5 Best Forensic Nurse Practitioner Programs – 2024

Written By: Editorial Staff @ NursingProcess.org

Are you a nurse practitioner with an interest in criminal justice? Does the idea of caring for victims of crimes or having a nursing role within the criminal justice system sound like something you would like to learn about? If so, you can find what you are looking for in a forensic nurse practitioner program. Some of the roles forensic nurse practitioner programs prepare nurses for include helping their communities by working with law enforcement, pathologists, and coroners to provide care to victims of crimes and identify causes of death in cases where natural death is not suspected. This article features five of the popular forensic nurse practitioner programs for 2024. Keep reading to learn about the benefits of forensic NP programs, what students study, and how to begin the admissions process.

What Is the Goal of a Forensic Nurse Practitioner Program?

The primary goal of forensic nurse practitioner programs is to educate well-qualified nurse practitioners with the knowledge and skills to help bridge the gap between medicine and the law. These programs prepare students to provide specialized care to individuals experiencing health issues associated with violence, victimization, or being accused of perpetrating a crime.

Top 7 Benefits of Forensic Nurse Practitioner Programs

Maybe you have considered a career as a forensic nurse practitioner but are not totally committed or unsure if it is the right path for you. If so, take a look at these seven benefits of forensic nurse practitioner programs.

1. Become part of a group of highly skilled nursing professionals.

Forensic nurse practitioner programs prepare nurses to perform in jobs that demand excellent nursing and investigative skills. By completing one of these programs, you will have the opportunity to work with an elite group of healthcare professionals who are not the typical bedside nurse.

2. You will learn to help people in their most vulnerable times.

Forensic nurse practitioners may work with law enforcement agencies by examining victims of sexual abuse and battery, gather evidence used in criminal investigations, and participate in death investigations. Forensic NPs work with victims and family members in some of the most vulnerable times. The knowledge and skills you acquire in a forensic nurse practitioner program will help prepare you to provide efficient care while being sensitive to their needs.

3. Get prepared for an income boost!

Forensic NP programs provide the education and training needed to be a well-qualified member of forensic nursing. According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual salary of forensic nurse practitioners is over $93,000.

4. You will have options for where you want to work.

Graduates of forensic NP programs work in various settings. Some forensic NPs work in psychiatric hospitals, medical examiner's offices, domestic violence shelters, and government agencies.

5. Increased Job Security:

Anytime you decide to pursue a higher degree or add a specialty or sub-specialty to your current degree, you increase your marketability. Employers understand the importance of hiring qualified employees who are experts in their chosen fields. They don't mind offering positions that come with long-term security to get and keep good employees.

6. You can make a real difference.

Forensic nurse practitioner programs guide students to take on responsibilities that affect people on a very personal level. Whether you are caring for a victim of an assault or other crime or trying to understand the mind of a perpetrator of an offense, the way you present yourself and the compassion you show to your clients can have a significant impact on their lives.

7. You will learn a broad range of skills to help you become an effective forensic nurse practitioner.

Students in forensic NP programs receive specialized training that is different from other types of forensic subspecialties because these programs incorporate legal applications with healthcare principles and skills. You will learn how to collect and identify evidence, how to conduct thorough investigations, and the importance of your role in criminal legal proceedings.

How Long Are Forensic Nurse Practitioner Programs?

Forensic nurse practitioner programs vary in length. Some programs can be completed in nine months, while others take two years or more. The list below gives examples of some of the featured forensic NP programs from this article and how long it takes to complete each one.


DeSales University

, the forensic nurse practitioner program director will complete a Gap Analysis to determine the student's course of study. Depending on the number of transferrable credits, nurses who hold a graduate nursing degree can complete the Post-Graduate in Forensic Nursing Certificate Program with Certification in Investigative Forensics in as little as two years.


University of Alabama at Birmingham

prepares the Advanced Forensic Nursing student to practice in various forensic nursing settings. Program admission is limited to the fall semester only, and it can be completed in two semesters.

Duquesne University

partnered with the Cyril H. Wecht Institute of Forensic Science to develop its online Post-Master's Forensic Nursing Certificate program. Students enrolled in the program gain an understanding of the relationship between the law and forensic science and how this relationship affects criminal justice from a healthcare perspective. The program can be completed in as little as twelve months.

Students at

Fitchburg State University

can earn a Graduate Certificate in Forensic Nursing in two years. Any student who cannot complete the program in two years can take up to six years to graduate without losing credit for coursework they have already completed.

How Much Do Forensic Nurse Practitioner Programs Cost?

The cost of forensic nurse practitioner programs varies, sometimes significantly. The number of credit hours each program requires, additional fees, and supplies determine the total cost of a program. Forensic NP programs typically range from $5,000 to over $35,000.

The following are examples of the cost of the forensic nurse practitioner programs featured in this article.

1. Tuition for the forensic NP program at

DeSales University

is $910 per credit hour, making tuition cost between $26,390 and $35,490. Students are also charged application, graduation, laboratory, and other fees that total $500.

