How to Become a School Nurse: Job Description, Salary and Education

School Nursing Giving Child a Shot

A school nurse takes care of students who get sick or injured during school hours. The school nurse takes vital signs, records symptoms and administers basic medical aid as needed, and sometimes coordinates emergency trips to the hospital. A school nurse also provides education about healthcare and growth development.

School nurses support student learning by implementing strategies that promote health and safety among students and staff. In addition to providing basic nursing care, school nurses coordinate health services, create health education programs, support nutritional services, promote healthy physical education and provide health counseling.

Table of Contents
How to Become a School Nurse
Education Requirements
School Nurse Job Description
Sample Job Description
Personality Traits
Career Options
National Salary Snapshot
School Nurse Certification
Cost of Certification
Career Path
Professional Organizations
Relevant Publications
Related Careers

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide information specific to school nurses but the BLS does offer an overview of registered nurses.

Nurse Salary and Employment Data

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Source: BLS Wage Data by Area and Occupation. * or ** indicate insignificant or unavailable data.

Level of Education Required Associate degree or Bachelor Degree in Nursing
Board Examinations needed NCLEX-RN, RN-BC
Average Salary $45,616
# of Jobs (2012) 2,712,000
Job Outlook (2012 to 2022) 19% growth

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics http://www.bls.gov
Salary courtesy of Salary.com

How to become a school nurse

To work as a school nurse, an individual:

  • Must attend an accredited school of nursing and earn an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • Must have passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)
  • May pursue additional education
  • May pursue voluntary certification

Education requirements

An individual interested in working as a school nurse will already have graduated from an accredited nursing school and passed board examinations, and already be a registered nurse with a current and unrestricted license. Students or registered nurses interested in working as school nurses may take advanced courses in child development, pediatric nursing and emergency medicine.

Job description

The school nurse takes vital signs, provides basic aid and tests the auditory and vision health of students. A school nurse may also coordinate health service programs, provide health education, promote a healthy environment by identifying health and safety concerns, support healthy food service programs and promote policies and practices that support physical activity in students. The school nurse may also provide basic nursing care, such as tube feedings and tracheostomy care, for students with special needs.

The school nurse may offer health counseling, assess mental health needs and provide intervention and referrals to appropriate school staff or community agency.

Sample job description

Sample job descriptions and qualifications are sourced from various job board websites, like these: careerbuilder.com, indeed.com.

  • Provide emergency nursing services to sick or injured students at school
  • Observe students regularly to detect health needs
  • Notify parents of illnesses
  • Refer parents of students needing medical care to appropriate private or community resources
  • Maintain student health records
  • Report to parents, school personnel, physicians and other agencies on student health matters

Qualifications:

  • Current RN license
  • Pediatric nursing experience
  • An MMR test
  • 2-step PPD completed within the last 12 months or chest x-ray for those with a positive PPD

School nurses on YouTube

Personality traits:

  • Rapport with children and teenagers
  • Patience
  • Strong critical thinking skills
  • Able to work independently

A school nurse reports to school administrators and to local health officials.

Career options

Typical workplaces for the school nurse include:

  • Elementary schools
  • Middle schools
  • Junior High schools
  • High schools
  • Alternative schools
  • Private schools
  • Parochial schools
  • Pre-schools
  • Vocational schools

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects jobs for registered nurses (RNs) to increase 19 percent between 2012 and 2022, school nurse jobs may not rise as quickly because schools do not need as many nurses as hospitals and clinics do. Because the job requires less physical exertion as compared to nurse jobs in hospitals, school nurse jobs may be attractive to older nurses.

National salary snapshot

Indeed lists the average salary as $66,000 and SimplyHired posts the average school nurse salary as $44,000.

Certification information

The National Board for Certification of School Nurses offers certification by exam in a computer-based format. Applicants must hold a current and unrestricted license to practice as a nurse, a bachelor’s degree or higher in nursing or a bachelor’s degree or higher in a health-related field relevant to school nursing. The applicant must have completed at least six credits for undergraduate or graduate courses in any of the following subjects:

  • Management of primary health care problems of children or adolescents
  • Health assessment of children or adolescents
  • Public health, community health or epidemiology
  • Current certification by NBCSN as an NCSN

The applicant must have worked at least 1,000 hours as a school nurse within three years prior to taking the exam.

Certification is valid for five years. Recertification requires at least 2,000 hours employment as a school nurse or related field during that 5-year period.

Cost of certification

Credential: NCSN

Fees for Non-Members:

Initial Exam: $350

Recertification: $240

Fees for Members:

Initial Exam: $350

Recertification: $240

Typical career path

The typical career path to becoming a school nurse is to:

  • Earn a nursing diploma (RN), Associate of Science in Nursing (ANS), or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • Pass NCLEX-RN
  • Gain 3 years of full time academic experience or 3,000 hours of practice
  • Pass the School Nurse certification exam through the National Board for Certification of School Nurses

Professional organizations

National Association of School Nurses: http://www.nasn.org/

National Board for Certification of School Nurses: http://www.nbcsn.org/

Relevant publications

Journal of School Nursing

NASN School Nurse

NASN Weekly Digest

Related careers

Pediatric nurse – focuses on the medical needs of infants, children and adolescents
Public health nurse – educates the public about health issues and improves community health