How to Become a Forensic Nurse: Salary, Job Description, Career Outlook

Two nurses discuss a patient fileA forensic nurse helps investigate crimes such as sexual assault and accidental death. These nurses receive special training that helps them collect medical evidence and work within the criminal justice system. Forensic nurses often work in emergency rooms to assist in identifying and interpreting any signs of foul play.

Table of Contents
How to Become a Forensic Nurse
Forensic Nursing Programs
Forensic Nurse Job Description
Career Options
Forensic Nurse Salary
Forensic Nurse Certification
Professional Organizations

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide specific employment information on forensic nurses, it does publish an overview of that information for registered nurses.

Nurse Salary and Employment Data

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Source: BLS Wage Data by Area and Occupation. * or ** indicate insignificant or unavailable data.

Minimum Education Required Associate degree
Board Examinations needed NCLEX-RN, RN-BC
Average Annual Salary $66,220
# of Jobs (2012) 2,712,000
Job Outlook (2012 to 2022) 19% growth

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

How to become a forensic nurse

The education and experience required to become a forensic nurse include:

  • An Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and have passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)
  • Voluntarily passing the Pediatric or Adolescent/Adult Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner certification exam
  • Voluntarily passing the Advanced Forensic Nursing (AFN-BC) certification test

Forensic Nursing Programs

To be a forensic nurse, one must have already graduated nursing school, passed board examinations, and be a registered nurse. RNs interested in working as forensic nurses may earn certification that shows special expertise in the field.

The International Association of Forensic Nurses offers two certifications in collaboration with the American Nurses Credentialing Center — the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE-A/SANE-P) certificate and the Advanced Forensic Nursing (AFN-BC) certificate. Certification is voluntary.

Forensic Nurse Job description

Forensic nurses help investigate crimes by taking blood and tissue samples, photographing and measuring wounds, collecting other vital evidence from the victim’s body and providing encouragement and support for victims. Forensic nurses may also testify in court as expert medical witnesses.

The job requires patient interaction and is fast-paced, highly structured and research-oriented. Forensic nurses must be both compassionate and highly analytical.

Career options

A forensic nurse usually works in:

  • Hospital emergency departments
  • Correctional facilities
  • Coroner or medical examiner office

Forensic Nurse Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not list earnings for forensic nurses, but it does publish wages and job growth for registered nurses. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for RNs in 2012 was $65,470. Because of the special skills required, forensic nurses may expect to earn more than the average median wage.

Forensic Nursing Certification

Both the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner-Adult/Adolescent certification (SANE-A) and the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner-Pediatric certification (SANE-P) require nurses to pass written exams. Nurses must renew credentials every three years.

Professional organizations

International Association of Forensic Nurses:

American Forensic Nurses: