Top Forensic Nursing Programs for 2024

8 Min Read Published November 7, 2023
Best Forensic Nursing Programs of 2024 |

Forensic nurses work with crime victims to gather medical evidence and provide expert testimony in court cases. Forensic nursing is a unique specialty that blends nursing, science, and the legal system into an exciting and lucrative nursing career. 

Registered nurses (RNs) can become forensic nurses by gaining relevant clinical experience and completing either a certification or master's program. But scouring the internet for the best forensic nursing programs is a chore and a bore. That's why we consolidated the top programs of 2024 into a convenient list.

Read on to learn more about the best forensic nursing programs nationwide and find one that suits your needs and career goals.

Fast Facts About Forensic Nursing Programs


$30 per hour or $62,263 annually (

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


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

Forensic Nursing Program Ranking Methodology

Our ranking methodology uses the latest and most robust U.S. government data sets, specifically the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and College Scorecard. We consider factors like 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, it does have a single in-person requirement. Nurses must complete at least four credits worth of a nursing practicum in their local areas.

2. Cleveland State University

Students can complete Cleveland State University's online forensic nursing program in two years. The MSN curriculum includes 38 credits and 500 practicum hours. Throughout their education, CSU students may choose to bolster their education with forensic nursing certifications like:

  • Clinical Forensic Nursing
  • Legal Nurse Consulting
  • Forensic Psychiatric Nursing
  • Forensic Correctional Nursing
  • Forensic Death Investigation

Additionally, all forensic nursing students at Cleveland State University receive the same per-credit tuition rate regardless of where they live. So, you can enjoy the same affordable tuition even if you don't live in Ohio.

  • Tuition: $602.20 per credit
  • Online Options: Yes
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Program Length: Two 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 must complete at least 275 clinical practicum and 75 clinical lab hours on-site in Center Valley, Pennsylvania. Upon graduating, nurses should demonstrate excellent leadership, organizational, and investigative skills. 

  • Tuition: $945 per credit
  • Online Options: Yes
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Program Length: Three years
  • Contact Information:

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 nursing program with a forensic focus.

This 30-39 credit track requires 550-750 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: $1,143 per credit
  • Online Options: Yes
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Program Length: Three years
  • Contact Information:

5. Duquesne University

Duquesne University offers two different forensic nursing programs: an MSN and a post-master's certificate. Since many aspiring forensic nurses may not already have a master's degree, most students enroll in the full MSN program. However, MSN-trained nurses who wish to transition to forensic nursing will be able to attend the certificate 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. 

  • Total Tuition: $61,164
  • Online Options: Yes
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Program Length: 2.5 years
  • Contact Information:

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: Resident - $6,464 per semester | Nonresident - $12,818 per semester
  • Online Options: Yes
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Program Length: Two to three  years
  • Contact Information:

7. Mount Mercy University

Available in an online or hybrid format, Mount Mercy University's MSN lets students choose one of five emphases, including one in forensic nursing. Students who choose the hybrid format 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: $704 per credit
  • Online Options: Yes
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Program Length: 16 to 21 months
  • Contact Information: 

8. Penn State World Campus

Pennsylvania State University's online campus, Penn State World Campus, extends higher education to thousands of students worldwide. 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: $626 per credit
  • Online Options: Yes
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Program Length: Nine months
  • Contact Information:

9. University of California Riverside

The University of California Riverside offers another alternative option to an MSN for those who want to pursue forensic nursing. The program leads to a professional certificate that opens many doors to various forensic nursing positions.

Registered and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) can enroll in the program. RNs can count 20 hours or more of continued education credits or their 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. 

  • Total Tuition: $4,500
  • Online Options: Yes
  • Accreditation: 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.

  •  Total Tuition: $13,455
  • Online Options: Yes
  • Accreditation: CCNE
  • Program Length: 24 to 41 months
  • Contact Information: (800) 373-7814


FAQs About Forensic Nursing Programs

  • How do you become a forensic nurse?

    • To become a forensic nurse, you must be a licensed registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. After gaining relevant clinical experience, you can apply for and attend a forensic nursing certificate program or an MSN program. Finally, depending on your career path, you'll sit a national certification.
  • How long do forensic nursing programs take?

    • 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.
  • 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. Experts speculate 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?

    • Since forensic nurses work with coroners, some will work with dead bodies. 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?

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 >>


Where To Find More Information About Forensic Nursing

Kathleen Gaines
Kathleen Gaines
News and Education Editor

Kathleen Gaines (nee Colduvell) is a nationally published writer turned Pediatric ICU nurse from Philadelphia with over 13 years of ICU experience. She has an extensive ICU background having formerly worked in the CICU and NICU at several major hospitals in the Philadelphia region. After earning her MSN in Education from Loyola University of New Orleans, she currently also teaches for several prominent Universities making sure the next generation is ready for the bedside. As a certified breastfeeding counselor and trauma certified nurse, she is always ready for the next nursing challenge.

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