School nurses play a crucial role in providing healthcare services and promoting a healthy environment for students in educational institutions. School nurses work closely with school administrators, teachers and parents to ensure the well-being of students and to address any health concerns that may arise.

The requirements to become a school nurse tend to vary by state and school district, but there are general steps to becoming a school nurse that prospective school nurses should be aware of. From elementary school nurse requirements to school nurse salaries, explore everything you need to know about becoming a school nurse in our career guide here!

What does a School Nurse Do?

School nurses play a vital role in maintaining the health and well-being of students in educational institutions and childcare centers, providing care and support to students and promoting a healthy school environment.

School nurses who work with younger age groups, such as daycare and elementary school nurses, focus on the health of young children who are often experiencing their first extended periods away from home. They provide basic medical care, such as treating minor cuts and scrapes, administering medication as needed and monitoring students for signs of illness. Additionally, they educate children about proper hygiene practices, like hand-washing and dental care, to help them develop healthy habits early on.

School nurses who work with older children, such as middle school nurses or high school nurses, continue to provide medical care and support while addressing the unique health needs of this age group by offering guidance on nutrition, mental health, reproductive health and substance abuse prevention. They also work closely with students who have chronic health conditions, creating health plans and coordinating with teachers and school staff to ensure these students receive the appropriate support. School nurses also work with other school personnel to develop and deliver health education programs.

Where do School Nurses Work?

School nurses work in a variety of different educational settings and environments with children. Below are some common places where school nurses work:

  • Public schools, including elementary, middle and high schools
  • Daycare centers
  • Pre-schools
  • Summer camps
  • Colleges and universities
  • Health departments
  • Private schools
  • Charter schools
  • Alternative schools
  • Boarding schools
  • Hospitals
  • Vocational schools
  • Military bases

What are the Roles and Duties of a School Nurse?

School nurses are responsible for a wide range of tasks, from administering medication to managing chronic health conditions and educating students about healthy lifestyle choices. Explore some common roles and duties of school nurses below:

  1. Administering health assessments, such as vision and hearing screenings.
  2. Providing illness and injury care, such as first-aid.
  3. Determining if a student requires further medical attention or if they can safely return to class.
  4. Promoting health education, such as school-wide health programs on topics like nutrition, exercise or mental health.
  5. Administering medication to students during the school day, ensuring proper dosage and maintaining accurate records.
  6. Collaborating with school staff and parents to create a healthy school environment and accommodate students with special health needs.
  7. Identifying and addressing health concerns, as school nurses are often the first to recognize potential health issues in students, such as learning disabilities, emotional problems or signs of abuse.

How Much Do School Nurses Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, school nurses have an annual mean wage of $71,430, and school nurse salaries range from $41,730 to $106,530.

School nurse salaries depend on where they work, how much experience they have, their responsibilities and the type of facility they work in. School nurses can see higher salaries in top-paying states like California, Hawaii, Oregon, Massachusetts and Alaska.

How to Become a School Nurse

Becoming a school nurse requires a combination of education, licensure, training, certifications and more. While some states may require additional requirements for school nurses, below are the steps to becoming a school nurse that every nurse will need to complete.

School Nurse Education Requirements

The school nurse education requirements include the completion of an accredited nursing program and a degree. School nurse degrees include either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

It’s important to note that while applicants with an associate degree can still be employed as school nurses, the National Association of School Nurses recommends that employers hire nurses with a BSN. In addition, some school districts may prefer or require candidates with a BSN due to its comprehensive curriculum and focus on community health nursing. BSN nursing programs are available to nurses with an existing ADN as an option to obtain a degree in an accelerated learning program.

School Nurse License

After completing a nursing program, aspiring school nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to obtain their nursing license and become registered nurses. This exam tests their knowledge, skills and abilities in nursing to ensure they are prepared to practice safely and effectively.

School Nursing Experience

After becoming an RN, it’s recommended that school nurses gain one to two years of hands-on clinical experience as a form of school nurse training.

Aspiring school nurses should consider getting experience in settings that provide pediatric care or public health and community nursing to prepare for the role of a school nurse.

School Nurse Certification Requirements

Many states and school districts require school nurses to have additional certification. This may include obtaining a School Nurse Services Credential (SNSC) or becoming a Nationally Certified School Nurse (NCSN) through the National Board for Certification of School Nurses (NBCSN). Requirements for certification may include completing specific coursework, obtaining a certain number of clinical hours and passing an examination.

School Nurse Training

Even after securing a job as a school nurse, school nurse training is an ongoing requirement. As a school nurse, it is essential to stay up-to-date with the latest developments in nursing, healthcare and education. School nurses are required to participate in continuing education courses and workshops to maintain licensure and certifications, in addition to remaining knowledgeable about best practices in school nursing.

School Nurse Requirements by State

In addition to the above, states outline their own specific requirements for school nurses, from state certifications and licensure to ongoing school nurse training. It is essential to research the specific requirements for the state in which you plan to work.

For the most recent and accurate information for each state, it is recommended to visit the State Board of Nursing, Department of Health or Department of Education websites for the specific state you are interested in.  

The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) owns and operates a State Policy Database, which can be another helpful tool for determining school nurse qualifications across different states.

School Nurse Requirements FAQs

Explore some frequently asked questions about how to become a school nurse and the school nurse requirements…

What do you need to become a school nurse?

To become a school nurse, you will need the following:

  • An ASN or BSN
  • Passing score on the NCLEX-RN
  • Registered nurse (RN) licensure
  • Clinical experience, preferably with children
  • State-specific school nurse licensure and certifications

What degree do you need to be a school nurse?

Either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) are the degrees you need to be a school nurse. However, a BSN is preferred in most cases.

How long does it take to become a school nurse?

It typically takes 5-6 years to become a school nurse. However, the route to becoming a school nurse looks different for everyone.

It generally takes four years to earn a bachelor’s degree, and most jobs require one to two years of clinical experience. However, some jobs accept applicants with an associate degree; therefore, the length of time it takes to become a school nurse can be shorter for those who pursue an ADN.

Can a medical assistant work as a school nurse?

No, medical assistants (MAs) generally cannot work as school nurses as they cannot legally perform common school registered nurse duties. However, it is possible for medical assistants to work alongside a school nurse in an assistant or other school health staff position.

Can a CNA work as a school nurse?

No, certified nursing assistants (CNAs) generally cannot work as school nurses as they cannot legally perform common school registered nurse duties. However, it is possible for CNAs to work alongside a school nurse in a school health staff position.

Do you have to be an RN to be a school nurse?

Yes, it is required to be a registered nurse (RN) to be a school nurse. However, some institutions and states may not require an RN license, depending on the specifics of the role and work environment. We recommend visiting your state’s Department of Education and Department of Health to become familiar with the most accurate requirements for the school nurse role you want.

Find the School Nurse Job for You

If you are looking for a career as a school nurse where you can make a difference in the lives of children while promoting a healthy learning environment, our wide range of school nurse jobs is sure to have the opportunity that’s right for you. At ProCare Therapy, we are always looking for passionate school nurses who want to have a positive impact on school communities each and every day. We invite you to explore our selection of exceptional school nurse jobs today and get ready to embark on a deeply fulfilling and exciting career!

For more resources on applying for school nurse jobs, check out ProCare’s guide on school nurse resumes and interview questions to help you land the school nurse job of your dreams.