Best Forensic Nursing Programs in 2023 (Online & On-Campus)

Best Forensic Nursing Programs in 2023 (Online & On-Campus)

Forensic Nursing Programs

Forensic nurses work in a wide range of health care and legal settings, often collaborating with other professionals in their own field, with other health care professionals, and legal officials. American Nurse Today points out the critical role that forensic nurses have in real life, not the down-played version that television shows portray as the role and responsibilities of forensic nurses. That’s why choosing from the best forensic nursing programs is so important – so you can fill that critical role.

Forensic nurses deal with victims and the family members of victims that experience trauma, injury or death. There are many sub-specialties within the evolving field of forensic nursing, allowing prospective students the opportunity to enter the particular sub-specialty of their choice.

What does the future hold for forensic nurses?

Choose a forensic nursing program that leads to a career as a legal nurse consultant, forensic clinical nurse, forensic nurse investigator, correctional nursing specialist, nurse coroner, and other possible options. The available options likely depend on the specific degree program and any sub-specialty offered by the college or university that a student chooses to attend for their forensic nursing education.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not list forensic nursing as a separate career field. Some sources provide the BLS job outlook for Registered Nurses (RNs) when considering the career outlook for forensic nurses. The BLS reveals that the anticipated job growth rate for all Registered Nurses is much faster than average. There is an expectation that 438,100 new jobs in registered nursing will be added through 2026, including in forensic nursing. In May 2011, the median registered nurse salary for those employed in a hospital was $33.56 per hour.

Make sure that you check the forensic nursing degree or program requirements in your state before enrolling in any educational program, whether an on-campus program, a hybrid program or an online degree format. Listed tuition rates are for in-state tuition only, and do not include textbook costs, required fees, supplies, or other program costs. 

Take a look at the best forensic nursing programs in the United States!

1. University of California Riverside Extension

The University of California Riverside Extension offers an Online Professional Certificate in Forensic Nursing for current Registered Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), or other appropriately licensed healthcare professionals. The program is designed to provide a comprehensive overview into the forensic aspects of healthcare and public service for key medical personnel.

Apply your healthcare knowledge as you learn best practices for collecting forensic evidence, and effective methods for communicating with members of a multidisciplinary team. You’ll also discover techniques to analyze and review medical records and documents, best approaches to function as an independent consultant and nursing expert witness, and ways to implement other specialized skills in forensic nursing.

  • Tuition: $263 per credit hour
  • Program length: Approximately 3 semesters
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)

2. Pennsylvania State University World Campus

The Pennsylvania State University World Campus offers the Undergraduate Certificate in Nursing Forensics, which is an outreach of the Penn State College of Nursing. Build on your existing skills as you gain the foundation for a career in forensic nursing.

Registered Nurses (RNs) complete courses in an online format, allowing students to continue their nursing employment or busy lifestyle while completing their forensic nursing certificate program. The school allows six of the credits earned in the program to apply towards electives in the Penn State Online RN to BSN degree program.

  • Tuition: $596 per credit hour
  • Program length: approx. 3 semesters
  • Accreditation: CCNE

3. Aspen University

Aspen University offers the MSN in Forensic Nursing degree for students that want to advance their nursing career and work in the emerging field of forensic nursing. Develop theory and research skills as they relate to forensic nursing. Learn about legal and ethical issues, assuming a leadership role in forensic nursing, collaborating with health care professionals, law enforcement officers, and professionals in the court system. Gain advanced in-depth knowledge for current and evolving forensic nursing issues. The program prepares graduates to work with diverse populations such as at-risk or vulnerable populations, individuals exposed to human trafficking or sexual violence, workplace violence or various types of trauma. Students complete a practicum in a clinical setting and work.

Aspen University allows students in this program to pay just $325 a month towards the costs associated with their tuition and fees, with the first payment made on the first day of class

  • Tuition: approx. $325 per credit hour
  • Program length: 5 semesters
  • Accreditation: CCNE, Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC)

4. University of Alabama at Birmingham

Current nurses with an MSN degree or higher have the opportunity to complete the University of Alabama at Birmingham Advanced Forensic Nurse subspecialty program. There are no clinical requirements for students prior to program admission. The didactic portion of the program provides students with an exceptional primary care base for caring for patients of forensic nurses. 

