How to Become a School Nurse

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6 Steps to Becoming a School Nurse

Step 1 Earn a bachelor’s degree

The National Association of School Nurses suggests that every school nurse have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited school and also hold a current registered nurse license. Students must also pass the National Council Licensure Examination for the Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) in the state they wish to work. Registered nurses who seek to become school nurses can take advantage of Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) programs offered at a multitude of colleges and universities. The RN to BSN allows students to complete their degree in less time, typically two to three years instead of four, based on previous experience and any relevant schooling that could earn course credit toward graduation.

Step 2 Get certified

There are many types of certifications available for those in a career as school nurse. The National Association of School Nurses recommends that candidates earn their state school nurse certification and promotes National Board for Certification of School Nurses national accreditation. Certification demonstrates to the public that the nurse has the competency minimally required for professional nursing.

Step 3 Log your clinical experience

Clinical experience hours are an important part of the nursing process, providing thousands of hours of hands-on training in a complicated field. Students are required to obtain a certain number, determined by the college or university but usually at least 1,000, as part of the graduation requirements. Certain certifications may require upward of 4,000 clinical hours to even apply for the exams.

Step 4 Contact local and state resources

Some school nursing requirements vary by state. There may be a special state certification or license required to qualify for the position. The best way to find out is to look for the state’s department of education website and either find the information online or use the listed contacts to touch base with a professional. In addition, get in touch with a nurse at a local school and get the scoop on the community level.

Step 5 Apply for jobs and join nursing associations

Now that the job candidate has a bachelor’s degree, certifications and clinical experience and has met any extra requirements by locality, it’s time to apply for jobs. A membership to a nursing group or association would come in handy here; most groups such as these have a job listing resource available to their members.

Step 6 Continue education

Each school district will have different guidelines concerning continued education requirements. However, keep in mind that certain certifications must be renewed in a specified number of years to ensure the school nurse has kept up with new practices, medicines, methods and more. For example, the National Board for Certification of School Nurses (NCSN) demands that certificate-holders renew every five years by either retaking the exam or meeting continuing education requirements.

FAQ on Earning Your School Nurse Degree or Certification

  • Across the board, no, continued education is not a requirement. However, states have their own guidelines concerning these requirements, so research should be conducted on a local level. An interactive guide takes a state-by-state look at the field’s demands.

  • School nurses are the link among health, children and the community. In addition to attending to regular cuts and scrapes, they administer medicine, provide nutrition and overall health counseling, may provide immunization clinics and work to meet health services standards and improve their school’s health policies.

  • School nurses’ schedules are much different from the long, demanding hours of a traditional nurse, as school nurses usually work Monday through Friday, and do not work on weekends or during the summer.

  • In the United States, it is a requirement that school nurses be registered nurses. A bachelor’s degree and state licensure are also must-haves.

  • School nurses may be either full-time or part-time, depending on a school district’s needs.

School Nurse Salary & Job Growth

A field with growing demands, school nursing is set to grow at a rate of 15 percent from 2016 to 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This rate is faster than that of most careers, largely because of population growth and new school construction. However, applicants should be prepared for competition, as the school nurse schedule is highly coveted. The average salary of a school nurse equals about $20.85 per hour, but this number will vary greatly by state.

Certified school nurses can earn a salary ranging from $33,000 to close to $90,000 in total pay, which includes salary, overtime pay, bonuses and any other cash reward earned during the year. This averages to $55,000 a year.

Comparable nursing jobs include certified nurse assistant (CNA) at an average salary of about $24,000; Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) at $40,000 average; primary care registered nurse at $61,000 average; and charge nurse at $64,500 average. CNAs, LPNs and RNs are not required to have a bachelor’s degree.

Alabama Mean wage annual: $57,890
Currently Employed: 49,290
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 13%
Alaska Mean wage annual: $87,510
Currently Employed: 5,570
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 21%
Arizona Mean wage annual: $75,110
Currently Employed: 54,630
Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A
Arkansas Mean wage annual: $58,810
Currently Employed: 24,380
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 16%
California Mean wage annual: $102,700
Currently Employed: 282,290
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 16%
Colorado Mean wage annual: $72,570
Currently Employed: 49,340
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 36%
Connecticut Mean wage annual: $80,200
Currently Employed: 34,310
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9%
Delaware Mean wage annual: $73,180
Currently Employed: 11,620
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 14%
Florida Mean wage annual: $64,890
Currently Employed: 178,330
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 21%
Georgia Mean wage annual: $66,750
Currently Employed: 75,000
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 18%
view more

Finding a School Nurse Program

For those interested in the field of school nursing, finding the right school is the first step toward realization of this goal.

