How Much Do School Nurses Make?
Review the earning potential of school nurses, the highest-paying states, and ways to increase pay through certification, education, and/or practice setting.
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School nurses help students maintain their well-being and learn healthy behaviors. These professionals ensure health issues do not impair a student's academic success.
Although school nurse salaries are less than other registered nurse (RN) specialties, school nurses benefit from working in a low-stress environment with a predictable schedule.
This page explores school nurse salaries, some of the highest-paying states, and ways to increase your salary.
Average Salary for School Nurses
The annual pay for school nurses ranges $33,000-$65,000, with an average yearly salary of $47,650, according to Payscale data from June 2022. In comparison, RNs earn a yearly average salary of $68,620. While school nurses need the same license as RNs, on average they make less than RNs who work in other settings.
The average salary for school nurses varies by experience, educational background, and certifications. While they need at least an associate degree in nursing (ADN), school nurses with a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or a master of science in nursing (MSN) can earn a higher annual wage.
School nurses can also pursue various voluntary certifications to showcase their commitment and expertise in the specialization, which can help increase their employment opportunities and earning potential.
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The Highest-Paying States for School Nurses
Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) does not specifically track state-by-state compensation for school nurses, the average salary is comparable to that of an RN since they share similar educational and professional backgrounds.
According to the BLS, the highest-paying states for RNs can be found in the western part of the country. They include California ($124,000), Hawaii ($106,530), Oregon ($98,630), the District of Columbia ($98,540), and Alaska ($97,230). Despite the higher salaries, these states have a higher cost of living, which tends to balance earnings when compared to other states.
School nurses who work in metropolitan areas can also expect salaries above those who work in rural locations. The increased population in cities directly influences student enrollment; therefore, school nurses who work in these areas have increased responsibilities, which often leads to better pay.
4 Ways to Increase Pay As a School Nurse
There are several ways for school nurses to increase their annual salary, such as obtaining certification, acquiring a graduate degree in nursing, gaining administrative experience, and/or switching practice settings.
- 1. Consider Pursuing Certifications
Recognized by the Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing, the National Board for Certification of School Nurses (NBCSN) offers the nationally certified school nurse credential (NCSN).
To be eligible for the NCSN, nurses must meet the following requirements: hold an active RN license, earn a minimum of a BSN, pass the certification exam, and complete at least 1,000 hours of experience as a school nurse within the last three years.
- 2. Earn an MSN Degree
While the minimum educational requirement for school nurses is an ADN, earning a BSN or an MSN can help increase earning potential. Obtaining an MSN provides nurses with a more specialized focus and increases their expertise. Acquiring a graduate degree also opens up school nurses to more administrative and leadership roles, which often helps increase their salary.
- 3. Gain Experience in Administrative Roles
Gaining experience in completing administrative tasks can expand a school nurse's role, increasing their pay. School nurses can volunteer to assist administrators within the school district or search for opportunities during the summer at local clinics. Experience in administrative roles allows school nurses to take on more responsibilities within their current position, which may result in increased pay.
- 4. Change Practice Setting
Where school nurses work can influence their pay. Nurses in densely populated cities employed by large school districts can earn more than those working in more rural areas.
School nurses who work in a collegiate setting rather than elementary or high schools often have additional responsibilities, which can result in a higher annual salary.
How Do School Nurse Salaries Compare to Other RN Specialties?
When compared to other nurse specialties, school nurses earn a slightly lower annual salary. However, they often benefit from a less hectic schedule, with nights, weekends, and summers off. While school nurses earn an average annual salary of $47,650, Payscale finds that pediatric nurses ($61,450), public health nurses ($63,410), geriatric nurses ($70,290), and oncology nurses ($76,630) have higher earning potential.
Frequently Asked Questions About School Nurse Salaries
What skills and qualities do school nurses need?
Outside of possessing clinical knowledge and a solid understanding of how to promote healthy living, school nurses must provide comprehensive care to children, be positive role models, and communicate effectively with staff, parents, and students. They should be comfortable providing students with a wide range of medical care and advice while helping them develop mentally and emotionally.
Are school nurses in demand?
According to the National Association of School Nurses, over 25% of schools did not employ a school nurse prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. The pandemic has increased this shortage, as many school nurses have left their position due to burnout stemming from the need to design and implement new safety guidelines.
What state pays school nurses most?
Although the BLS does not track school nurse pay specifically, their salary is comparable to the earnings of a general RN. California RN salaries top the list at a mean annual wage of $124,000.
Is being a school nurse stressful?
Compared to other RNs who work in more fast-paced settings, such as hospitals and clinics, the work of a school nurse can carry less stress. School nurses also benefit from a predictable schedule with nights, weekends, and summers off, which can help them avoid burnout.
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