What Is the Average Salary of a Forensic Nurse?

As a forensic nurse, you are a first responder to crimes of abuse, violence and neglect. This means having the skills and know-how to collect and preserve criminal evidence while helping a victim through a difficult time. Read on to learn more about how much you can earn as a forensic nurse. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Forensic Nurse Salary Information

Forensic nursing is a relatively new designation, so there isn't a lot of salary information available. You can begin by looking at national salary data provided on registered nurses by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). As of May 2014, these nurses showed median wages of $66,640 annually. You can then factor in the data provided by PayScale.com, which showed wages for forensic nurses in the 10th-90th percentile at $50,367-$102,578 annually, as of September 2015. Factors affecting salaries include experience, employer and state.

Important Facts About Forensic Nurses

Job Outlook (2012-2022) 19% growth (registered nurses)
On-the-Job Training None provided
Key Skills Clear communication, problem solving, critical thinking, time management, reading comprehension, situational awareness
Similar Occupations Physicians assistants, nurse practitioners, licensed vocational nurses, licensed practical nurses, nurse anesthetists

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Salary by Experience

As of September 2015, PayScale.com reported a median salary of $51,183 for entry-level registered nurses. Those classified as mid-career professionals earned a median wage of $59,800, while experienced professionals earned a median wage of $62,398. Late-career registered nurses were paid a median wage of $65,553.

Salary by Employer

General hospitals and surgical hospitals, which had the highest registered nurse employment level in May 2014, paid these professionals $71,640 on average, according to the BLS. Many also worked for physicians' offices, home healthcare services and nursing care facilities, where they earned respective average wages of $63,800, $67,880 and $62,440.

Salary by State

California, Texas and New York were the top three states employing registered nurses in May 2014, reported the BLS. While California also paid the highest average wage of $98,400, Texas and New York offered lower respective average wages of $68,590 and $77,110. Hawaii and Massachusetts, which offered respective average wages of $88,230 and $85,770, were among those states offering the highest pay. Among the states paying the lowest average wages between $33,740 and $57,830 were Tennessee, Iowa, West Virginia, Alabama and Nebraska.

Career Information

The majority of forensic nurses work primarily with rape and abuse victims. While they may be too traumatized to speak, you have the ability to locate the evidence that will speak for them. You may be called on to testify in court as an expert witness or report your observations to a coroner if the patient doesn't survive. Some nurses specialize in post-mortem work and are known as death nurses.

If you choose to specialize in working with children and adolescents, you'll be known as a pediatric forensic nurse. There are also forensic nurses who specialize in geriatric cases of elder-abuse and neglect. Forensic nursing gives you the opportunity to work in correctional facilities, mental health institutions, hospitals and a variety of emergency service organizations.

Education and Training

To become a forensic nurse, you have three primary educational paths to choose from. There are diploma programs, associate degrees in nursing and the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Most BSN programs take about four years to complete, while an associate's degree takes two or three years to earn, depending on your pace. Diploma programs are offered by hospitals and take approximately three years to complete, but aren't as prevalent.

While it isn't required for the field, you may find that many nurses choose to become certified as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE). There are two certification choices; SANE-A is the certification for forensic nurses working with adults, and SANE-P is the certification for those working with pediatric patients. Regardless of which path you take to become a nurse, you have to be a registered and licensed nurse to qualify to take either of the SANE examinations.

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