If you’re a nurse who wants to take your role to a higher level by combining medical knowledge with the legal field, earning a forensic nursing master’s degree is a path worth considering. Whether working with sexual assault or domestic violence victims, assisting the police with investigations, or supporting attorneys in criminal and civil cases, forensic nurses are a critical resource for those seeking justice. Earning a master’s degree in forensic nursing online can allow you to conveniently get the necessary training for this exciting field while working full-time.
This guide is loaded with information about online master’s degree programs in forensic nursing. Below are profiles of the top forensic nursing master’s programs, descriptions of common courses that schools offer, and how much tuition you can expect to pay for your online forensic nursing degree.
2023’s Best Online Master’s Forensic Nursing Programs
Finding the right online master’s program in forensic nursing can be a time consuming endeavor, and choosing a school is not to be taken lightly. To help you get a sense of what’s available, we have created a best-in-class program curated list of schools that offer the best education in terms of affordability, quality, and student outcomes. Below you will find the top school choices we selected for 2023.
The MSN in forensic nursing program at Duquesne University, which can be completed in about two and a half years, leverages the school’s experience in online education that has been amassed over the last two decades. You can finish your studies of 36 credit hours entirely online in preparation for the 225 clinical hours you’ll be required to complete. The classes cover advanced pharmacology, criminal law and the courts, physical assessments, and health care ethics and policy. By the end of classroom and hands-on training, you can sit for the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner certification exam.
To be admitted to the program, prospective students are expected to:
- Have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university
- Earn a 3.0 GPA
- Have an active RN license
- Have at least one year of full-time experience working as a registered nurse
When applying to this program, expect to submit a resume, transcripts, two references, and a statement of purpose.
From observation to evidence collection to documentation, students enrolled in Texas A & M University’s MSN forensic nursing track get the instruction needed to work with crime victims who are dealing with traumatic experiences. Although classwork is primarily online, you will need to be on campus for some training, including a one-day conference for students newly admitted to the program and 45 hours of clinical training during two campus visits. Throughout the program, students are trained in health informatics, forensic investigation methods, and health-care policy, as well as advanced concepts in pathophysiology, health assessment, and pharmacology.
To be admitted to this program, you must have an RN license and a bachelor’s degree in nursing. You are required to submit official transcripts, a personal statement essay, three professional references, and a resume. Also, an admissions interview may be requested by the nursing department.
Xavier University has graduate degree programs in nursing that are designed to deepen students’ knowledge of nursing science, instill leadership skills, and sharpen their written and verbal communication abilities. For those who enroll in the school’s online forensic nursing program, these outcomes are developed through coursework in interprofessional collaboration, health care informatics, crime and delinquency, and the social and legal aspects of forensics. After completing the program, you can pursue careers as forensic psychiatric nurses, legal nurse consultants, sexual assault nurse examiners, and nurse coroners.
You must have an active nursing license and a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Also, the school requires at least one year of work experience as a nurse for admission to the program.
FAQs About Earning Your Master’s Degree in Forensic Nursing Online
Enrolling in graduate school is a huge time and monetary commitment, so you definitely should gather as much information as you can before taking on this financial and academic obligation. This section answers common questions about a master’s in forensic nursing, such as the cost, the curriculum, and the skills you will learn.
What exactly is forensic nursing?
Forensic nursing is the intersection of the health care and legal fields, where nurses use their nursing practice expertise to address various legal issues. For example, forensic nurses who specialize in sexual assault are responsible for conducting a physical examination of the victim, and for collecting and documenting evidence that helps bring the perpetrator to justice. Similarly, forensic nurses may work on cases related to domestic violence, elder or child abuse, or murder, where they collect and document evidence, as well as testify as an expert witness in court.
What do you learn in a forensic nursing MSN program?
Every school that offers an online forensic MSN program has a different curriculum, but there are common themes no matter the program. Generally, these programs build on the assessment, consultation, and documentation skills nurses already have, while providing the specific abilities needed to work with crime victims and legal matters. The following are some of the key areas that you may learn when you enroll in a forensic nursing degree program.
- An understanding of the law and the role that nurses play in helping to bolster a legal case. You will also learn about the legal and ethical issues that may arise and how to handle these issues.
- How to use empathy specifically when working with victims of crimes.
- The ability to critically evaluate primary research literature, its relationship to the field, and where it can be applied most effectively.
- An expansive understanding of how ethics, regulations, and scientific progress must be employed in any work done within the field.
- Competency in written and oral communication related to the biological sciences, research methods, emerging concepts, and contemporary trends and issues.
Common Courses in Online Forensic Nursing Programs
- Interpersonal Violence
This course provides a comprehensive look at interpersonal violence so students can understand the signs, cultural and societal issues, historical perspectives, and beliefs that surround this complex subject. Treatment options are discussed, as well as how domestic violence should be documented and reported to law enforcement.
- Forensic Pathology
Forensic pathology courses focus on how understanding injuries and diseases are integral parts of medico-legal investigations, particularly in cases related to deaths caused by violence and other suspicious circumstances. You also learn how to collect evidence from a dead body, document this evidence in an official autopsy, and calculate an approximate time of death.
- Nursing Law and Ethics
This course covers legal and ethical issues that may arise when working with patients. Building on the knowledge that registered nurses already have, this class addresses patients’ rights, judicial processes, regulations that impact the field, and the role forensic nurses play in legal matters.
