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Legal nurse salaries are often higher than other registered nurse (RN) salaries, but the work is far less physically demanding than direct patient care. If you enjoy interpreting policies and procedures, reading medical records, and performing root cause analysis, working as a legal nurse can be intellectually and financially rewarding.
This guide outlines typical legal nurse pay ranges and how to increase your compensation. Keep reading for more on this career and salary expectations.
Average Salary for Legal Nurses
Payscale data from April 2022 shows an average $80,720 annual salary, or $48.69 hourly pay, for legal nurses. The lowest-paid 10% earn $60,000 or less, while the highest 10% of legal nurse salaries make $100,000 or more. By comparison, Payscale data from May 2022 shows an average $68,240 annual salary for all RNs.
Legal nurses typically hold considerable experience and a master's degree in nursing, since law firms or other employers use their advice to make significant decisions. Especially if a legal nurse is serving as an expert witness, their expertise may be vital to a legal case or defense.
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The Highest-Paying States for Legal Nurses
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not separate legal nurse salaries from other RN salaries, but its data still indicates where legal nurse pay is likely to be highest. As you would expect, the top RN salaries are in states with the highest cost of living and an ongoing demand for nurses.
The states with the highest annual pay for registered nurses are:
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
How Do Legal Nurse Salaries Compare to Other RN Specialties?
Like other healthcare workers, nurses can choose from an almost bewildering variety of potential specialties. If you are interested in using your nursing skills in ways that do not involve direct patient care, comparable specialties include health policy nursing and informatics nursing. If you want to be involved in law and direct patient care, forensic nursing is another career option.
Informatics nurses earn an average $84,430 annually, according to Payscale data from May 2022, comparable to legal nurse pay, while forensic nurses earn an average $60,000. Health policy analysts earn an average $63,674, but because of the high demand for nurses, health policy nurses are likely to earn more.
4 Ways to Increase Pay As a Legal Nurse
You can increase your legal nurse salary by developing your qualifications or gaining additional experience. These all make your expertise more valuable to your employer.
Consider Pursuing Certifications
Certification demonstrates your expertise and experience. The American Legal Nurse Consultant Certification Board offers certification for legal nurse consultants. To be eligible to take the certification examination, you must have a current and unencumbered nursing license, at least five years of experience as an RN, and at least 2,000 hours of legal nurse consulting experience within the last five years.
Increase Education Levels
Like certification, an advanced degree gives you an advantage in negotiating your legal nurse pay. Either a doctor of practical nursing (DNP) or a Ph.D. in nursing are the terminal degrees in the field.
Gain Experience in Administrative Roles
You can also increase your negotiating power by developing experience in administration. For example, you can supervise legal or nursing researchers when investigating medical records for information to help inform a case. In a large legal practice, you might supervise other legal nurses. If you are a part-time legal nurse who still works in direct patient care, administrative responsibility in your nursing job increases your credibility.
Switch Practice Setting
Finally, you can change work settings to where the salaries are highest. In law, private practices, especially large practices, often pay more than government settings. If you are available to travel, you can significantly increase your legal nurse pay by acting as a national expert witness.
Frequently Asked Questions About Legal Nurse Salaries
How much does a legal nurse make?
Legal nurse pay depends on qualifications and experience. According to Payscale data from April 2022, the average legal nurse salary is $80,720 and the highest 10% of legal nurse salaries are $100,000 or more.
Is being a legal nurse consultant hard?
Being a legal nurse consultant can be very demanding. Law firms want to make sure that their cases are solid, so you will need to be an expert. If you are an expert witness, opposing lawyers will attack your thinking and approach, and may even attack your qualifications directly.
Do legal nurse consultants earn more than RNs working in clinical practice?
The average legal nurse salary is $80,720, considerably more than the average $68,240 for RNs reported by Payscale. However, legal nurse consultants typically have greater experience and education than other nurses, which helps to explain why legal nurse pay is higher.
Is legal nursing a good job?
Legal nursing requires the ability to read and interpret medical records, legal knowledge, and excellent credentials as a nurse. Legal nurse salaries are typically higher than other nurse salaries, and the work is not as physically demanding as direct patient care. Whether it is right for you depends on your career and financial goals.
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