Forensic nurse checking a sample

Nurses are healthcare heroes, but do you ever think of them as valuable law enforcement members? 

It’s true, that forensic nurses combine medical knowledge and criminal justice to care for survivors of violent crimes and collect evidence to use against perpetrators.

If you’re having a tough time deciding between health and criminal justice, why not pursue both as a forensic nurse? Doing so could help you work in an intense, investigative field with an average annual salary of $70,000 or more.

According to our research, the median forensic nurse salary across the United States is $70,069.20. We collected this data from Indeed.com, which was last compiled in October 2021. 

As a forensic nurse, you work with pathologists, coroners, and law enforcement officers to provide statistics, report facts, and even help identify causes of death or serious harm. 

While being a forensic nurse can expose you to some of the darkest evils in humanity, it can also change your life. Being able to support survivors and help bring offenders to justice is a rewarding career path many people aren’t even aware of.

How much does a forensic nurse make a year? 

Forensic nurses earn an average of $70,069 annually. The pay scale for forensic nurses in America ranges from $21,425 to $98,087. Most forensic nurses earn $69,000 to $75,000 annually.

The most recent data from Glassdoor (December 2021) shows the median forensic nurse salary to be $78,640, with their total annual pay including overtime and bonuses to be $103,927. 

Nurses between the 25th and 75th percentile of all forensic nurses can expect an annual salary range of $56,000 to $108,000.

How much does a forensic nurse make an hour?

The median hourly wage of a forensic nurse is $33.69. Wages vary among states from $10.30 to $47.16. However, this can vary depending on a variety of factors including location, experience, and additional certification or credentials. We will go further into detail about these potential factors below. 

Forensic nurse salary by state

Find out where forensic nurses make the most money, and how your state’s average compares to the national median salary. Keep in mind that while these are averages, earnings can still vary within each state. 

Forensic nurses may earn more depending on what law enforcement agency or organization they work for. Working in a more populated city could offer a higher salary than a more rural town on the outskirts of your state.

State

Hourly mean wage

Annual mean wage

Compared To National Average

Alabama

$32.13

$66,837.00

-5%

Alaska

$14.58

$30,336.00

-57%

Arizona

$36.54

$76,000.00

8%

Arkansas

$16.35

$34,007.00

-51%

California

$43.23

$89,913.00

28%

Colorado

$36.32

$75,540.00

8%

Connecticut

$40.63

$84,517.00

21%

Delaware

$47.16

$98,087.00

40%

District of Columbia

Florida

$33.81

$70,334.00

0%

Georgia

$38.31

$79,687.00

14%

Hawaii

$40.43

$84,094.00

20%

Idaho

$37.43

$77,854.00

11%

Illinois

$37.87

$78,760.00

12%

Indiana

$36.07

$75,034.00

7%

Iowa

$34.48

$71,711.00

2%

Kansas

$32.85

$68,336.00

-2%

Kentucky

$32.86

$68,359.00

-2%

Louisiana

$36.47

$75,860.00

8%

Maine

$36.82

$76,580.00

9%

Maryland

$40.21

$83,646.00

19%

Massachusetts

$42.53

$88,466.00

26%

Michigan

$36.98

$76,927.00

10%

Minnesota

$37.06

$77,088.00

10%

Mississippi

$31.24

$64,987.00

-7%

Missouri

$34.99

$72,783.00

4%

Montana

$14.96

$31,121.00

-56%

Nebraska

$34.05

$70,818.00

1%

Nevada

$40.49

$84,209.00

20%

New Hampshire

$39.45

$82,046.00

17%

New Jersey

$39.65

$82,469.00

18%

New Mexico

$39.48

$82,127.00

17%

New York

$39.41

$81,983.00

17%

North Carolina

$35.83

$74,531.00

6%

North Dakota

$17.87

$37,165.00

-47%

Ohio

$35.89

$74,661.00

7%

Oklahoma

$34.01

$70,739.00

1%

Oregon

$15.38

$31,994.00

-54%

Pennsylvania

$39.71

$82,596.00

18%

Rhode Island

$39.17

$81,478.00

16%

South Carolina

$36.02

$74,916.00

7%

South Dakota

$10.30

$21,425.00

-69%

Tennessee

$34.15

$71,036.00

1%

Texas

$36.75

$76,434.00

9%

Utah

$34.21

$71,155.00

2%

Vermont

$15.58

$32,408.00

-54%

Virginia

$39.79

$82,769.00

18%

Washington

$16.61

$34,556.00

-51%

West Virginia

$36.79

$76,533.00

9%

Wisconsin

$37.90

$78,837.00

13%

Wyoming

$33.51

$69,711.00

-1%

National Average

$33.69

$70,069.20

Factors that affect how much a forensic nurse makes

Forensic nurses earn differently according to several factors. These are several of the most influential factors that affect your salary: 

1) Education level and years of experience

Forensic nurses must hold either a bachelor’s or master’s degree and a valid RN license in their state. Employers seek candidates with at least 1 to 3 years’ experience in treating patients from a victim-centric nursing model. 