2. At the

University of South Alabama

, tuition for the Post-Graduate Certificate in Advanced Forensic Nursing Care is $594 per credit hour. This subspecialty program consists of nine credit hours totaling $5,346 for tuition.


Fitchburg State University’s

Graduate Certificate in Forensic Nursing costs $334 per credit hour. This rate includes an online program fee of $58 per credit hour. The total cost of the graduate certificate program, including fees, is $7,014.

4. The University of Alabama at Birmingham Post-Master's Subspecialty in Advanced Forensic Nursing costs $656 per credit. Students complete six credit hours to earn the certificate. Excluding the cost of books, insurance, and other fees, the program cost is $3,936.

5. The cost of the online Post-Master's Certificate in Forensic Nursing at Duquesne University is $23,520. The program includes fifteen credits of coursework, including a Forensic Clinical and Capstone.

What Is the Curriculum Like?

Forensic nurse practitioner programs can be completed as part of an MSN degree or as a post-Master's option for practicing nurse practitioners with an MSN and specialty certification. The coursework students must complete depends on their degree level when they enter the program. The forensic nurse practitioner programs featured in this article are all post-master's/graduate certificate programs. Required classes may vary from one school to the next, but the framework for course study is quite similar. Most forensic NP programs include the following courses.

◦ Criminal Law:

This class examines substantive and procedural criminal law. Students are introduced to legal definitions and classifications of crime and how they are applied in the criminal justice system.

◦ Forensic Nursing Interventions:

Provides an overview of topics related to clinical forensic practice, building a foundation for the advanced practice role of a forensic nurse practitioner. Subjects include physical assessments, autopsy findings related to forensic pathology, pharmacological use, and clinical laboratory testing.

◦ The Role of the Forensic Nurse in Caring for Perpetrators:

This course is dedicated to identifying the forensic nurse's role as they care for perpetrators. Students are presented with information to develop an understanding of interventions in current practice, the etiology of perpetrators, and the legal, ethical, and advocacy responsibilities of an advanced practitioner.

◦ The Role of the Forensic Nurse in Caring for Victims:

Attention is focused on understanding the effect of assault and trauma on victims. Students learn interventions to prevent recurrence of trauma and treat the patient in recovery. Legal, clinical, ethical, and advocacy responsibilities are a primary component of this course.

The following are examples of classes included in the curriculum for our featured forensic NP programs.

The Post-Graduate Forensic Nursing Certificate Program with Certification in Investigative Forensics at

DeSales University

consists of twenty-nine to thirty-nine credit hours, depending on the Gap Analysis results. Students must also complete at least three hundred seventy-five post-master's clinical hours.

Sample Coursework:

◦ Forensic Psychology
◦ Medicolegal Investigation
◦ Behavioral Criminology
◦ Forensic Science and the Courtroom
◦ Advanced Crime Scene Investigation


University of Alabama at Birmingham

offers a Post-Master's Subspecialty in Advanced Forensic Nursing that is open to practicing nurse practitioners who already hold a Master of Science in Nursing degree.

Sample Coursework:

◦ Advanced Forensic Nursing I
◦ Advanced Forensic Nursing II

Fitchburg State University

is home to another one of our featured forensic NP programs. The program is offered exclusively online. The twenty-one-credit certificate program includes a clinical component of 360 hours.

Sample Coursework:

◦ Criminal Law: Substantive and Procedural
◦ Forensic Science and Technology
◦ Scientific Foundations for Forensic Nursing Interventions
◦ Forensic Nursing: Caring for Victims
◦ Forensic Nursing: Caring for Perpetrators

Students enrolled in the

University of South Alabama

Post-Graduate Certificate in Advanced Forensic Nursing Care are engaged in didactic and clinical courses. Students must complete all specialty and support courses not previously earned. Graduate core and research courses are not required for students in this program.

Sample Coursework:

◦ Exploring Cultures of Sexual Assault Victim Populations
◦ Trauma-Informed Care of the Sexual Assault Victim Population
◦ Advanced Pharmacologic Care Post-Sexual Assault
◦ Supportive Care of Comorbidities Post-Sexual Assault
◦ Clinical Practicum: Care of the Sexual Assault Victim

The Post-Master's Certificate in Forensic Nursing at

Duquesne University

is designed to help students build upon the knowledge they obtained during their MSN program. Students must complete five three-credit courses to satisfy program requirements.

Sample Coursework:

◦ Forensic Science and the Legal System
◦ Criminal Law and the Courts
◦ Advanced Forensic Nursing I: Theory and Practice
◦ Advanced Forensic Nursing II: Program Development, Leadership, and Policy
◦ Forensic Clinical and Capstone

What Are the Admission Requirements?

The schools that offer forensic nurse practitioner programs have the liberty of establishing the admission criteria prospective students must meet. The following are examples of admission requirements for the programs featured in this article.