Become an expert in the field of forensic nursing, learning the highly specialized skills required for evaluating and diagnosing trauma reactions of patient-victims and their families intersecting with the legal system. Learn the skills required for managing various systems using theories, concepts, frameworks, medical forensic practice roles, and tertiary care of populations in the communities and systems. 

  • Tuition: $656 per credit hour
  • Program length: approx. 36 credit hours
  • Accreditation: CCNE

5. Fitchburg State University

The 100 percent online Forensic Nursing program at Fitchburg State University prepares students for a career as a forensic nurse. Graduates demonstrate the knowledge and skills of both forensic science and nursing specialties in the investigation of trauma, provided concurrently with emergency care services. Students learn the importance of providing emotional support for violent crime victims, along with skills required in various settings, such as community health agencies, schools, correctional facilities, health care facilities, and law enforcement agencies. Learn and apply skills as an expert witness in investigations related to forensic nursing, including incidents of trauma or violence.

  • Tuition: approx. $311 per credit hour
  • Program length: 39 credit hours
  • Accreditation: CCNE

6. Xavier University

Xavier University, located in Cincinnati, Ohio, offers graduate nursing students the opportunity to prepare for a career in forensic nursing after graduating from the MSN Forensic Track program, or by taking on extra work and excelling in Xavier’s MSN/MSCJ (Master of Science in Criminal Justice) graduate degree.

The single MSN option is available 100 percent online and will teach advanced skills and knowledge related to clinical roles such as Forensic Nursing Death Examiner or Nurse Coroner, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, Legal Nurse Consultant, and other potential roles of forensic nursing professionals. The dual degree will have students taking courses for both the MSN and the MSCJ at the same time, which will prepare graduates for serving in non-traditional roles in the criminal justice system while preparing nurses for roles in situations such as bioterrorism and disaster planning.  

  • Tuition: $670 per credit hour
  • Program length: approx. 4-5 semesters
  • Accreditation: CCNE, Higher Learning Commission

7. Mount Mercy University

The Martin-Herold College of Nursing & Health at Mount Mercy University provides five areas of emphasis for MSN students after completion of core courses, including the forensic nursing emphasis. Mount Mercy University is the only university in the State of Iowa that offers a forensic nursing program. 

Engage in real-time interactive learning, while discovering how to develop and implement the protocols and systems required of forensic nurses when caring for trauma victims, and patients that experience neglect, abuse, injuries, and violent acts.

  • Tuition: $638 per credit hour
  • Program length: 5 semesters
  • Accreditation: CCNE

8. Cleveland State University

The Cleveland State University forensic nursing program applies the science of nursing and combines it with the principles of forensic science. The university explains that the Forensic Nursing population focuses on individuals involved in healthcare legal issues. The MSN – Forensic Nursing program provides students with a general forensic nursing education, along with law concepts. Graduates potentially work in areas such as clinical forensic nurses, sexual assault nurse examiners, and death investigators.

  • Tuition: $531.40 per credit hour
  • Program length: 38 credit hours
  • Accreditation: CCNE

9. Duquesne University

Duquesne University describes forensic nursing boldly, with the website indicating that “All nurses take vitals. Some collect evidence.” The Online MSN Forensic Nursing degree at Duquesne University prepares students to serve in a role as patient-victim-advocate. The flexible online program provides a broad-based curriculum, prepares students to collect evidence, follow the chain of evidence protocols, and provide trauma-informed care.

Students learn to become a forensic nurse leader when pursuing this program, one of the first in the nation. This 100 percent online program provides students with a prep course that includes the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE-A) 40-hour training. The training allows students to sit for the SANE certification exam.

Additionally, Duquesne offers the Online Forensic Nursing Post-Master’s Certificate for students that have a current, unencumbered RN license, and that hold an MSN from an accredited college or university. Students will learn advanced practice skills and how to collaborate with law enforcement officials and other professionals involved in the care of victims of violence, trauma, and death, and the prosecution of perpetrators of these types of acts. The online program includes a prep course for the 40-hour SANE-A training, which is necessary to sit for the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner certification exam.

  • Tuition: $1,441 per credit hour
  • Program length: 3-4 semesters
  • Accreditation: CCNE

10. Fairleigh Dickinson University

Students enrolled in the Fairleigh Dickinson MSN – Adult Gerontology Forensic Nurse Practitioner program learn to apply scientific nursing knowledge to the care of victims of trauma, violence, or death investigations. Graduate students learn the various specialized areas of practice for forensic nurses, including advanced theories, research, roles and issues as they apply to forensic nursing. 