They must have experience treating survivors of sexual assault, performing sexual assault exams, conducting STD screenings, and have experience working with patients who are suffering from psychological distress, mental health disorders, addictions, and victims of abuse.

They must also hold SANE certification, which stands for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner. SANE Nurses are certified through the International Association of forensic nurses.

The level of education, experience, and expertise a forensic nurse has in criminal justice and crisis nursing will influence their compensation package.

2) Location and workplace

Forensic nurses can work in hospitals, law enforcement organizations, or in health clinics. They can work part-time, full-time, or be on-call experts. Some forensic nurses work as RNs during the day and are called in as PRN (Pro Re Nata) forensic nurses wherever they are needed. 

Some nurses work alongside coroners in morgues, sometimes known as “death investigators” or “autopsy nurses.”

3) Additional certifications

There are several certification options for forensic nurses.

Two common certifications for a forensic nurse are the SANE-A and SANE-P.

The SANE certifications mark a nurse as the most qualified nursing expert to assess, treat, and counsel survivors of sexual assault. SANE-A nurses work with adults, and SANE-P nurses work with children. 

You can also become a generalist forensic nurse-certified or an advanced forensic nurse through the Forensic Nursing Certification Board (FNCB).

Holding these certifications can help you become a more eligible candidate and possibly earn a higher salary.

How quickly can you become a forensic nurse and start earning?

It takes at least five years to become a fully certified forensic nurse. The exact certification requirements vary by state, and some jobs require a master’s degree instead of a bachelor’s.

You will have to first complete an accredited RN program. If your goal is to become a forensic nurse, then a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is more useful than an associate’s nursing degree.

For new nurses, you will need to gain experience to qualify for certifications and future forensic nurse jobs. Experience in medical-surgical nursing, pediatrics, or psychiatric nursing are good starting points for aspiring forensic nurses.

Forensic nurse salary vs other nursing professions

Compare the average forensic nurse salary to other jobs using the table below. Knowing how much you could earn in different nursing roles can help you make the best choice for your career.

Average forensic nurse salary: $88,013.96

  • Emergency Nurse: $78,451.61

  • Registered Nurse: $76,944.90

  • Surgical Nurse: $76,757.41

  • Pediatric Nurse: $69,473.96

Forensic nurse salary FAQ

Am I being paid fairly as a forensic nurse? 

Forensic nurse salaries vary across the United States. In South Dakota, forensic nurses are paid around $21,000 a year, while they earn between $44,000 to over $75,000 in most other states. 

Compare your state’s average to the national average. Doing so can help you determine whether your pay is fair based on your location, as well as how much pay you would like to ask for in a compensation package with future employers. 

If your current employer is underpaying you, you have a right to voice your concerns and advocate for fair pay.

Are forensic nurses mostly paid hourly or annually?

It’s common for forensic nurses to receive a salary if they are part of an organization’s staff. Forensic nurses who work on a PRN-basis will receive an hourly wage.

Do forensic nurses get paid overtime?

Yes, any nurse who works over 40 hours a week is entitled to overtime pay. Mandatory overtime laws vary by state, so you should carefully research the rules where you live to determine whether your employer is within their authority to make you work longer shifts.

If you are given mandatory overtime but not offered any additional overtime pay, bring this up with your employer. It is within your legal rights to request overtime pay, even if your overtime hours are compulsory. 

Do forensic nurses get paid more privately or in hospitals?

While there is no data about how much forensic nurses make in different locations, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports on earnings for Registered Nurses, including forensic nurses. 

The BLS report RNs make the most in government jobs, followed closely by hospitals and ambulatory services.

What state pays forensic nurses the most per hour? 

The top-earning forensic nurses live in Delaware, where the average median salary is 40% higher than the national average.

These are the 5 states that pay forensic nurses the most:

State

Median Hourly Wage

Annual Median Salary

Delaware

$47.16

$98,087

California

$43.23

$89,913

Massachusetts

$42.53

$88,466

Connecticut

$40.63

$84,517

Nevada

$40.49

$84,209

Can you live off of a forensic nurse’s salary in the USA?

