Nurses and layers meeting in a conference room

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) / Master of Science (Criminal Justice major) - Dual Degree

Recognizing the increasing demand for nurses and criminal justice professionals with overlapping skills, Xavier University offers a unique integrative online dual degree program.

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With advanced training in both fields, graduates will be ready to take on high-level roles in educational, consultive, and managerial capacities, helping to build a better world.

In this convenient online program, students earn both the MSN/MS degrees and prepare to function in non-traditional roles within the justice system, as well as to design complex health care delivery services that respond to changing policies, bioterrorism, and disasters. The online degree program was designed to complement the forensics concentration of the MSN program, which prepares nursing graduate students for further studies in various clinical roles such as sexual assault nurse examiner, forensic psychiatric nurse, legal nurse consultant, or nurse coroner. See below for a full list of the MSN/MS program courses and objectives.

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Why Xavier Online?

You’ll get more from your online education, from the personal attention of faculty to rigorous courses taught in the Jesuit Catholic tradition.

Personalized Experience

You’ll get the personal attention and flexibility needed to reach your goals at your pace. Our invested professors and small class sizes will set you up for success.

Jesuit Values

Our Jesuit Catholic values are based on a vision of a world changed for the better, emphasizing service and community engagement in addition to academics.


We offer exceptional online programs at an affordable cost. Numerous financial aid resources are available for our online students, making education more affordable.


Online MSN Core Courses

47 credits

The online MSN/MS (Criminal Justice major) dual degree program at Xavier consists of 47 semester credit hours, which consists of nursing core courses, criminal justice and forensic courses and courses that synthesize and apply skills learned previously – including an internship, practicum and scholarly project.

The core courses focus on three major themes, which are consistent with Xavier’s Jesuit philosophy for graduate programs: critical systematic inquiry, professional and personal development and management of information and resources in a rapidly changing health care environment. The criminal justice and forensic track courses emphasize preparing students for future employment in a wide variety of roles in the criminal justice system or in nursing forensics. Finally, students will have the opportunity to develop professionally, gain additional real-world experience, collaborate with other professionals and conduct scholarly research, completing their preparation to either start a new career track or take their current career to the next level.

Nursing Courses 25 credits

This course examines ethical frameworks, such as theories of justice, rights-based ethics and virtue ethics and their significance to the delivery of health care. Analysis of ethical dilemmas focuses on differentiating what is called traditional and modern ethical frameworks for decision-making. Application will be made within the parameters of nursing metaparadigm (person, nursing, caring, healing, health, environment) using personal and professional processes of valuing, unconditional acceptance and deciding in the preservation of wholeness and dignity.

Introduction to the role of theory in knowledge development and its relationship to nursing research, practice, and administration. Critical analysis of selected theoretical models within the discipline of nursing and of theories and concepts from other disciplines as used in nursing. Concepts related to the application of the theoretical concepts in providing holistic care are explored. Examination of the application models, theories and concepts in nursing practice, administration, and research.

Exploration of modes of inquiry for systematic study of the application, use and evaluation of nursing innovations in clinical practice. Emphasis is placed on the identification and solution of clinical problems through scientific inquiry. Research is examined for evidence-based practices which include a critical review of research studies, nurses expertise and patient/family preferences. Discussion entails the importance of dissemination of research findings.

Exploration of modes of inquiry for systematic study of the application, use and evaluation of nursing innovations in clinical practice. Emphasis is placed on the identification and solution of clinical problems through scientific inquiry. Research is examined for evidence-based practices which include a critical review of research studies, nurse expertise and patient/family preferences. Discussion entails the importance of dissemination of research findings.

This course focuses on leadership and management concepts that are essential for holistic nurse leaders at various levels throughout the healthcare organization. The focus is to prepare holistic nurse leaders for collaborative practice in complex healthcare organizations through examination and application of effective leader behaviors.

Principles and biostatistical methods used in the study of the distribution and determinants of injury and disease through the interaction of environment and genetics in human populations (HP2020) are presented for use in the holistic development, implementation and evaluation of primary, secondary and tertiary preventive and acute health care services in a variety of settings. Resources for epidemiological investigations within organizations and communities are introduced. Opportunities are provided to use the epidemiological and biostatistical methods of reasoning for determining causal inferences about the distribution and determinants of injury and disease (HP2020). Evidence-based innovative and evaluative health care delivery plans for clinical prevention and population health are developed using epidemiological and biostatistical data.