When choosing among programs, consider the cost, including tuition, fees, books and housing, if applicable. Some students, depending on their work-life situation, may prefer online classes or a hybrid learning format with both online and in-person courses. Keep in mind that even nursing degrees that are described as completely online will also include clinical experience hours, which must be completed off-campus. Because school nurses require a bachelor’s degree, schooling generally takes four years of full-time work. Registered nurses working on their RN to BSN program may complete their bachelor’s in two to three years with full-time school work, depending on applicable experience or previous schooling that could count toward graduation credit.

When available, a degree in school nursing should be sought; however, general degrees in nursing and health services may be acceptable for the position. Students should also look into the certificates offered in their field, as these will help establish professionalism and provide a forward career trajectory.

Professional School Nurse Associations & Groups

School nurses should maintain connections with other nurse professionals, and this list of recommended groups ranges from an association for students nurses to national organizations for school nurses and another for state-level school health services administrators. Perks of joining such organizations includes access to scholarships, continuing education resources, discounts, peer-reviewed journals and job searches, to name a few. It’s also beneficial to network with other nurses locally to share resources and provide support among professionals.

  • National Student Nurses’ Association

    Members of the NSNA benefit from a range of services, from discounts on services and materials to two annual meetings, annual scholarships and networking within the student’s school and state organizations.

  • National Association of School Nurses

    NASN members benefit from professional resources, continued education, conferences and research from the organization dedicated to serving students and furthering school nursing. In addition to the wealth of information online, find the job board, scholarships and research grant links.

  • American Nurses Association

    The ANA works “to improve health care for all” by connecting nurses nationwide, elevating high standards in the practice, promoting an ethical work environment, promoting nurses’ health and public advocation of issues that affect nurses and patients. Conferences, education materials, career resources and more keep nurses involved and learning.

  • American School Health Association

    ASHA is a collection of school nurses, social workers, health educators, nutritionists, administrators and counselors, for example, who all strive to improve the school health system. ASHA seeks a safe and healthy schooling environment with healthy students, achieved through school and community support. ASHA provides the Journal of School Health, continuing education and events, to name a few membership perks.

  • National Association of State School Nurse Consultants

    Members of this association are limited to those leaders in the school nursing field who are responsible for consulting on school health services on the state level.

Resources for School Nurses

Those interested in a career in school nursing can find a wide range of information below, including pay data, loans and scholarships, state-level nursing associations, certification tests and more useful tools.

  • National Board for Certification of School Nurses

    The NBCSN runs a voluntary national certification test for school nurses. The independent organization works with the National Association of School Nurses to ensure uniform advancement in the field. The test is computer-based and offered at testing centers nationwide.

  • National Association of School Nurses State Affiliates

    School nurses can find their corresponding NASN state affiliates from this list. Connect with and learn from other nurses on a state level with workshops and other events. Through the websites, school nurses can find access to information such as current state licensure and certification requirements, scholarships, peer-reviewed journals and e-learning centers.

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics Registered Nurse Occupational Outlook Handbook

    Find information from the U.S. Department of Labor on RNs’ job factors, like pay, job outlook, turnover, work environment, average requirements nationwide and related state and area data. This data relates to registered nurses as a whole, not specifically centered on school nurse information.

  • HRSA Loans & Scholarships

    The U.S. Health Resources & Services Information Bureau of Health Workforce offers several low-interest loan and scholarship options to students pursuing degrees in the nursing field. Search within the categories such as Faculty Loan Repayment and School-Based Loans & Scholarships, among others.

  • CDC School Health Services

    The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention outlines key factors that make school nurses such a valuable asset to schools, including monitoring of chronic health conditions, preventive care and their part in the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) program. The CDC School Health Services page also provides useful links to research, fact sheets, podcasts, school health profiles and care coordination resources with curriculum for school nurses.

  • TEAMS: Enhancing School Health Services

    The American Academy of Pediatrics’ TEAMS program provides a free, self-directed online course on how nurses can improve their school’s health services. The course provides worksheets, templates and examples to better help nurses apply the information to their district. TEAMS also provides the Health services Assessment Tool for Schools (HATS), which self-scores school districts’ strengths and weaknesses based on their comprehensive school health services, support infrastructure, policies and protocols. TEAMS also provides video tools and information useful to school leadership.

  • CDC Adolescent and School Health

    The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s School Health Profiles surveys states, large urban districts and territories for their school health policies and practices. The surveys assess health education and content requirements, physical education, bullying and sexual harassment practices, nutrition, health services and community engagement. The results help schools know where they stand regarding their current practices and whether they are meeting U.S. guidelines.

  • ERIC School Nurse literature

    The Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) Institute of Education Sciences offers through a search function an online collection of journals and peer-reviewed studies in the subject of school nursing.

  • School Nurse Salary

    PayScale offers a free report on school nurse salaries, including a range of lowest to highest and median pay in the U.S. Compare these to salaries in related fields and a chart of common career paths for school nurses.

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