Is a Forensic Nursing Degree Program Worth It?

This article will describe what a forensic nursing degree is, and what you will study when you earn this degree. You also will learn about the most important aspects to look at as you decide upon which program to attend. We also will provide relevant accreditation information and a good forensic nursing program worth your consideration.

What Is a Forensic Nursing Degree?

A forensic nursing degree is a relatively new speciality that has been recognized by the American Nurses Association (ANA). Forensic nursing practice is the application of the science of nursing to public and legal matters.

A forensic nursing degree will teach you to investigate real and possible causes of death and mortality in many different settings and circumstances. Your forensic nursing degree program will teach you to handle some or all of these duties:

  • Collect evidence from criminal suspects and survivors of crimes
  • Testify in court as a fact witness or as an expert witness
  • Engage in the proper collection of evidence at a crime scene
  • Understand forensic photography for legal and criminal proceedings
  • Observe, document and carefully preserve critical evidence

Most forensic nurses work specially on sexual assaults, death investigations, and medical or legal consulting.

The typical forensic nursing curriculum will focus on the following critical areas:

  • Victimology
  • Perpetrator theory
  • Forensic mental health
  • Interpersonal violence
  • Criminology
  • Criminal justice

There are programs available at both the bachelor’s and master’s level that have speciality courses in forensic nursing.

Why Earn a Degree in Forensic Nursing?

Many professionals are attracted to nursing as a long term career because of the greatly increasing need for nurses throughout the country. RNs with an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree will experience a 16% increase in demand by 2024, which is much faster than average. The median pay for associate’s and bachelor’s educated nurses is a healthy $67,490, as well.

Advanced nursing practice professionals with a master’s degree – nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and nurse midwives – are seeing even greater demand. It is estimated that demand for these nurses will rise by 31% by 2024. Salaries for all advanced practice nurses is usually in excess of $95,000 per year.

Many professionals are choosing forensic nursing in particular. Forensic nursing is a highly specialized area of nursing where you will be qualified to serve in critical, unique roles in the judicial and healthcare systems.

Forensic nurses may treat victims of assault, investigate a serious crime scene, or even provide vital health care in a correctional facility. If you want to work in a different type of nursing, you could find forensic nursing to have great appeal. Consider some of these specialized nursing roles you may find:

  • Forensic clinical nurse specialist: With a master of science in nursing, you can work as a nurse, teacher, researcher or administrator in many forensic environments. You could work in an ER, sexual assault center, or death investigation unit.
  • Forensic nurse investigator: Uncover the circumstances that led to a violent or unexpected death. You would likely work for a coroner or medical examiner office. Expect to examine bodies, study a crime or accident scene and help to perform autopsies.
  • Legal nurse consultant: Help attorneys work on civil lawsuits where law and the medical field overlap. You could work on cases involving medical malpractice, personal injuries, probate and worker’s compensation. Legal nurse consultants apply advanced forensic training to analyze medical information related to a legal case.

Forensic Nursing Degree

For the experienced nurse who has already earned a bachelor of science in nursing, consider the Master of Science in Forensic Nursing online from Duquesne University. With an advanced degree from this highly regarded program, you with learn specialized skills for healing wounds, and for assisting law enforcement and legal personnel with criminal and civil cases.

This two year, online nursing degree offers you the ability to serve in a rewarding nursing career in forensics. This is a broad based curriculum that will allow you to apply advanced forensic practice knowledge, so you can have an effect on legal outcomes. Graduates of this program are known not just as forensic nursing practitioners, but as leaders in this growing nursing specialty.

Graduates of this program are creating hospital-based nursing forensics programs, designing new curricula in the field and are helping to drive new nursing policies at all levels of government.

Students may complete this nursing program on a full time basis at six credits per semester, or part time. After you are accepted into the MSN program, you will be assigned a nursing faculty partner and mentor. He or she will work closely with you to complete your program plan. You can take up to five years to earn your MSN.

Required courses include:

  • Historical and Contemporary Foundations for Advanced Nursing Practice
  • Pathophysiology for Advanced Nursing Practice
  • Forensic Science and the Legal System
  • Criminal Law and the Courts
  • Pharmacology for Advanced Practice Nursing
  • Health Care Ethics in Practice and Policy

After you graduate, you will have the following forensic nursing competencies:

  • Be able to demonstrate specialized clinical judgement in advanced nursing practice.
  • Assume a forensic nursing leadership role, as you create a compassionate and caring environment to mitigate pain and suffering.
  • Advocate collaborative nursing approaches in providing comprehensive care to individuals and families.
  • Successfully integrate clinical inquiry, theory and evidence based nursing practice.

This program is accredited by the CCNE.


Earning a nursing degree is an important step in your career that requires a great deal of time and money. Make certain you are earning a quality degree in forensic nursing by checking that the program is certified by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or CCNE.


Earning a degree in forensic nursing will arm you with highly specialized clinical skills that are of great value in the American healthcare system today.