Prerequisites: NURS502

This course provides a comprehensive review of the behaviors, emotional responses and cognitive decision-making of both perpetrators and victims, during and after a crime. The course examines the nature of the relationship between victims and perpetrators and the forensic nurse. Emphasis will be placed on the elements related to victimology and the psychosocial and legal implications of violence and criminal acts on individuals and families. The course will address the expanded and collaborative roles of the forensic nurse in working with the medical and criminal justice systems in addressing issues that affect victims and perpetrators. Issues of competence and treatment of mentally ill offenders as they move through the criminal justice system and psychiatric hospitalization will be reviewed.

This course provides an evidence-based practice (EBP) framework for nursing care of the forensic population, their families as well as communities impacted by acts of violence and/or traumatic events. The EBP framework incorporates empirical and theoretical aspects from a multidisciplinary perspective in the planning and delivering nursing care. This course is intended to prepare nursing graduate students for further studies in various clinical roles such as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, Forensic Psychiatric Nurse, Legal Nurse Consultant, Forensic Nursing Death Investigator and/or Nurse Coroner.

Criminal Justice Courses 15 credits

This course provides a review of forensic nursing science, forensic science/criminalistics, forensic anthropology and the criminal justice system through the lens of interprofessional collaboration and population health. Forensic nursing concepts addressed in the course will include a review of the expanded and collaborative roles in working with forensic scientists, criminalists and the criminal justice system. The specific areas for this course related to forensic science/criminalistics include the crime scene, death investigation, physical evidence, drugs and DNA. The introduction of population-health concepts will allow graduate MSN/MSCJ students to identify a population of interest (aggregate) related to forensic nursing while using evidence-based practices to develop effective approaches to care for victims of trauma, violence and crime. This course is intended to prepare graduate MSN/MSCJ dual degree nurses the opportunity to “apply the nursing process to public or legal proceedings, and apply forensic health care in the scientific investigation of trauma and/or death to abuse, violence, criminal activity, liability and accidents.”

Presents legal issues in all 3 segments of the American criminal justice system. Constitutional and statutory rights and obligations are considered, along with policy considerations. The major emphasis in the course is placed on student initiative in learning. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that CJUS 610, Basic Constitutional Law & American Justice or its equivalent be completed before enrolling in this course.

Social foundations of the criminal justice system are examined, along with the social causation of crime and societal response. The understanding of crime within the social context is presented along with an in-depth exploration of cross-cultural, subcultural and other demographic expositions.

This graduate-level course is designed to introduce nursing students in the dual-degree program to the criminal justice system and its component parts. The structure of and issues pertaining to policing, courts, and corrections, respectively, will be critically explored. Beyond examining issues that cut across all facets of the criminal justice system (e.g., the measurement of crime, discretion, criminal justice policymaking), the class also will explore current issues in policing, courts, and corrections. Topics will include: types and styles of policing and recent police reforms, prosecutorial decision-making and the use of specialty courts, and the role of correctional officers in the rehabilitation of incarcerated people and the reentry and reintegration of individuals released from prison. By the end of the course, students should be familiar with and able to critically assess the role of the criminal justice system in responding to criminal behavior in the United States.

Social foundations of the criminal justice system are examined, along with the social causation of crime and societal response. The understanding of crime within the social context is presented along with an in-depth exploration of cross-cultural, subcultural and other demographic expositions.

Synthesis Courses 7 credits

Non-classroom program of 150 clock hours placement in correctional, law enforcement, or court setting under academic supervision gives student opportunity to actually apply criminal justice theory, knowledge and intervention skills in the “real world” of law enforcement, court or correctional practice. Opportunity is presented to acquire an understanding of the criminal justice complex and the service delivery system in the community. This “hands-on” experience enables students to begin to appreciate the need for functional professional relationships, differing organizational needs within the institutional or non-institutional setting and especially to evaluate their own response to the demands and challenges of actual work in a correctional setting. This is an essential part of the student’s program and is absolutely required and can never be waived for graduation from the program.

This course is designed for application of theory and principles from all previous courses, with particular emphasis in the area of concentration (administration, forensics, informatics, education, school nursing, etc.). Individually modified course objectives, supervised experiences, periodic seminar discussions and written practicum logs are methods used to facilitate the learning experience. (6 contact hours)

This course incorporates the design and development of a scholarly project that demonstrates synthesis of pedagogical strategies and concepts attained throughout courses within the MSN curriculum. The project shall be aimed at addressing an identified issue in the field of nursing, the scope of which may be varied. Elements integrated into the course/project include but are not limited to: nursing theory, change theory, critical thinking, microsystem assessment, communication, EBP, research, ethical and cultural considerations, informatics strategies, health practices and care management, improvement of patient outcomes, holistic care, awareness of healthcare related issues, intrinsic and extrinsic forces, organizational frameworks and considerations, and resource utilization. Project topics must be approved by the track chair/coordinator.


