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Q&A - Forensic Nursing Salaries

What are the highest and lowest forensic nursing salaries that I could earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall mean salary for all registered nursing professionals is about $65,000 annually, or roughly $31 per hour. However, because forensic nursing is a specialization and those working in this field require additional education and certification, forensic nursing salaries are generally higher than average registered nurse (RN) salaries. While the actual salaries vary greatly, they fall within the range of about $54,000 to nearly $208,000 annually.

In general, your forensic nursing salary depends on several factors, including where you choose to work, your education level and what field of forensic nursing you specialize in. Typically, the highest paid forensic nurses hold masters degrees in forensic nursing or post-masters certifications from accredited online or on-campus forensic nursing programs, and may work as hospital administrators or educators in large city hospitals and private clinics.

Forensic nursing consultants working with law enforcement agencies, insurance companies or hospitals can also earn significantly higher wages, though successful consultants usually have many years of experience in the field. Public health clinics or rape crisis centers generally pay less than private practices or large hospitals, but these kinds of careers can be far more emotionally rewarding.

In addition to my forensic nursing salary, will I earn benefits?

People who choose careers in the medical field generally have some of the best health benefits of any profession, and it is likely that your forensic nursing salary will include these kinds of benefits. In addition to your salary, the kinds of benefits you should expect include full medical coverage for you and your family, full or partial dental and vision coverage, a 401(k) retirement plan, subsidized travel and housing if the job requires it, disability insurance and paid time off.

These benefits usually only apply to full-time nursing professionals, though if you are working part time while studying, you may be eligible for some benefits depending on your employer, including tuition reimbursement and medical coverage. In general, most benefits packages do not come into effect immediately but rather after you’ve been with the employer for some time, generally between 3 and 6 months.

The range of benefits also depends on where you choose to work and whether the employer is a private hospital or clinic, both of which tend to offer competitive benefits, or a public institution, which offers the same benefits that most public workers receive, including medical plans and paid time off.

Will I always earn a salary in my forensic nursing job?

Most professionals employed as forensic nurses do earn forensic nursing salaries, though this largely depends on your level of experience and years in the field, as well as the type of career you choose. Many forensic nurses may begin their careers as RNs and will probably be paid hourly at the entry level. However, after you complete your forensic nursing certification or masters program, you should be able to get a salaried position at a hospital or clinic, or with a law enforcement agency or medical examiner.

An exception to this rule is if you choose to be a consultant. Many forensic nursing consultants are self-employed, which means that they likely do not receive a regular salary. Instead, their pay fluctuates with the amount of business they bring in.

The upside of this is that forensic nursing consultants are some of the highest paid professionals in the field, as they generally have many years of experience and advanced degrees, so they can demand a higher price for their services. In addition, self-employed individuals have much less overhead than institutions such as hospitals and clinics, so they can keep more of the earnings for themselves.