Forensic Nurse Practitioner: Job Description and Education Requirements

Apr 07, 2021

A master's degree or graduate certificate in forensic nursing is required to begin a career as a forensic nurse practitioner. Forensic nurse practitioners must have a registered nursing license, and they are typically certified by the Forensic Nursing Certification Board as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner-Adult/Adolescent (SANE-A) or Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner-Pediatric (SANE-P).

Essential Information

A forensic nurse practitioner is an advanced practice nurse with education in forensic nursing. The forensic nurse practitioner works in emergency rooms and with sexual assault evidence gathering programs, child and adult abuse protective programs and death investigation programs. Forensic nurse practitioners must begin their careers as licensed registered nurses, then complete a graduate program in forensic nursing. Certification in the forensic nursing field is common.

Required Education Master's degree or graduate certificate in forensic nursing
Licensure and Certification State licensure as a registered nurse; certification by the Forensic Nursing Certification Board as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner-Adult/Adolescent (SANE-A) and/or Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner-Pediatric (SANE-P) is typical
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)* 52% for all nurse practitioners
Median Salary (2020)* $111,680 for all nurse practitioners

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Forensic Nurse Practitioner Job Description

Forensic nurse practitioners specialize in treating the victims of violence which can include sexual abuse of adults or children. Forensic nurse practitioners assist police investigators in gathering forensic evidence and provide medical advice to law enforcement agencies.

Education Requirements to Become a Forensic Nurse Practitioner

To become a forensic nurse practitioner, individuals must first earn a bachelor's degree in nursing. Many programs include courses in the health and illness of adults and children. They also include courses in leadership and management. Some schools have research programs and students are encouraged to participate.

Nurses with a bachelor's degree must obtain a license to practice nursing. Each state has a board of nursing that sets the requirements for licensure. Many require that candidates graduate from an approved educational program and pass the National Council of State Boards of Nursing written examination.

Next, aspiring forensic nurse practitioners must obtain a graduate certificate or a master's degree in forensic nursing. Both programs require the candidate to have a bachelor's degree in nursing. Certificate programs can generally be completed in a minimum of one year and include courses in interpersonal violence and forensic pathology.

Master's degree programs include classes in family violence and fundamentals of forensic nursing. Programs can also include courses in program development, health care evaluation and health assessment.


Many forensic nurse practitioners obtain certification. The Forensic Nursing Certification Board offers two different credentials. One is the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner-Adult/Adolescent (SANE-A). The other is Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner-Pediatric (SANE-P).

Both indicate the highest level of forensic nursing expertise has been obtained. They also show employers that the candidate has developed critical thinking skills. To earn a credential, candidates complete education requirements and pass a written examination.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, forensic nurse practitioners fall under the broader category of nurse practitioners, who should see employment growth much faster than the national average through 2029. In May 2020, the BLS reported that professionals in the 90th percentile or higher earned $156,160 or more per year, whereas the bottom 10th percentile earned $82,960 or less per year.

Forensic nurse practitioners work with law enforcement by examining victims of sexual assault and abuse, and they may also participate in death investigations and gather evidence that may be used by law enforcement in their investigation. Forensic nurse practitioners must have a RN license and complete a master's degree or graduate certificate program; certification is not required, but may increase job prospects.

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