Our Admission Process is Easy, on Your Phone or Computer!

  • Once admitted into the program, students may start online classes in August, January or May (fall, spring or summer semesters).
  • Applications for this program are accepted throughout the year. Applications are processed immediately upon receiving all required materials.
  • Applicants are encouraged to submit completed applications in a timely manner to allow for review and processing.
  • The admission committee considers all information contained in the admission application, including prior grades, test scores and evidence for potential for success in graduate study.
  • No admission tests (i.e. GRE) are required for applying to this graduate nursing program.

Applicant Requirements

  • Be a registered nurse with an unencumbered RN license in the state where practicum experiences are to be completed. A minimum of 1 year of nursing experience is required, a strong candidate will have a minimum of 2 years of nursing experience.
  • Hold a BSN and be a graduate of a regionally accredited college or university’s nursing program with CCNE or ACEN (formerly NLNAC) accreditation (College of Nursing will verify).
  • An undergraduate statistics course with a grade of C or better is required for admission.
  • Applicants who do not have a BSN (BS in Nursing) cannot be accepted into the online MSN programs but should consider the MSN direct entry as a second degree – MIDAS Program.
  • A strong applicant will have a 3.0 GPA.

To be considered for admission, students must submit the following:

Get Started on Xavier University’s free online application. You can begin the process in just a few clicks.


One official transcript directly from all colleges or universities that you have attended for any undergraduate and graduate course work. Applicants must have a degree from a regionally accredited university. A strong candidate will have a minimum of a 3.0 GPA. Send transcripts to:

Xavier University
ATTN: Admission Processing Center
3800 Victory Parkway
Cincinnati, OH 45207-5131

For electronic transcripts, send to:

Current résumé or curriculum vitae outlining nursing experience.

A 3-page goal statement that addresses the following points:

  • Why are you applying to Xavier University?
  • What MSN track are you applying for and why? How do you plan to use the degree and specialty?
  • What experiences have prepared you for graduate study? (or have influenced your desire to pursue graduate studies)
  • Graduate school is challenging and a large time commitment, especially with working, family, other responsibilities. What are your plans and strategies for being successful in your graduate program?
  • We also consider the writing quality of this essay. If writing is a challenge for you, also address strategies to help you in this area.

3 professional recommendations, (Please provide contact information for recommenders in the online application. An electronic form will be sent via email.)

A strong candidate will provide:

  • At least reference from a direct manager or supervisor who evaluates their clinical work.
  • Two references will be from someone with a masters or doctoral degree.

A personal or phone interview may be required for the MSN-Forensic Track/MS Criminal Justice Dual Degree program.

State Authorization

Xavier University is authorized to offer fully-online programs in most states. 

View the complete list of approved states by programs on the State Authorization pageStudents must reside and complete practicum hours in approved states only.


Get More from Your Education with a Graduate Degree from Xavier

At Xavier, we understand that no two degree programs and no two students are alike. Therefore, we structure every online degree program to address the unique needs of individual students and have created unique fee structures for each degree program, as well.

Per Credit Hour


Total Estimated Tuition

The amounts listed are for the 2023-2024 academic year, and include classes from Summer 2023 through Spring 2024. Tuition cost is per credit hour unless otherwise stated. For the full, official listing, please visit
Xavier University reserves the right to correct any computational or clerical errors.

Ready to Get Started?


Students enrolled in Xavier’s online MSN/MS (Criminal Justice major) program take classes with the same world-class faculty as our traditional students.

Dr. Angie Liggett is currently the Coordinator and an Teaching Professor in the graduate forensic tracks at Xavier University College of Nursing. She is a life-long resident of the Cincinnati area and graduated from Bethesda Hospital School of Nursing in 1985. Dr. Liggett graduated from the College of Mt. St. Joseph with her BSN in 2006. She was awarded her MSN in 2010 from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and received a certificate in Forensic Nursing from the Cyril Wecht Law School. Dr. Liggett received her Doctorate in Health Administration with a focus on Health Policy and Advocacy from Capella University in 2017.

Dr. Liggett’s capstone project at Duquesne was a training program, “Forensic Nursing in Trauma,” for ER staff. Her dissertation was titled, “Prevalence of Substance Abuse Screening in Adolescents by Pediatricians.” The methodology for this study was a qualitative survey, utilizing a modified Determinants of Implementation Behavior Questionnaire (DIBQ) survey tool and was based on the Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF).