Find out how much a forensic nurse’s salary can afford based on your state’s cost-of-living index. This measurement determines how expensive a state is, or how affordable it is, by how much it exceeds or falls below the norm index of 100.

States like Hawaii, New York, and California are more expensive, so living comfortably as a forensic nurse can be more difficult here. However, metropolitan areas can also sometimes have higher salaries. Keep in mind that the median annual salary in each state will be relative to its cost-of-living index.

States with a cost of living that dramatically exceeds their median nursing salaries will be the most expensive to live in.

The cost of living index can also help you understand how comfortably you could live off a mental health nurse’s salary in your state. Metropolitan areas have higher living costs overall, but they also tend to present greater job opportunities.

Position

State

costIndex

Position

State

Median Avg Nursing Salary

1

Hawaii

193.3

1

California

$84,997.78

2

New York

148.2

2

Washington

$80,067.11

3

California

142.2

3

Oregon

$79,598.00

4

Massachusetts

135

4

Alaska

$77,079.00

5

Oregon

130.1

5

Connecticut

$76,783.89

6

Alaska

127.1

6

Massachusetts

$75,788.44

7

Maryland

124

7

New York

$75,587.89

8

Connecticut

121.6

8

New Jersey

$75,395.67

9

Rhode Island

117.2

9

District of Columbia

$72,408.78

10

Vermont

117

10

Rhode Island

$72,072.78

11

New Jersey

115.2

11

New Hampshire

$70,314.33

12

Maine

115

12

North Dakota

$69,891.22

13

Washington

111.6

13

Minnesota

$69,718.67

14

New Hampshire

109.9

14

Nevada

$69,611.00

15

Delaware

107.9

15

Maryland

$69,379.89

16

Nevada

106.3

16

Michigan

$69,267.89

17

Colorado

105.3

17

Hawaii

$68,994.22

18

Arizona

103.2

18

Pennsylvania

$68,947.00

19

Pennsylvania

102.5

19

Vermont

$68,873.00

20

Idaho

102.1

20

Maine

$67,826.33

21

Virginia

101.8

21

Arizona

$67,388.56

22

South Dakota

101

22

Wisconsin

$67,343.78

23

Montana

100.7

23

Delaware

$67,080.67

24

Florida

100.3

24

Colorado

$66,904.67

25

Minnesota

100

25

Illinois

$66,509.56

26

Utah

99

26

Utah

$66,147.78

27

North Dakota

98.2

27

New Mexico

$65,823.22

28

Wisconsin

96.4

28

Texas

$64,157.00

29

North Carolina

95.7

29

Ohio

$64,145.00

30

Illinois

94.3

30

Wyoming

$62,866.33

31

Wyoming

94.3

31

Idaho

$62,811.56

32

Nebraska

93.7

32

Iowa

$62,781.56

33

South Carolina

93.6

33

North Carolina

$62,711.56

34

Kentucky

93.1

34

Indiana

$62,346.56

35

Louisiana

93

35

Montana

$62,307.22

36

Texas

92.1

36

Kentucky

$61,509.67

37

Michigan

91.3

37

Georgia

$61,484.67

38

Ohio

91.3

38

Oklahoma

$61,016.78

39

New Mexico

91

39

Mississippi

$60,965.22

40

Arkansas

90.9

40

West Virginia

$60,443.89

41

Indiana

90.6

41

Missouri

$60,281.67

42

West Virginia

90.5

42

Kansas

$59,949.00

43

Iowa

89.9

43

South Dakota

$59,887.56

44

Missouri

89.8

44

Nebraska

$59,798.11

45

Tennessee

89

45

Florida

$59,653.67

46

Georgia

88.8

46

Arkansas

$58,544.11

47

Alabama

87.9

47

South Carolina

$58,357.33

48

Oklahoma

87.9

48

Louisiana

$58,290.56

49

Kansas

86.5

49

Tennessee

$57,799.00

50

Mississippi

83.3

50

Virginia

$57,044.25

A note about our data. We use the median of the data gathered from The BLS at data.bls.gov and other salary data sources such as Salary.com, Indeed.com and Zippia.com. We believe that this is the best average to follow, rather than the mean or mode. The mean will find the average of all salaries in each state; the mode will favor the most frequently reported salaries. However, the median will find the middle. All data in this report will favor the middle salary from all ranges, which means 50% will fall below and 50% will be above the salary data reported below. On another note, we have removed data from Puerto Rico, Guam, and The Virgin Islands from the data we have sourced as we have focused on the 50 US States plus The District Of Colombia.

Registerd Nurse Median Salary