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Q&A - Certificates in Forensic Nursing

Can I work while studying for my certificate in forensic nursing?

You can definitely work while earning your forensic nursing certificate, as most forensic nursing certificate programs are designed with working professionals in mind. As most people pursuing a forensic nursing certificate have at least an associates or bachelors degree and are practicing registered nurses (RNs), it is expected that you will want to keep earning a forensic nursing salary and gaining experience as you study.

The most common way for forensic nursing students to work while studying is as RNs in a clinic or hospital. The advantage to working in a clinic or hospital while studying is that you will gain valuable experience that will later help you in your career. For example, as an RN you have a chance to improve your approach toward patients and develop the people skills necessary to treat each patient as an individual. This is an essential skill for a forensic nurse, who often has to work with victims of violent crimes.

A disadvantage that some forensic nursing students encounter when working while studying is being short on time and either having to neglect their studies or their personal life. In this case, online students have an advantage, as online class schedules tend to be more flexible, making it easier to schedule work around study time.

Are there any brick-and-mortar colleges that offer an online forensic nursing certificate program?

If you want to earn a forensic nursing online certificate from an accredited brick-and-mortar university, you are in luck, as several are available, including from 1 of the top research universities in the country. The online post-bachelors forensic nursing certificate program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing is designed for RNs interested in specializing in forensic nursing and consists of 12 credits taken over 2 semesters. The program is held completely online, and once you finish it you will have a certificate from 1 of the best universities in the U.S., particularly when it comes to medical programs.

University of California, Riverside is a public research university that offers an online forensic nursing certificate. The program consists of 16 credit hours, including 2 electives, and courses take place entirely online in the fall, winter, spring and summer semesters.

Another brick-and-mortar university that offers a certificate option is Fitchburg State University, which has a forensic nursing graduate certificate program. You can earn this forensic nursing online certification by taking 6 required classes and completing a clinical internship.

What are common assumptions about students who choose to get a certificate in forensic nursing?

One of the most common assumptions about forensic nursing students is that only women choose nursing as a career. Indeed, in the case of all registered nurses in the U.S., an overwhelming majority are women, as men make up only 5.8% of all nurses. However, this trend is quickly changing, as the percentage of male nurses are under 30 is greater than the percentage of female nurses under 30.

Another common assumption is that students who receive a forensic nursing certification are not as qualified as graduates of forensic nursing masters or post-masters programs. However, the fact is that you do not need a masters degree to work as a forensic nurse. While masters degree holders have spent more time in school, they may be pursuing a managerial or educational career track, which requires a masters degree or higher.

Some people assume that students who choose to complete a forensic nursing certificate do so only to earn a higher salary. While on average salaries for RNs who earn additional degrees or certificates are higher than for those who don’t, most students pursuing forensic nursing as a career do so because they are interested in forensic science and helping victims of crimes.

What is the hardest part of the application to an on-campus or online forensic nursing certificate program?

Students applying to an on-campus or online forensic nursing certificate program must prove their qualifications as practicing nurses, which includes having earned a bachelors degree in nursing from an accredited institution, achieving a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher, being currently licensed as an RN and having had some work experience in the field. Some schools require an interview, either in person or online. Most applications require at least 2 letters of recommendation, and this requirement may be easier to meet if you have worked as an RN long enough to have supervisors willing to recommend you.

In addition to the above requirements, some forensic nursing certificate programs require a background check due to the sensitive nature of the people that forensic nurses treat and their close cooperation with law enforcement.

Applicants to online forensic nursing certificate programs usually have to go through the same application process as applicants to on-campus programs, though they will probably not be required to do a face-to-face interview. Most applications can be completed entirely online and there are detailed instructions and guidelines available on most schools’ websites, as well as advisors who can be reached by phone or email to help you in the application process.