With over 36 years of nursing experience, Dr. Liggett has worked in many clinical settings, both in rural and urban hospitals, mainly in the surgical and emergency room arenas. Her roles have included Med/Surg charge nurse, Director of Surgical Services, Perioperative Care Manager, Materials/Inventory Systems Manager, and Project Coordinator for corporate nursing. She was employed by the state, surveying health care facilities and investigating complaints and claims of harm. She was the Compliance Officer focusing on Title IX and other regulatory issues at a local college of nursing.

Dr. Liggett was a member of her previous county’s first rape/violence task force. She was also a member of the Cincinnati City Council Task Force for the Prevention of Campus Gender-Based Violence. She was a member and a previous chairperson for her community’s Board of Mental Health and Recovery and also that board’s Finance Advisory Committee. She has volunteered with a battered woman’s program and is a volunteer in her community’s Smallpox Response program and with a Disaster Medical Assistance Team.
Her journey in forensic nursing started prior to any formalized specialty. Dr. Liggett trained nurses regarding domestic violence (DV) in the late 1980’s. The physicians where she worked would call on her to consult with patients who were victims of DV, now known as interpersonal violence (IPV). While working in the ER, she became certified in trauma nursing and as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE).

Carlene is a Teaching Professor who graduated with her diploma in Nursing from St. Clare’s Hospital Health Center School of Nursing, NYC, in 1976. She earned her BSN in 1979 from Marywood University in PennsylvaniaShe also completed her MSN with a specialty in Healthcare Law was achieved at Xavier University in 2006 followed by a Post Masters certificate in Nursing Education from the University of Cincinnati, College of Nursing in 2007. Currently, Carlene is a PhD c. with a focus in Health Services / Health Care Administration through Walden University. Her doctoral dissertation is focused on ‘How Clinical Nurse Managers describe the personal and professional impact of fatigue’.

Since 1976 Carlene has worked in a variety of settings to include an internship in The United States Senate on the Senate Subcommittee for Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP); Certified Case Management of Workers Compensation, National Catastrophic injury CCM, long term and short term disability, return to work; Surgical Intensive Care (SICU) at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Trauma Center; Rehabilitation; Nursing Director for The University Pain Control Center, acute and chronic pain management; Director, Leadership Development for Patient Services at CCHMC; designed, developed and provided NCLEX preparation at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center for Nurse Interns;  Adjunct faculty for the University of Cincinnati, College of Nursing. She has presented locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally on Case Management, Pain Management, Healthcare law, Critical thinking, Ethics, Professional issues, Games/ Simulation in learning, Communication, and scope of practice including the AACN Synergy Model of Patient Care.

Dr. Lisa Niehaus is a Senior Teaching Professor at Xavier University College of Nursing. Dr. Niehaus’ educational credentials and leadership experience guide her role as Xavier faculty and her role as project director for the Nurse Faculty Loan Program for Xavier’s DNP Program.

Beginning in 2009, she worked closely with Dr. Susan Schmidt to develop, refine, and implement federal and state grant objectives in her role of a coordinator within the grants, which involved local and national collaboration. As coordinator, she researched data analytics and wrote Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) quarterly reports, which were peer-reviewed by HRSA authorities and accepted for submission. Nationally recognized by HRSA Grant projects, she served in Peer Learning Communities where innovation was shared, and mentorship of other grantees was possible. As NEPQR-IPCP Cooperative HRSA Grant Project Coordinator, Dr. Niehaus collaborated with Cincinnati Health Department, Episcopal Retirement Services, and Black Stone Home Care, demonstrating how interprofessional collaborative practice teams change population health outcomes. During the HRSA grant activities, she established relationships within the community, with community leaders and partners, and evaluated all outcomes.

As a recent DNP graduate in Population Health Leadership Dr. Niehaus’ facilitation expertise, promotes future nurses seeking to advance nursing practice, lead the transformation of nursing education, bridge practice needs with educational program development, and advance population-focused care.

