How Much Do Forensic Nurses Make?

8 Min Read Published November 6, 2023
Forensic nurse salary

Forensic nurses work with crime victims to gather medical evidence and provide expert testimony for court cases. This article explores forensic nurse salaries, including how much they can expect to make by state, city, and other factors.

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Purdue Global

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The University of Texas at Arlington
The University of Texas at Arlington’s online programs are designed to help you achieve more in your nursing practice with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. They offer convenient, flexible options for completing your RN to BSN or BSN online, both designed to fit into your busy schedule.
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Liberty University
At Liberty, you’ll benefit from 30+ years of learning, growing, adapting, and innovating for the distance learner — and more than a decade of researching the needs of the online student. You can be confident that we’ve taken the time to learn what’s important to you.
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Western Governors University

WGU's award-winning online programs are created to help you succeed while graduating faster and with less debt. WGU is a CCNE accredited, nonprofit university offering nursing bachelor's and master's degrees.

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RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

>>Listen To The Vital Role Of Nurses in Combating Human Trafficking with Leah Helmbrecht, Forensic Nurse Examiner

 

What Is the Average Forensic Nurse Salary?

The median salary for all registered nurses (RNs) nationwide is $81,220 annually or $39.05 per hour (BLS). Forensic nurses earn $72,659 annually or $35 per hour, according to ZipRecruiter. Most forensic nurses make between $46,500 and $99,000, with top earners making $120,000 annually.

Forensic Nurse Salary by State

Location is one of the most influential factors in determining how much you can make as a forensic nurse. So how much does a forensic nurse make by state? It turns out that the highest-paying state for forensic nurses pays more than $20,000 more each year than the lowest.

State

Annual Salary

Hourly Wage

New York

$66,391

$31.92

California

$65,509

$31.50

Vermont

$59,871

$28.78

Maine

$59,481

$28.60

Massachusetts

$59,009

$28.37

Nevada

$58,896

$28.32

New Jersey

$58,258

$28.01

Wisconsin

$58,133

$27.95

Washington

$57,993

$27.88

Oregon

$57,437

$27.61

Hawaii

$56,744

$27.28

Idaho

$56,731

$27.27

Wyoming

$56,627

$27.22

Minnesota

$56,327

$27.08

Indiana

$56,051

$26.95

Arizona

$56,033

$26.94

Alaska

$55,704

$26.78

New Hampshire

$55,573

$26.72

Pennsylvania

$55,537

$26.70

Georgia

$55,081

$26.48

Iowa

$54,318

$26.11

Rhode Island

$54,252

$26.08

South Dakota

$54,175

$26.05

North Dakota

$54,134

$26.03

Connecticut

$53,834

$25.88

Montana

$53,757

$25.84

New Mexico

$52,641

$25.31

Illinois

$52,398

$25.19

Ohio

$52,391

$25.19

Virginia

$51,513

$24.77

Maryland

$51,445

$24.73

Tennessee

$51,280

$24.65

Utah

$51,250

$24.64

Delaware

$50,690

$24.37

Colorado

$50,473

$24.27

Mississippi

$50,057

$24.07

Oklahoma

$48,942

$23.53

South Carolina

$48,721

$23.42

Michigan

$48,291

$23.22

Kansas

$48,122

$23.14

Texas

$48,051

$23.10

Missouri

$48,003

$23.08

West Virginia

$47,853

$23.01

Alabama

$47,352

$22.77

Florida

$47,303

$22.74

Louisiana

$46,966

$22.58

Nebraska

$46,679

$22.44

Kentucky

$44,782

$21.53

North Carolina

$44,484

$21.39

Arkansas

$44,053

$21.18

Via ZipRecruiter

Forensic Nurse Salary by City

Your salary as a forensic nurse may also change depending on whether you live in a metropolitan or rural area. Some of the highest-paying cities to practice as a forensic nurse are as follows:

City

Annual Salary

Hourly Wage

Bolinas, CA

$87,333

$41.99

Bellefonte, DE

$80,417

$38.66

New Hartford Center, CT

$79,397

$38.17

Millbourne, PA

$79,162

$38.06

Casa Blanca, AZ

$78,744

$37.86

Walker Valley, NY

$76,787

$36.92

Heidelberg, PA

$76,328

$36.70

Potomac Heights, MD

$75,561

$36.33

Santa Clara, CA

$72,847

$35.02

Great Neck Gardens, NY

$72,577

$34.89

Via ZipRecruiter

Forensic Nurse Salary Factors

Forensic Nursing Salary by Years of Experience

Forensic nurses can earn a higher annual salary with increased years of experience.