- Behavioral Criminology
In this class you gain an understanding of the relationship between criminal behavior and various mental disorders that perpetrators might have. Also, this course covers violent crimes that may be committed by people with mental illnesses and FBI profiling techniques that aid in criminal investigations.
- Nursing Research
This course explores the methodologies that nursing researchers use to advance the field and how professionals practice nursing in a myriad of clinical settings. Specific topics may include quantitative and qualitative research methods, data analysis, research ethics, measurement theories, and theory development.
Can I earn my forensic nursing master’s degree completely online?
When you enroll in a master’s degree program in forensic nursing, you may be able to complete your coursework entirely or partially online, depending on your school. For example, some programs may allow students to complete most of their coursework online, but require campus work for certain classes. Whether you choose an entirely online or a hybrid program, you will be required to complete a clinical experience to get hands-on learning about the realities of forensic nursing.
What are the admissions requirements for an online forensic nursing program?
Individual forensic nursing programs have their own admissions requirements; however, generally programs expect their applicants to:
- Have an active nursing license and a certain amount of professional experience
- Earn a degree or diploma in nursing
- Have at least a 3.0 GPA
- Submit at least two recommendations
- Write a personal statement explaining why they want to be admitted to the program
- Provide proof of liability insurance coverage
In some cases, you may be asked to participate in an admissions interview with members of the nursing department. Also, international students may be required to demonstrate proficiency in English by earning a certain score on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) examination.
How long will it take to finish an online MSN in forensic nursing?
Usually, if you enroll in an online forensic nursing MSN program full time, you can expect to complete it in about two years. If you enroll as a part-time student, you can generally complete the degree in about three years.
How much does an online forensic nursing master’s degree cost?
The cost of an online forensic nursing master’s degree program varies depending on whether or not a student enrolls in a public or private school, how long the program lasts, and how much financial aid is awarded. The following are examples of how much students are charged for tuition in specific nursing graduate programs.
MSN in Forensic Nursing with Certification in Investigative Forensics
Total Credits: 51
Master of Science in Nursing: Forensic Nursing
Total Credits: 36
Financial Aid for Your Online Forensic Nursing Master’s Program
Before enrolling in a program, it’s important to know how you’re going to fund your advanced nursing degree. The following are examples of funding sources that may help you complete your advanced education.
Scholarships & Grants
Scholarships and grants are available from various sources, including individual schools, organizations that support the nursing profession, and government agencies. These resources can be awarded based on merit or financial need. For more information on available options, read our scholarships guide.
Student loans can help when additional funds are needed for educational expenses. Our student loan guide provides more details on applying for this funding and understanding repayment terms. Also, you can get information on the different types of student loans that may be provided by public or private lenders.
There are additional ways to pay for education, depending on the school. For example, fellowships and graduate assistantships may be available, which pay for students’ tuition in exchange for completing departmental work, such as assisting with research projects.
Accreditation Standards for Online Nursing Forensics Programs
Online forensic nursing programs are accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). These accrediting bodies are important because they vet programs for their quality so you can confidently enroll in nursing schools that develop skills employers need. Accredited programs ensure that you are well prepared to achieve your career goals.
Licensing and Professional Certifications for Forensic Nurses
After completing a master’s in forensic nursing, graduates are qualified to sit for the examinations to earn a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner – Adult/Adolescent (SANE-A®) or Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner – Pediatric/Adolescent (SANE-P®) credential.
Offered by the International Association of Forensic Nurses, these certifications ensure that forensic nurses meet the high standards needed to work successfully with crime victims while assisting law enforcement with criminal cases. To earn a certification, you must demonstrate knowledge on assessment, documentation, evidence collection, patient management, the judicial process, and professional practice standards.
Careers & Salary Outlook for Forensic Nurses
The career landscape for registered nurses looks promising according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, the agency reports that between 2021 and 2031, jobs for registered nurses will increase by six percent, which is faster than the average of all other professions (which is 5%). This amounts to 195,400 jobs created during this time.
Some of the factors that are contributing to the growth of the nursing profession include the rapid rate of older populations entering their golden years, which makes them vulnerable to numerous health problems. Also, outpatient and long-term care facilities are seeing an increase in patients as financial considerations decrease the length of hospital stays.
How much do forensic nurses make?
As an entire group, registered nurses make a median salary of $77,600 annually. According to ZipRecruiter, the salary range for forensic nurses specifically is $15,000 to $147,000, with an average annual earnings at $77,786.
Continuing Education & Related Degrees
For many professionals, earning a master’s degree in nursing is just another stop along their career path. You may aspire to continue education by earning a higher-level degree or an advanced degree in a similar area of the field. The following options might interest you to explore.
Doctorate Nursing Degree Options
- Online Doctor of Nursing Practice
An online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is for those who want to work in a specific area of advanced nursing, such as psychiatric, family, and pediatric nursing. Also, this degree can be used to move into leadership nursing positions.
- Online Ph.D. in Nursing
If you want to become an educator for the next generation of professionals, you can get the necessary training through an online PhD in Nursing degree program. In addition, this degree is useful for those wanting to conduct research in nursing practice topics.
Similar Advanced Nursing Degrees Worth Considering
- Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Programs
If interested in working with patients who have mental health challenges, consider enrolling in an online psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner degree program. The training that these programs provide prepares you to work in specialties like addiction, geriatric, and psychosomatic medicine.
Resources for Forensic Nursing Students & Professionals