DeSales University

◦ Documentation of the completion of a master’s in nursing degree from a CCNE or ACEN accredited institution
◦ A cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale for all undergraduate coursework (Applicants who do not meet the GPA requirement must submit GRE or MAT scores to be considered for admission to the program.)
◦ Possess an active, unencumbered license to practice as a registered nurse
◦ Documented evidence of at least twelve months of full-time nursing experience within the last two years

The University of Alabama at Birmingham

◦ Possess an MSN from a regionally accredited nursing institution
◦ Have a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale for all post-secondary coursework or at least the last 60 semester hours
◦ Submit three letters of professional reference
◦ Submit official transcripts from every college or university ever attended

Fitchburg State University

provides advanced practice registered nurses who possess a master’s degree in nursing to earn a specialization in forensic nursing. Students in the program learn to deal with issues including scientific investigation, prevention and treatment of victims of trauma, and the treatment of perpetrators.

◦ Submit an official transcript from a regionally accredited master's nursing program
◦ Provide a personal statement of career goals
◦ Submit professional resume
◦ Submit three letters of professional recommendation


University of South Alabama

◦ Applicant must be a graduate of an approved regionally accredited master’s or doctoral program in nursing
◦ Provide professional resume: Before beginning the clinical component, students must have at least two years of experience relevant to their specialty track
◦ Submit Personal Statement of Intent
◦ Provide official transcripts from all college and university studies, even if the program was not completed


(The following Certificates and Degree Programs are ideal for individuals who aspire to become a Forensic Nurse Practitioner.)

1. DeSales University - Center Valley, PA

Program Type:

Post-Graduate Certificate (Forensic Nursing with Certification in Investigative Forensics)

2. The University of Alabama at Birmingham - Birmingham, AL

Program Type:

Post-MSN (Subspecialty in Advanced Forensic Nurse)

3. Fitchburg State University - Fitchburg, MA

Program Type:

Graduate Certificate (Forensic Nursing)

4. University of South Alabama - Mobile, Alabama

Program Type:

Post-Graduate Certificate (Subspecialty in Advanced Forensic Nursing Care)

5. Duquesne University - Pittsburgh, PA

Program Type:

Post-Master’s Certificate (Forensic Nursing)

What Kinds of Career Opportunities Exist for Forensic Nurse Practitioners?

After graduating from accredited forensic nurse practitioner programs, there are many opportunities to work in forensic nursing.

• Forensic Mental Health Consultant:

deals with individuals who have committed or been accused of committing a crime; deals with mentally ill people within the criminal justice system. Some forensic mental health consultants work in hospitals and offer services to help determine the cause of an injury, validate a victim's story, or suggest further investigation.

• Medicolegal Death Investigator:

works with law enforcement at crime scenes and other locations of unexpected or suspicious deaths; performs investigative work that is directly related to the body of the deceased person and suggest the extent to which further investigation may be necessary

• Legal Nurse Consultant:

works with attorneys on legal cases with medical-related issues; helps attorneys to understand medical terminology, medical records, and other data; may be called as an expert witness in a criminal proceeding

• Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner:

Specializes in the care of victims of sexual assault, gathers evidence used in investigations and the pursuit and prosecution of perpetrators

Earning Potential for Forensic Nurse Practitioners

The average yearly salary for graduates of accredited forensic nurse practitioner programs in the United States is $93,734. However, various factors can affect earning potential, including the type of facility where you work, the schedule you are required to work, and even the cost of living in the area where you are employed. Additionally, when you consider a compensation package, look at more than the dollar sign. For example, does the employer offer paid sick days or vacation? Perhaps they provide a stipend for continuing education. Also, many benefit packages include health insurance (medical, dental, vision, or life). All these benefits can add up to a substantial amount to bolster your earning capacity.

Per Hour$45.06
Per Month$7,810
Per Year$93,734
(Source: Ziprecruiter.com)

Job Outlook for Forensic Nurse Practitioners

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports the number of people who are 12 years old or older who have been a victim of violent crime has risen from 3.1 million in 2017 to almost 4 million in 2020. Forensic nurse practitioners are on both the frontline and working behind the scenes to work with victims, their families, perpetrators, law enforcement, and the justice system, providing care for victims, collecting evidence to be used to solve crimes, and being a voice for victims in the courtroom. With the unfortunate rise in violent crimes and the shortage of qualified advanced practice nurses, the job outlook for graduates of forensic nurse practitioner programs is promising.


If you are among the group of nurses intrigued by the combination of medicine and law, becoming a forensic nurse practitioner could be an excellent career choice for you. The best forensic nurse practitioner programs for 2024 featured in this article offer options to pursue the dream of becoming a forensic NP, giving you the chance to make a difference in the lives of people from all walks of life.


What types of certifications are available for graduates of forensic nurse practitioner programs?

The commission for Forensic Nursing Certification offers two credentials for graduates of forensic nurse practitioner programs. The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner-Adult/Adolescent and the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner-Pediatric certifications. The certifications are recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

Are there any organizations that students in forensic nurse practitioner programs can join?

There are several associations dedicated to forensic nursing. A few examples include the International Association of Forensic Nurses, the Academy of Forensic Nursing, the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants, and the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

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