  • 1-4 years: $29.96 average hourly wage
  • 5-9 years: $30.91 average hourly wage

Via Payscale

Forensic Nursing Salary by Work Setting

Generally, forensic nurses work in hospitals; however, they can work in several other locations, such as:

  • Community anti-violence programs
  • Coroner's and medical examiner’s offices
  • Corrections institutions 
  • Communities after natural disasters
  • Psychiatric hospitals
  • Academia

There isn’t much data on how different industries impact forensic nurse salaries specifically. However, we can examine how overarching RN salaries change within these industries. The BLS query system provides industry-specific RN wage insights for many places where forensic nurses can work.

For example, RNs in academia make the most out of the industries listed. They have annual salaries of up to $108,150 at local government-owned colleges, universities, and professional schools.

On the other hand, those at psychiatric hospitals make between $78,160 at privately owned psychiatric hospitals and $82,030 at state-owned. RNs working in emergency relief, like aiding communities after natural disasters, earn $73,880.

Source: BLS, Date extracted: Aug 22, 2023

9 Ways to Increase Your Salary as a Forensic Nurse

You can increase your forensics nurse salary in a few ways:

  1. Earn a forensic nursing certificate
  2. Work night or weekend shifts that offer higher per-hour wages
  3. Advance your education by earning a Master’s in Forensic Nursing or higher
  4. Work per diem or become a travel forensic nurse
  5. Train to become a preceptor for new hires
  6. Become a charge nurse or nurse manager in your unit
  7. Climb the clinical ladder within the unit
  8. Participate in a unit or hospital-based committee
  9. Pick up overtime hours on your unit or in other parts of the hospital

How Much Does it Cost to Become a Forensic Nurse?

The cost of becoming a nurse can be overwhelming. However, scholarships, loans, and tuition reimbursement make it feasible for anyone interested in the field.

Remember, there is no one set cost for nursing school. Programs can range from a few thousand dollars to over $80,000 and even $100,000 at private or Ivy League nursing schools.

Forensic Nurse Salary vs Other Specialties

Forensic nurses earn an average of $72,659 annually or $35 per hour. Here’s how that compares to some other nursing specialties:

Salaries via ZipRecruiter

Popular Online RN-to-BSN Programs

Sponsored
Grand Canyon University
GCU’s RN-BSN program is tailored to meet the needs of the RN adult learner and to maximize the strengths that the working RN already possesses. Transfer up to 90 credits and earn a BSN in as little as 12 months. GCU’s online classes allow you to study at the times that work for your schedule while still enjoying a close connection with your classmates and instructor via online discussions.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Purdue Global

At Purdue Global, discover a faster, more affordable way to earn your Nursing degree. Purdue Global is committed to keeping your tuition costs as low as possible and helping you find the most efficient path to your degree.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, but certain programs have state restrictions. Check with Purdue for details.

The University of Texas at Arlington
The University of Texas at Arlington’s online programs are designed to help you achieve more in your nursing practice with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. They offer convenient, flexible options for completing your RN to BSN or BSN online, both designed to fit into your busy schedule.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Liberty University
At Liberty, you’ll benefit from 30+ years of learning, growing, adapting, and innovating for the distance learner — and more than a decade of researching the needs of the online student. You can be confident that we’ve taken the time to learn what’s important to you.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Walden University
Walden’s online programs for nursing meet rigorous standards for academic quality and integrity, and the School of Nursing teaching faculty all hold doctorates. With three degree completion options, you can choose a bachelor’s in nursing path that makes sense for your busy, unpredictable schedule.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, excluding NY, RI and CT. Certain programs have additional state restrictions. Check with Walden for details.

Forensic Nurse Salary FAQs

  • What do forensic nurses do?

    • Forensic nurses collect evidence, photograph injuries for evidence, and work with domestic violence and abuse victims. They also work with law enforcement and legal teams to help victims, testify in court, and work with medical examiners.
  • What state pays forensic nurses the most?

    • New York is the highest-paying state for forensic nurses, with reported annual salaries of $66,391 or $31.92 per hour.
  • Are forensic nurses in high demand?

    • Since very few forensic nurses are currently practicing, there is a demand for these healthcare professionals. However, forensic nurses only serve a specific patient population. So, many hospitals and healthcare systems don't see the benefits of having forensic nurses on staff.
  • Is forensic nursing a good career?

    • Despite being one of the lesser-paid nursing specialties, many forensic nurses report finding the work extremely rewarding. The differences they make in patients' lives can be worth earning a little less than other types of nurses.
  • Do forensic nurses make more than nurses?

    • Forensic nurses generally make less than other nurses, according to reported salaries.
Kathleen Gaines
MSN, RN, BA, CBC
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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