Students graduate with an advanced practice nursing degree, which allows them to sit for the adult nurse practitioner certification exam, and receive certification as an Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner with a Forensics specialization.

Additionally, FDU offers the RN to BSN to MSN Forensic Track Degree. Students in this unique forensic nursing program receive up to 66 credits towards an accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and their Master of Science (MSN) degree, after completion of their Associate degree and successfully passing the NCLEX exam.

  • Tuition: $1,334 per credit hour
  • Program length: approx. 4 semesters
  • Accreditation: CCNE

16. Fairleigh Dickinson

 Once the university awards the credits towards the program, students complete the remaining courses and degree requirements for the .

  • Tuition: $1,334 per credit hour
  • Program length: approx. 10 semesters
  • Accreditation: CCNE

11. Monmouth University

Monmouth University takes pride in being one of only a few schools in the nation to offer a forensic nursing program. The Master of Science in Forensic Nursing program is a 100 percent online program. The university, located in West Long Branch, New Jersey, recognizes forensic nursing as an emerging field, and the critical role of forensic nurses in legal and health care systems. The program prepares graduates for a career to work in a variety of areas, including domestic violence intervention, sexual assault nurse examiner, elder abuse, child abuse, or death examiner. Monmouth University also offers a 24 credit hour Graduate Certificate in Forensic Nursing.

  • Tuition: $1,233 per credit hour
  • Program length: approx. 4 semesters
  • Accreditation: CCNE

12. DeSales University

The MSN in Forensic Nursing with Certification in Investigative Forensics program at DeSales University prepares students for a career working in investigative forensics. Students have their choice of meeting degree requirements through an online, hybrid, or in-class format while gaining skills in a leadership role in investigative services. Students complete a clinical experience as part of the program requirements. 

Graduates gain eligibility to apply for the Advanced Forensic Nursing Certification through American Nurses Credentialing Center, after completing 2,000 clinical hours. Graduates also meet eligibility requirements to apply for the SANE-A certification, which stands for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Adult/Adolescent, or the SANE-P certification, which stands for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner-Pediatric. DeSales University has a Post-MSN in Forensic Nursing with Certification in Investigative Forensics program for nurses that already hold a graduate degree in nursing.

  • Tuition: $855 per credit hour
  • Program length: 5 semesters
  • Accreditation: CCNE

13. Texas A&M University

The Texas A&M University College of Nursing realizes that students lead busy lives, with responsibilities such as family, and career obligations. The university offers an MSN in Forensic Nursing hybrid program so that students have the ability to fulfill their regular obligations and maintain their normal lifestyle while completing the MSN Forensic Nursing degree requirements.

Most of the courses are online courses, yet students still learn everything that students in an on-campus program learn while pursuing a degree in forensic nursing. Prepare for a career that involves recognizing and collecting evidence, and documenting evidence related to traumatic or criminal acts. There is a required on-campus orientation, and required attendance at the campus location for some class activities. The 45-hour on-campus clinical experiences fulfill the clinical objective. Students receive detailed information about the two three-day clinical experiences that require overnight stays when they attend orientation.

  • Tuition: approx. $426.33 per credit hour
  • Program length: 6 semesters
  • Accreditation: CCNE

15. Oakland University

Oakland University offers the MSN Forensic Nursing program for nurses that want a career in forensic nursing. Students learn to collaborate with the multidisciplinary team while providing forensic nursing care to victims and family members of victims that experienced sexual assault, other violent crimes, or trauma. The multidisciplinary team likely consists of other forensic nursing specialists, members of law enforcement, hospital or trauma center staff, and possibly other professionals within the health care or legal system. Learn the specialized care provided by forensic nurses, along with how to work as an independent practitioner. Oakland University students in the program prepare for leadership roles in forensic nursing. 
The Rochester, Michigan school also offers an 18 credit hour Graduate Certificate in Forensic Nursing.

  • Tuition: $738 per credit hour
  • Program length: 7 semesters
  • Accreditation:  CCNE

Ranking Methodology

We ranked each school by assigning an individual score for the categories of tuition rate, program length, and accreditation. We do our best to be accurate, honest, and fair in our representation of each school.

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Disclaimer: We cannot guarantee current tuition rates or other information because tuition costs and other information sometimes change. It is the responsibility of the student to verify current tuition costs and other information for each school and program, including any difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition costs.

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