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School Nurse Careers and Salary Outlook 2020

June 3, 2020 | Staff Writers

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School nurses treat injuries, physical ailments, and mental illness within K-12 school settings. They administer medications and counsel students about illness prevention, sexual health, and other related issues.

This page examines the crucial role school nurses play in student health and well-being while also providing information about the education, training, certification, job outlook, and salary information for this occupation.

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What is a School Nurse?

School nurses must obtain registered nurse (RN) licensure by passing the national council licensure examination for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN). School nurses often hold a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and RN licensure, but they may also obtain a master of science in nursing (MSN), a doctor of nursing practice (DNP), or advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) licensure as well.

Required experience levels for school nurses vary from school to school. Whatever their qualifications, school nurses use evidence-based practices to facilitate student well-being, improve academic performance, and help students transition to adulthood.


  • What Do School Nurses Do?

    School nurses work within the educational system to assist young children and teens with mental illness, physical illness, and injuries. They may treat students within school settings or advise students on illness prevention, hygiene, sexual health, and interpersonal relationships. School nurses can act within an RN framework, treating students and providing medication, or they may work as educators within the school system.

    As part of their daily activities, these nurses ensure the well-being of students on school grounds. They assess ill students and treat them for colds, fevers, and other ailments. They administer first aid and wound care for cuts, bruises, and other injuries. These RNs dispense medication to students with asthma, allergies, or other acute conditions, along with monitoring children to determine if the school should contact parents or emergency services for severe conditions.

    Some school nurses play an integral role in helping to screen and treat students for common mental health illnesses, such as attention deficit disorder. They also educate students about issues such as nutrition, mental health, substance use and abuse, adolescent pregnancy, and communicable diseases.

  • Where Do School Nurses Work?

    School nurses work at K-12 institutions and as educators within school districts. Those employed at schools typically work school hours and have the same schedules as teachers, including a summer break. They collaborate with school teachers to ensure the best interest of students, aiding in the development of individualized education programs for students in special education.

    Parents look to school nurses to keep abreast of students’ health concerns and conditions, especially when issues arise during the school day. School nurses may also work with pediatricians and other doctors to coordinate care for students.

  • Skills That Could Affect School Nurse Salaries

    An RN with a BSN or an MSN commands a higher salary than one with an ADN. Similarly, school nurses with higher qualifications, such as APRN licensure, have more knowledge, skill, and experience than RNs, so they receive a school nurse salary commensurate with their expertise.

    Since many children have mental health issues, such as ADHD, anxiety, and depression, school districts may place a premium on nurses with specialized training in assessing students for these conditions. School nurses work with teachers, administrators, and other healthcare professionals as a team, which requires teamwork, communication, and critical thinking skills. In their dealings with children, school nurses should exhibit a caring disposition, empathy, and emotional intelligence, which allows them to connect with a vulnerable population.


How to Become a School Nurse

A school nurse can begin their career by earning an ADN, BSN, or MSN. All nurses must pass the NCLEX-RN exam for a license to practice in any state. While RNs with ADNs may qualify for this position, the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) recommends that each school nurse should possess at least a bachelor’s degree.

RNs interested in working with a younger population in a non-clinical environment should pursue careers as school nurses. These nurses play an important role in helping children maintain the physical and mental health needed for academic success and social development.

Education

NASN notes that a BSN, combined with RN licensure, ensure that nurses have the minimum preparation necessary to address the complex needs of today’s students. A bachelor’s degree typically takes four years of full-time enrollment to complete, but those who have an associate degree in any subject may transfer credits to accelerate their degree completion. Licensed RNs with ADNs can complete their BSNs in just two years. Many colleges offer online RN-to-BSN programs that allow nurses to complete their education while still working.

Learners should enroll in a program accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). These two organizations set the national guidelines against which nursing programs are measured. Degree-seekers should also explore state requirements for licensure as a school nurse, because they may vary from state to state.

Training and Certification

All nursing programs accredited by CCNE or ACEN require supervised experience. Some schools may offer tracks in school nursing for aspiring nurses to receive training in the specialization. While nurses do not need special certification to qualify as school nurses, if they do decide to seek it, they should choose programs certified by the National Board for Certification of School Nurses’ (NBCSN). NBCSN is endorsed by NASN.

Each nurse needs at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing, state RN licensure, and a minimum 1,000 hours of school nursing experience to sit for the NBCSN certification exam. The computerized exam consists of 200 multiple-choice exams. Once RNs obtain certification, they must complete continuing education requirements to be eligible to renew their certification every five years. This renewal ensures that they keep up to date on developments in the field.

Each state establishes separate certification or licensure guidelines for the nursing profession. Degree-seekers should explore the NASN state affiliate chapters to determine what requirements they must meet.

School Nurse Salaries and Job Growth

If you’re considering a career as a school nurse, you may be wondering: How much does a school nurse make? The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 12% job growth for RNs between 2018-2028, but where an RN resides and works play an important role in school nurse salary.

California, Texas, and New York take the top three spots for states with the highest employment level in this occupation. According to BLS data, California pays RNs the most with an annual mean wage of $106,950, followed by Hawaii ($98,080), the District of Columbia ($92,350), Massachusetts ($92,140), and Oregon ($91,080).

A nurse with RN licensure, higher education, and more experience can assume nursing roles that pay more than a typical school nurse salary. PayScale finds that RNs with MSNs and nurse practitioner certification make a median salary of $93,622, compared to $63,393 for RNs.

Highest Salary Locations for School Nurses
National Median $63,393
Los Angeles, California $75,296
New York, New York $79,463
Houston, Texas $69,235
Chicago, Illinois $66,685
Dallas, Texas $63,893

Source: PayScale

Median Salary for School Nurses by Career Experience

  • Entry Level: $53,580
  • Early Career: $57,100
  • Mid Career: $63,130‬
  • Experienced: $68,680
  • Late Career: $72,470
  • Source: PayScale

    Related Job Salaries
    Medical Assistant Certified Nurse Assistant Licensed Practical Nurse Registered Nurse, Emergency Room Registered Nurse, Critical Care
    $32,840 $27,891 $43,528 $66,391 $72,656

    Source: PayScale

    School Nurse Resources

    • National Association of School Nurses NASN is the main advocacy organization for school nurses and their profession. The organization advances the school nursing practice to help optimize student health and learning. Members can receive access to peer-reviewed journals, the SchoolNurseNet online community, e-learning opportunities, scholarships, and grants.
    • National Association of State School Nurse Consultants NASSNC is an advocacy organization that provides national leadership to promote children’s health and learning. Eligibility for NASSNC membership requires RN licensure and employment as a statewide consultant for school health services. Members can network with other nurse consultants, access publications, and attend conferences twice per year.
    • National Association of School Nurses for the Deaf NASND members are school nurses for the deaf and nurses who work at other residential schools. The organization provides opportunities for nurses in this specialization to network with one another, attend conferences, and engage in professional development.
    • Nurse.com Job Search School nurses can access a specialized repository of job listings on this website. There, they can sign up for free to receive a Nurse.com account that allows them to apply for jobs, receive job email alerts, and access other resources — such as continuing education — that can enhance their nursing practice.
    • National Board for Certification of School Nurses NBCSN advances the school nursing profession through a rigorous national certification process. The organization administers the nationally certified school nurse credential to certify knowledge and skills in this specialization.
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