Nursing/Criminal Justice Dual Degree (MSN/MS) Objectives

In the online MSN/MS (Criminal Justice major) dual degree program, students learn how to:

  • Synthesize theoretical and empirical knowledge from the humanities and the sciences, including nursing, and evaluate it for its use in guiding nursing research and practice.
  • Exhibit competence and confidence when assuming role responsibilities as a graduate with advanced level preparation.
  • Exemplify moral and ethical leadership through a concern for others, the management of nursing care and a commitment to professional excellence in the delivery of health care and the profession.
  • Evaluate issues and opportunities in health care delivery from ethical, sociopolitical, technological and historical frameworks while providing leadership for change.
  • Validate and extend nursing knowledge through interpretation of and collaboration in nursing research.
  • Communicate orally and in writing in a scholarly manner.
  • Develop in-depth knowledge in a concentrated area of study.
  • Demonstrate a capacity for understanding the dynamics of criminal and delinquent behavior, the nature and scope of the crime and delinquency complex in contemporary society and the current efforts by the criminal justice system to address these issues.
  • Comprehend important questions. Present “state of the art” conceptual information and impact upon attitudes and “human skills.”


Students in the online MSN-forensic track of the MSN/MS (Criminal Justice major) program will prepare to:

  • Interface with health care and criminal justice systems.
  • Apply forensic nursing principles to the promotion of health care and safety in the community
  • Promote early identification and prevent potential abuse of children, adults and the elderly.
  • Discuss trauma, death and the collection, preservation and documentation of related evidence.
  • Apply expert witness skills and legal consultation in investigations related to violence and trauma.

Ready to Get Started?


No, the degree is from Xavier University and is awarded on meeting coursework standards that are independent of course delivery.

No, online courses charge the same rate as all other courses.

Some students believe that online courses will be easier than a face-to-face course. However, that is not true. Each online course at Xavier will have the same academic standards and content as a face-to-face course. You may find online learning to be easier because it suits your learning style, but the course content, the expectations for how much you will learn and the assessment of what you have learned will be just as rigorous as in a face-to-face class.

Students may find that they can get to know their professor/instructor and other students better in an online course than in a traditional face-to-face course. There are many options for interacting with your instructors and classmates in your online program, including discussion boards, video or audio files from your instructor, email and video conferencing. There may be additional opportunities for interaction available based on the course and instructor.

Participation expectations vary by professor. Courses will be asynchronous with no set meeting times; however, practicum and scholarly project courses may include an online synchronous session (at the discretion of the instructor) at the end of the semester for student sharing/collaboration purposes. Nursing administration and faculty in this program are very sensitive to the need for flexibility of working professionals.

You will need to review the syllabus for your course to determine how to obtain materials (print and digital) you will need for your course. The Xavier Bookstore and/or the Library will be happy to assist you in finding course materials. Some readings or media lessons may be posted digitally within the online course itself or in Xavier’s E-Reserves system.

If you are new to online learning at Xavier, we encourage you to go through the student orientation for online courses.

Having both a MSN (forensic track) degree and a MS (criminal justice major) degree will allow graduates to function in different roles as a nurse. Forensic nursing merges the healthcare profession with a justice system. Forensic nurses perform a variety of roles including evaluating and caring for victims of assault and abuse, neglect, and sexual crimes. While they treat the victims, forensic nurses collect the evidence and information needed for court. Forensic nurses may be asked to provide medical testimony in court. Forensic nurses can work in a variety of areas. While typically found in hospitals, they can also work with non-profit organizations, be on call for law enforcement, or work in correctional facilities. Nurses that work in prison hospitals, may work as a pre-operative nurse, nurse practitioner, or as a psychiatric nurse. Nurses in the forensic field may also work in the role of death investigators. Nurses with this job typically work out of the coroner’s office where they respond to accidents and suspicious deaths, collaborate with detectives, examine bodies, and take tissue and blood samples. Legal nurse consultants work as independent contractors or are employed by law firms, corporate legal departments, government agencies, and health care facilities. Legal nurse consultants work on both civil and criminal cases, using their criminal justice degree and clinical experience to review medical records, legal documents, and medical literature. Nurses with specialized training can also work as educators. Working with law enforcement or human services, nurses can speak to community groups about sexual assault, domestic violence, community resources, law enforcement, and victim assistance services.

None of the MSN programs or Post Master’s certificate programs here (Education, FNP, Forensics) provide nursing licensure in any state. Nursing licensure is a pre-requisite for admission to these programs.

If you would like to continue your collegiate nursing education beyond a master’s degree, Xavier also offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice in Population Health Leadership (DNP) program.

The College of Nursing at Xavier University would like to invite you to a Virtual Question and Answer session with the Directors for the MSN Education, Family Nurse Practitioner, Forensic and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Programs as well as Post master’s Certificate Programs for each track.

June 26, 2024 @ 7:30 pm EST – Register Here

July 17, 2024 @ 7:30 pm EST – Register Here