12 were victims of violent crime (excluding simple assault) in the U.S. in 2019. It is speculated that forensic nursing will be one of the fastest-growing fields in the nursing profession due to its specialty. 
  • Do Forensic Nurses Work with Dead Bodies?

    • Some forensic nurses will work with dead bodies. After completing a forensic nurse program, nurses can work with coroners. However, the majority of forensic nurses work with victims who are still living. Remember, if you are not comfortable working with dead bodies there are a lot of other forensic nurse fields to work in. 
  • How Much Do Forensic Nurses Make?

    • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not differentiate between different specialties of nursing, but as of May 2020, they report that Registered Nurses can earn an average salary of $75,330 per year or $36.22 per hour. According to PayScale, the average salary for Forensic Nurses is $30.61 per hour or $73,985 annually. 

Find Nursing Programs

How to Become a Forensic Nurse >> What You Need to Know About Getting Your Master’s in Forensic Science >> How to Become a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Nurse >>

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