Learn About School Nursing

Get a school nurse career overview with education, salary and career outlook information.

The Basics

What you’ll do: School nursing focuses exclusively on the students and staff of a public or private school or school district. This type of nursing career allows you to support not just the physical well being of children, but also their academic success and life-long achievement.

Degree you’ll need to practice: Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) or a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) (depends upon state-by-state standards)

Certification: State certification may be required. Many school nurses also complete a voluntary program to earn National Certified School Nurse (NCSN) credentials. This national certification program is provided through the National Board for Certification of School Nurses.

Median annual salary: $66,640*

Career Overview

The overall goal of a school nurse is to support student success in the learning process. School nurses are typically hired by private schools, public schools, parochial schools or charter schools. They may also be employed by local Boards of Education, Departments of Health, universities or hospitals. School nurses enjoy predictable hours and are in great demand, particularly if they have what it takes to work with special needs students.

School nursing is a type of community nursing, or nursing outside of a hospital setting that focuses practice on a particular community. School nurses do much more than simply intervene when students exhibit actual or potential health problems. Here are some of their responsibilities:

  • Proactively encourage healthy mental and physical development
  • Assess and monitor the immunization status of each student
  • Provide screening and referral for health conditions
  • Collaborate with faculty, parents and students on health and safety awareness programs
  • Play a leadership role in ensuring a healthy school environment
  • Provide case management services, serving as a liaison between school personnel, family, community and health providers

School Nursing Education

School nurses are registered nurses (RNs). Beyond this basic requirement, every state has different education and certification standards, so it’s important to learn your state’s requirements before choosing a school nursing program.

To become a school nurse, you will need to acquire these skills and meet these requirements:

  • You will need to develop advanced skills, including the ability to practice independently, supervise others and delegate care in a community setting.
  • You will need either a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) or a master’s degree (MSN). Some states require a bachelor’s degree and others require a master’s degree, so you’ll need to research the requirement in your state.
  • You may be required to achieve certification as an RN as well as teacher certification.
  • You may also pursue an interdisciplinary education to earn a Master’s Degree in Education, Public Health or Counseling.

Career Outlook

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there an increasing need and demand for school health services, including school nurses. Today’s students have more diverse and complex health problems, as well as problems caused by immigration, homelessness, divorce, remarriage, poverty, substance abuse and violence. School nursing play a critical role in coordinating school responses to all these issues.

Sources: National Association of School Nurses; American Academy of Pediatrics – Committee on School Health; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016-17 Occupational Outlook Handbook, Registered Nurses.

*The salary information listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.

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